I walked into Panera Bread one evening not too many years ago to interview a candidate for the United States Naval Academy. It’s a volunteer thing that I do since transitioning from my dream job where I worked in their Office of Admissions for three years. It’s not a time consuming commitment—only meeting with candidates a couple times a year, but it gives me the opportunity to connect with some of the brightest young people in my local community, encourage them, and hopefully counsel them in discerning the next phase of their lives. In short, I do it because I love it.
I entered the door of the restaurant, and before meeting with a candidate on this particular evening, I heard my name called, “Natasha, what are you doing here?”
“I’m interviewing a candidate for the Naval Academy.”
She, a woman leader from my church, then exhaled and asked, “How much time do you have in a day?”
I smiled, waited a moment and responded, “The same amount of time that you have.”
We exchanged a few more pleasantries and then I went on to have a promising interview with a pretty bright kid and his family. I don’t remember what was shared during the interview on that evening, but the brief conversation with the woman sometimes comes to mind.
While she wasn’t being critical, her questioning had an overwhelming residue attached to it. I don’t know if she was baffled by the thought that there was one more thing in which I was involved, or if she was projecting the frustrations of all her responsibilities onto me. It’s not the first time someone has asked a question like this or drawn a conclusion that I am just a little busy bee. I often correct those folks too.
“I’m not busy; I’m productive and there is a difference.”
We all get the same 24 hours for seven days each week, and what we do with those 168 hours a week matter. I identified with the recent post my Tim Challies entitled, “How to Get Things Done.” He begins his “Productivity Catechism” by asking readers to first explore their purpose and mission in the world. He continues by answering questions like: Why did God create us? How can we glorify God in our day-to-day lives? What are good works? As sinful people, can we actually do good works? In what areas of life should we do good works? What is productivity?
It’s true; living a productive life requires us to evaluate our purpose, mission, and how we use our time. We must be strategic about prioritizing and planning our lives. Our plans may not work out, and that’s fine (Prov. 16:7). However, productive people are focused on intentionally spending their lives well (Prov. 14:23, 16:3) instead of passively allowing life to happen to them.
My husband and I were in marriage counseling a couple years ago, and one of our assignments was to complete a “time management” inventory. We were to log every hour spent over a seven day period, and bring it back to the session to review with our counselor. His conclusion, “People always think they don’t have time to do things until they see the time they have wasted written down on paper.”
Living a busy life often means we are wasting time, grabbing at straws, making commitments without the thought of consequences, or that we have not prayerfully or carefully identified our life’s purpose, work, or priorities. It makes us feel guilty, frustrated, tired, and angry. We know, no matter how hard we work, we cannot measure up or seem to get the important things done.
Living a purposeful and productive life, however, makes us exhausted for another reason. We rise in the morning, put our feet on the floor, and mentally prepare to “Go!” because God has given us and graced us with good work to do. At the end of the day, we are tired and we have spent ourselves. This tiredness, however, is a good thing. It’s the “well done thy good and faithful servant” and “enter into the rest of the Lord type” tired. We say a prayer and take our rest so we can get up and work again.
I don’t want to live a busy life. I want to live my days productive, tired, and restful. When all is said a done, I would like to say to the Lord, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do (John 17:4).” How about you?
How do you intentionally plan your time? Are you productive or busy? Have you ever considered how much time is wasted during the average week?
For More on This Topic:
How to Get Things Done: Define Your Areas of Responsibility by Tim Challies
How to Get Things Done: Time, Energy, & Mission by Tim Challies
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2014
3 thoughts on “Coffee Talk: Get It Done!”
The distinction between being busy and productive is a mind changer. Thank you Natasha.
Please also consider the possibility that people with low energy and an inability to organize their time may have audio-processing deficits that prevent the sound energy in their environment from getting through to their brain, especially (but not only) the left half of the brain (via the right ear) where organizing and co-ordination of all the body’s systems takes place. Getting those people to join the choir would be a first step in strengthening their ears so they can process the sound energy they need to run their nervous system, muscles, etc. If they say they can’t sing, which is further proof of audio-processing deficits, you could suggest a focused listening program with headphones for an hour a day for a couple of weeks, which could go a long way to making them capable of staying on pitch. I have seen church members young and old positively transformed by focused listening!
Interesting contribution, Laurna. In his third post, Tim also addresses the connection between energy and productivity. I’m sure the reasons for the disconnection between the two are many.