Over the past two weeks I’ve written about the problem of being obsessed with efficiency and the consequences it can have on your life. The desire to get better is necessary if you want to grow. But obsessing over it will only make things worse.
Have you ever noticed how trying harder often gets you nowhere? You try harder to lose weight, quit smoking, or read through the Bible in a year—but it only lasts a short time. Eventually you revert to late night snacking. You wear nicotine patches while smoking unfiltered Camels.
And that Bible reading habit becomes yet another guilt-inducing failure in your quest for spiritual fulfillment.
(If you haven’t read the Bible Reader’s Cookbook, get your free copy here.)
Well, it’s no different with efficiency.
The more obsessed you become with getting better, doing more, and moving faster the more likely you are to get worse, do less, and grind to a halt—and bring everyone else down with you!
But there is good news, because getting better is 100% possible. You can become more efficient and more productive and become a better version of yourself. And it can bring an enormous amount of success and satisfaction into your life.
But hammering square pegs into round holes isn’t the answer. The blunt-force tool of obsession won’t lead you where you want to go. And that’s where we can learn a thing or two from Jesus.
Does Jesus Care About Productivity?
I’ve discovered that Jesus’ way of life is always the best way.
Now, I’m not suggesting you become a homeless faith-healer and start roaming the neighborhood with 12 guys who know how to catch fish and rock a beard. That would probably not end well for anyone.
What I am saying is that Jesus’ philosophy on life—his thoughts on how you and I and this world actually operate—is pretty much spot on. The way of Jesus has been better than my way every single time.
And that is equally true when it comes to leading a more efficient and more productive life.
What? Does Jesus give a rip about my productivity?
Yes, he does.
I may be a slow study, but over the years Jesus has shown me that he cares a great deal about things that seem spiritually “trivial” at first blush. And productivity is a great example.
Just ask yourself:
- Does Jesus care if your life produces “good fruit?”
- Does Jesus care if you are a disciple who produces more disciples?
- Does Jesus care if you produce an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wage?
Of course he does. Would anyone really argue that Jesus wants you to be unproductive? That’s insane.
Jesus wants you to be productive—he just wants you to go about it in a healthy way and with a focus on healthy outcomes.
He wants you to make an impact with your one and only life. But his way looks a little different than the approach you or I might take.
The Jesus Way to a More Productive Life
What you achieve in life is not nearly as important as the person you become in the process. Jesus wants your life to be productive, but he also wants it to be transformed by God.
You can have both if you follow the way of Jesus.
Adopt these 3 principles from Jesus to become healthier and more productive at the same time.
1. Slow Down to Speed Up
The way of Jesus almost always seems to put a counter-intuitive spin on things, but can slowing down really make you more productive?
Life is a marathon, which means that finding a sustainable pace is everything. Going too fast will only lead to exhaustion—and prevent you from reaching the finish line.
Jesus didn’t rush from one activity to the next. He took his time visiting with the woman at the well. He withdrew from crowds to find some peace and quiet. He allowed the blind and the sick to interrupt his schedule.
Carl Jung famously said, “Hurry is not of the devil; hurry IS the devil!” It causes you to rush through life—and completely miss it in the process.
“Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day,” says Dallas Willard. “You must ruthlessly eliminate it from your life.”
2. Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan
Many years ago, one of the best leaders I’ve ever worked for called me into his office and gave me some great advice:
- Don’t waste your time by not planning it.
- Don’t waste my time by not sticking to it.
He was calling attention to the fact that time management is a two-sided coin. When you don’t have a plan for how you spend your time, time tends to get away from you. But if you don’t stick to your plan, you’ve still wasted your time—and everyone else’s, too!
Some people will spend tons of time planning their calendars, timelining meeting agendas, and organizing their daily tasks, but then fail to work it effectively. They’re late for appointments, their meetings run long, and their tasks don’t get finished.
Hey, why bother having a plan in the first place?
But Jesus—without the help of a calendar on his iPhone—managed to get everything done on time. Why? Because he didn’t just have a plan, he stuck to it.
He was famous for healing people… but he didn’t heal everyone. And the gospels note that he repeatedly ducked out of crowds to get some rest, to meet with his disciples, etc.
Jesus didn’t let his most important work get upended by things of lesser importance. He knew when and where to draw lines so that his greatest work could be completed when the time was right.
He had a plan and stuck to it. So should you.
3. Know When Good Enough is Good Enough
The greatest productivity trap is never knowing when to say “when.” It’s that never-quite-good-enough mindset that’s always looking for just a little more research or one additional adjustment.
And as a result, nothing gets completed on time.
When things are never good enough, they have a way of never getting done—at least not on time. And there’s nothing efficient about that.
In The 4-Hour Body, Tim Ferriss suggests that we use “the smallest dose that will produce the desired outcome.” He calls it the MED, or minimum effective dose.
To boil water, the MED is 212oF (100oC) at standard air pressure. Boiled is boiled. Higher temperatures will not make it “more boiled.” Higher temperatures just consume more resources that could be used for something else more productive.
More is not always better. The Apostle Paul believed he could be more productive if a certain “thorn in his flesh” were removed. But Jesus told him in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
“Good enough” isn’t an excuse to do less, it’s an opportunity to do more. When you abandon your obsession over making things better, you’re freeing yourself up to actually get things done.
If you want to be more efficient, more productive, and truly “get better,” try giving Jesus’ way a shot. Slow down, work a plan, and learn to say “when.”
His grace is sufficient for you, too.