The Christian life should be a productive life.
Jesus Himself was the picture of productivity—everything He did, He did with intention. Why then do we struggle to be productive? I think the enemy knows that distraction (even in the form of good things) will keep us from living effective lives for the gospel.
That’s why productivity isn’t just for self-help gurus. We tend to treat being productive like it’s incongruent with being spiritual, but the two are vitally connected. A productive spiritual life—achieved through discipline of mind and heart—overflows into a productive career, home and life at large.
Before I give specific tips to boost your productivity and achieve your goals, we need to talk about what hasn’t worked in the past. Progress can’t be achieved if you don’t know what the problem is. So, if you struggle to be productive, chances are it’s caused by one of the following reasons:
1. You won’t tell anyone “no.”
Without healthy boundaries, your time will be completely taken up by impulse instead of intention. It’s not rude or selfish to set limitations on your time. To the contrary, your time is extremely valuable! It is a precious commodity of which you only have a certain amount. Time, like money, must be told where to go. If you won’t tell it where to go, someone else will.
2. You look for loopholes.
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Another thing preventing your productivity is the human tendency to look for loopholes. Gretchen Rubin’s book “Better Than Before” has several chapters dedicated to the different loopholes we entertain. An example: you know you need to clean the house, but you tell yourself you deserve to sit down and watch Netflix because you worked all day. You created a loophole to avoid being productive, even though it was a false choice. Working all day doesn’t entitle you to Netflix; work is good and healthy and should be done regardless of reward.
When we create loopholes, we train our minds to associate work with instant reward. This isn’t real life, and it creates unhealthy patterns in our behavior. Sometimes we must do things that we don’t like. We have to act the way we want to feel, not do things when we feel like it.
3. You have a negative view of discipline.
If you cringe when you hear the word “discipline,” then it’s time to reframe your view of this word. While discipline can be associated with punishment, that’s not its foremost definition. Discipline is literally “training that corrects, molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.”
God has created each of us with individual strengths and passions. But while our personalities might explain much of who we are, they do not excuse us from responsibility.
Do you see why Christians should actively pursue disciplined lives? The pursuit of discipline runs parallel to the sanctification of Christ. As God forms us into His image by His Spirit’s influence in our inner being, we discipline our outer lives in accordance with that influence.
4. You think being productive is unspiritual.
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Do you think leading an unstructured, undisciplined life is more spiritual than a life of order and purpose? You might think that avoiding structure and schedule gives you more time for people, but it doesn’t. When you refuse to order your hours, impulsiveness robs your relationships. You spend your time putting out the urgent rather than fulfilling the important.
Choosing a productive life isn’t just a spiritual issue. It’s a sin issue. When we refuse to take control of ourselves and live out God’s purpose, we’re dishonoring our bodies, our relationships and our Lord. All these things flow from a life of gospel-centric productivity.
5. You use personality type as an excuse.
God has created each of us with individual strengths and passions. But while our personalities might explain much of who we are, they do not excuse us from responsibility. When we commit to follow Christ, we’re committing to be His disciples. Note the similarity between disciple and discipline. Living an effective life for Christ doesn’t happen by accident. It requires constant pursuit of His holiness and presence. It requires walking in step with the work God’s Spirit is doing within us, letting our lives reflect His influence.
I’m Type A and an ENTJ in Myers Briggs. But I’m also a natural procrastinator, emotional eater, stress shopper and excuse-maker. Every day I actively choose to deny myself and my impulses to achieve the things on my list. I say no to self and yes to God. If I can do it—so can you!
If you’ve struggled to find passion and contentment, I guarantee you it’s connected to the level of discipline in your life. As you implement these tips, your life will develop a structure specific to your calling from God. You’ll see change. You’ll get excited. You’ll build momentum.
And you’ll start advancing the gospel while achieving your goals.
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