April 22, 2009

Three More Huge Principles for Personal Productivity

Written By Cary Schmidt

Do you like to live “to the hilt”? Do you like to pillow your head at night exhausted, spent, but fulfilled? Do you find great enjoyment in doing the best you can with the resources and opportunities God has given you? I sure do. In a recent post we looked at three HUGE principles of personal productivity—they can be read here. These principles rise far above your “system” or your software. Without these in place, it doesn’t matter what gadget you use or how streamlined your plan is—you’re still going to be frustrated. So, let’s jump into three more:

Principle #1—Building Strong Relationships Is the Most “Productive” Thing You Can Do—Relationships don’t “feel” productive, but there is nothing more important than people. The problem is, you can’t check relationships off of a “to-do” list. When I work on my “to-do” list all day, I can look and see all the things I’ve checked off—which means I can feel good about my day and my accomplishments. I can relish my “busyness” and I have tangible proof of how “effective” my day was.

Yet, I can spend all afternoon with my wife or child and not “check anything off” my list. Oh, how deceptive this feeling is! Truthfully, I accomplished more in that afternoon than a to-do list could possibly contain. Relationships are organic—they require time and nurture, not checklists. And relationships are dynamic—always changing. In other words, with the people I love, I’m always either growing closer to them or further from them. Relationships are never static—they aren’t accomplished, they are developed. Therefore, because they aren’t accomplishments, they don’t “feel” productive, but there is nothing more important than relationships! Don’t ever allow projects to take precedence over people.

Think of it this way—no matter how much you get done and how organized your life is, if the vital relationships in your life are suffering, you are failing. Relationships always come first. That’s God’s plan, that’s what Jesus modeled, and that’s why God instructs us to love one another.

Principle #2—Restoration Is Productive—Down time is not wasted, it is vital. Sometimes our minds work against us in this. We push ourselves as though we think we can beat the human condition. How silly. God created us—hard wired us—to need rest. It’s just a fact of life. Precious few people on this planet legitimately need only 3 hours of sleep each night—and I’m NOT one of them. You probably aren’t either. Just like breathing involves inhaling and exhaling—so life has a rhythm—a God-created pattern of expending and restoring, laboring and resting. And this applies not only to your physical needs, but also your spiritual and emotional needs. Everyone needs regular patterns of physical, emotional, and spiritual restoration. It’s just a fact of life.

Quick personal illustration: Recently I was buried in a huge project. It was needfully consuming. For two weeks, it’s safe to say I expended myself—happily. By the time that project was wrapping up, I could tell that I was in need of restoration as well as family time. So, I planned it—two days off to sleep in, spend time with Dana and the kids, and just restore physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It was GREAT!

When finally back in the office on the third day, my clarity, my decision making, my whole thought process was completely different, not to mention my attitude was better! (Let’s face it, exhaustion can give us all a pretty bad attitude at times.)  I honestly got more done in the two days after I rested than if I had worked all four days straight through. The restoration was absolutely one of the most productive things I could have done in the moment. It impacted everything else—including my relationships. All that to say, sometimes you just need to crash, get some sleep, take your spouse on a date, snuggle your kids, pray, read your Bible, and refill your tank! We all function much better on a full tank.

Principle #3—The Leading of the Holy Spirit Beats All of Our Other Plans—Planning and “redeeming the time” (Eph. 5) is important. God is a God of order and desires for us to “set things in order” (Titus). But our best laid plans never replace the daily guidance of the Holy Spirit. In fact, our best laid plans should actually make way for the Holy Spirit—clearing our lives of the clutter and helping us to focus on what God truly has for us. If you really want to pillow your head with a clear conscience and a full heart—no planner system can help you find that—it is purely a product of knowing and doing the will of God moment by moment. Hearing and heeding the Holy Spirit’s promptings is essential for a truly productive life.

Does this mean we shouldn’t plan? No. It means our plans should be fluid—flexible—so that God can bend and shape them throughout our day as He leads. When your day doesn’t go how you planned it, how do you react? Do you get bent out of shape? Don’t. Just be flexible in God’s providence and let Him intersect your day with His Divine appointments. And most likely, those appointments will involve relationships.

Last night we had a family moment that embodies all three of these principles. We decided to grill out hamburgers and eat by our fire pit in the back yard—sort of spontaneously. As the sun set, the evening was beautiful and we lingered by the fire talking, laughing, and being a family. After a while, we began roasting marshmallows and teaching Haylee how to make s’mores. She had never roasted marshmallows before! What a delight. At first she was afraid of the flaming sugar ball at the end of her coat hanger, but her tongue quickly overruled her fear! It was relationships and restoration and the leading of the Holy Spirit all wrapped into one unforgettable evening! Who would have thought that roasting marshmallows could be so productive and spiritual!

Whatever system you use to organize your life or to find greater productivity—make sure you have the BIG principles in place first. People come first, restoration is productive, and the Holy Spirit beats our best plans. (Oh yeah—and roasted marshmallows always increase productivity.) Now it’s your turn… what are your thoughts about big principles for productivity?