Productivity :: A nice goal, but a terrible god
It was a typical prayer on a typical day. Before I sat down at the computer, I uttered a quick, “Lord, help me write this post in as little time as possible.”
I was using the restroom while I prayed. Solely for the sake of efficiency, of course. (What? This isn’t typical for you?)
Seems like I’m always asking God to help me be efficient. Be productive. Go faster. Get more done. Plow through that never-ending to-do list. Seriously, I pray this every day. Sometimes, I pray it multiple times a day. Usually with a little bit of urgency, and a twinge of impatience. Sometimes, I even bounce my leg a little to emphasize the urgency.
I place a high value on productivity. I love finding the most efficient way to do my work. I hate wasting time. I despise multitasking (but only because I know I can get MORE done if I do things one thing at a time.) And God forbid if I have to do something twice because I didn’t do it right the first time. What a waste.
As much as I enjoy the occasional slow-paced day with lots of margin built in (and I do!), my favorite days are the ones where I cross a dozen items off my to-do list or tackle a huge project from beginning to end, and then collapse into my bed, exhausted from a hard day’s work.
In fact, right now, I’m writing a post, eating a bowl of cereal and running a load of laundry.
It doesn’t get much better than this.
It’s not my fault, you know. Our Western culture loves productivity, too. I’m bombarded on every side to do more in less time, and not waste a single minute.
Five Minute Abs.
Four-Hour Work Week.
Check the news, weather, traffic, stock market and my Facebook feed on my computer’s home page.
How can I possibly squeeze a few extra minutes out of this day?
After all, it’s more productive to keep Elliana in the cart when I grocery shop. No, scratch that. It’s MOST productive when I grocery shop alone—I can race through the aisles in half the time when she’s not there to distract me.
So, maybe it’s best I never let her come along.
Maybe when she wants to bring her baby doll and her toy stroller and her pretend grocery list so she can walk slowly alongside me down the aisles, I should say “No, sorry sweetie. Not efficient. Not the best use of my time. Now, go upstairs and play. Or better yet, look over your sight words. And grab that basket of laundry off the steps on your way up.”
Maybe instead of wasting time watching ball practice and dance lessons, I should bring work to do. Instead of engaging (or even noticing) the people sitting next to me in the waiting room, I should be checking my e-mails. Cleaning out my purse. Making out my grocery list. Anything to make better use of that hour!
I mean, c’mon…was Jesus really as productive as He could have been? Why did He wait until He was in His 30s before He started His ministry? It’s like He wasted His teen years and His 20s, entirely. And why only 12 apostles? Couldn’t He have been much more productive had he personally ministered to 100? And come to think of it, why did He choose the 1st Century to come to the earth as a man? Didn’t He know with a decent sound system, He could have packed out stadiums? Why didn’t He come when He could have used radio, or TV or Facebook or Pinterest. Think of the platform Jesus could have built with just a Twitter account! He could have impacted millions, with just a few key-strokes—-just like Lady Gaga (who currently holds the #1 spot for Twitter followers with 29,691,622–a little Twitter trivia for you). Was this really the best use of God’s time and resources? Was this the most efficient, productive way to save the world?
So, right there in the restroom (remember, I was thinking all this while taking a restroom break?), I sensed a Holy Nudge. A small voice asking me to rethink this “please-help-me-write-this-post-in-as-little-time-as-possible” prayer.
I sensed God saying, “The fastest way is not always the best way.”
I’m learning that God designed some things to grow slowly, on purpose.
Deep relationships don’t happen in an instant.
You can’t download a “wisdom app” on your iPhone.
Building character and testing faith are life-long processes.
Sometimes the value of the process far outweighs the time I would have saved, had it been done faster. I doubt eternity measures productivity like I do. I doubt God is pleased when I forsake relationships and rest so I can go a little faster, do a little more.
I certainly don’t want to waste my time, but neither do I want to rush past something valuable God is doing in me or through me in the slow (inefficient?) process. The struggle and the seeking and the watching and the waiting are what give life its substance. It’s what gives character its depth. It’s what gives a heart its strength.
I’m learning that when I value productivity above all other things, I may get a lot done, but I’ve probably accomplished very little. Productivity is nice. Efficiency is good. But I don’t want productivity to determine my course. Because, while productivity makes nice goal, it makes a terrible god.
Q4U: What’s something you like to take your time doing? What’s something you try not to rush?
I find it easy to slow down when I am with people I love … I want to cherish each moment. When I am working on a project … I love to work like a crazy person. Can I call that balance? 🙂
That sounds like great balance! I actually like to work very quickly when I’m doing housework or anything having to do with the computer (besides writing). But I like to take my time cooking. I like to take longer walks. I like to take my time writing in my journal and praying in the mornings. I like to extend date-nite as long as possible…just a few things for me.
I’m with Glenda… love slowing down time when I’m with people I like and love Another time would be when on vacation – either relaxing or visiting interesting places.
And lastly, I love to down shift (slow down) when it’s a big rain or snow storm… time seems to slowly tick by on those days, so my soul follows suit.
I LOVE RAINY DAYS AND SNOW STORMS!!! Yes, I love to slow down on those days, too.
I do think it is important to be both productive and effective but you are right life’s objective should not be productivity. I think things that matter most take time to develop. I grew up on a farm and there are no short cuts on the farm. On the farm to be productive you have to prepare the soil, plant the seed, water it, weed it, water more, weed more, sometime you have to prune, and sometimes you even have to start over after a crop fails. To do well with the farm you can not concentrate on productivity you have to make sure you take your time and do all the right things with your crop. The important things in life need this too.
Those relationships we love need us to take our time and give them our undivided attention. A meaningful relationship can not be rushed.
Every time I work in the yard, tending to flowers, pulling weeds, etc, I think about the spiritual analogies. I love when you said, “To do well with the farm, you cannot concentrate on productivity.” That’s profound.
I had to laugh about praying in the bathroom. Sometimes I must think God lives in the bathroom because that is where I do a lot of praying. It seems like it is the only place that I can get complete privacy.