Productivity is an issue that affects all of us every day. Who hasn’t been overwhelmed with email, frustrated they reached the end of the day without completing anything on their to-do list, or procrastinated yet again on starting that important task?
There are lots of good strategies and tips out there for managing ourselves better. But there’s one thing we often overlook: what does God have to say about getting things done and being productive? This is an important question because, as Christians, we are to think about all areas of life—not just some—from a biblical perspective. And since the gospel is at the heart of the Bible, we are to think about all areas of life in a gospel-centered way.
So what happens when we look at the issue of time management and getting things done from the perspective of the gospel? A surprising insight emerges.
Motives Over Strategies
The first thing to know is that God doesn’t look down on productivity tips and tactics. He’s the one who ultimately created them, after all (the good ones at least).
But being productive requires more than the right tips and tactics. When we take God into account, we see the motives in our productivity matter even more than our strategies. Most productivity approaches don’t address that aspect. Yet it’s essential to living a truly productive life, for if God exists then he’s the ultimate judge of whether anything we do is productive (Matt. 25:14-30; Rom. 14:12). And he weighs the heart.
The guiding principle in all the things we get done should be the good of others. Just as Jesus put our needs before his own, even to the point of death on a cross (Phil. 2:5–11), so we are to seek the good of others in all we do by putting theirs before ours (Phil. 2:3–4). And we are to do this from acceptance with God on the basis of the gospel, not for acceptance with him (Eph. 2:8–10).
In the end, love is to be our supreme motive in all that we get done. As Paul simply put it, “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14; cf. Gal. 5:6).
Love at Work
It’s easy to abstract this command from the ordinary course of our lives and work. But God intends love-fueled, others-centered productivity to be executed in the everyday—which means in the realm of time management, schedules, and getting stuff done. So here’s what it means, concretely.
- When we are answering email, our aim shouldn’t just be to finish but to love and edify others through the emails we send.
- When we are in meetings, we shouldn’t just be annoyed at how poorly it’s being run but should view it as an opportunity to make a contribution.
- When we are designing marketing plans, or coding websites, or doing anything else our job requires, we shouldn’t see it simply as a chance to earn our paycheck or advance our careers (as important as those things are), but also as a chance to bring benefit to the world.
Such a perspective changes everything, infusing our daily tasks with immense meaning and significance, since all things can be done in service to God and neighbor.
And, interestingly, it also leaves us with a good strategy. Love, it turns out, isn’t just meant to be our motive in being productive; it’s also the best way to be productive.
Strategy of Generosity
If love is our motive, generosity is the means by which we extend it. At work, love chiefly expresses itself as generosity.
Being generous at work means doing more than the minimum in your job—and doing it with excellence. It means taking initiative to solve problems and seize opportunities, rather than waiting until you’re told. It means leading for the good of your team and organization, not just yourself. It means negotiating from a spirit of win-win, rather than trying to pinch every penny out of your vendor.
When done in a spirit of love, then, excellence in your work is itself a form of generosity. Christians shouldn’t be known as the people who get donuts for the meeting and then stink at their jobs; we should be known as the people so excellent at our jobs that we don’t only excel in our work, we help others excel in theirs too.
Besides being right, generosity is an effective strategy. Generous people add the most value to their organizations. Because they don’t just do the minimum, but go the extra mile (generosity), they make the whole workplace better and inspire everyone around them to excel. Consequently, they get the best results and are typically promoted when the time comes.
So be gospel-reflecting—that is, generous—in your vocation, and you will not only be working in a way that pleases God but will also be acting in accord with what (usually) generates greater effectiveness overall.
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered” (Prov. 11:24–25).