Life, Talk about it Tuesdays

Talk about It Tuesdays: Productivity (Pt 3)

In the last few weeks, we’ve begun a serious discussion on productivity: what it is and what it should be motivated by. Today, we’re going to talk about planning for success.

Growing up, I was definitely the kid who got an idea in my head and then purposed to be the best and to practice that skill 7 hours a day.  I was the college student who left the freshman introduction classes planning to spend the first few weekends doing all the necessary reading for the semester and writing all my long papers.

Needless to say, I’ve been quite the failure at holding to my goals. I was never the best athlete, musician, etc (Seriously, who has time to practice for that many hours a day??) and I was never great at holding to those lofty goals of great early-semester reading and paper-writing (The beginning of the semester is like the one time in the history of college when you don’t have homework. Why spoil it?).  However, that kind of goal setting has set me up for some pretty poor understandings of productivity within my life and schedule.  Let’s talk about what we can do to avoid my common pitfalls.

Set Realistic Goals.

When you’re planning to be productive, it’s important that you pay attention to a few things. First of all, planning for success in regards to productivity involves setting realistic goals.  For instance, when I get up in the morning and really plan for some quality time in the Word, realize the extent of the hours I’ll be working as a tutor, the time it takes for meal prep, the responsibilities I have as a wife and homemaker, I begin to understand just how little time that allows for additional tasks.

I could plan a million things to do (and to be honest, I still find myself doing that.), but the key to being productive is realizing I’m a super-hero (News Flash!) and that knowledge requires realistic goals for myself.

Luke 16:10 tells me:

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”

So, as you’re striving to be productive but trying also to avoid failure by setting your goals too high, start small and build up.  Adam has challenged me in that area with my running. I can’t start off running a half-marathon if I’ve never run a 5k.  Start slow and steading and faithful and work towards higher goals.  Of course, don’t set your goals so low that you’re not challenged, but don’t set yourself up for failure.

Prioritize Your Lists.

I’m a list person. Often, at night, when I’m headed to bed, I begin to think of all the things I have to do in the morning. So, I write a list.  However, in the morning, my jumbled, hardly legible list of to-do’s can be pretty overwhelming. Where do I start?

Work through your list with a number system.  Start at (1) and label and re-order your tasks to help you know the order with which to tackle your list!  Here are some of the ways I determine priority:

picture courtesy of
  • Eternal vs. temporal value
  • Immediate vs. general tasks
  • The repeatable tasks
  • The desired accomplishments

Eternal perspective.  We talked about this in the first part of this discussion on productivity. Viewing the eternal as more important is key to our success:

Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

The next filter is the immediate versus general tasks of the day.  Knowing which tasks need to be accomplished that specific day (bill-paying, food-prep, bread-baking, etc) versus that which I can manage to do at a later time without negative results (cake-baking, writing, etc) help me prioritize my list.

Doing the time-sensitive tasks first helps me meet deadlines!

The repeatable tasks are those that I struggle with doing “right now”.  These tasks include my daily cleaning schedule, laundry care and of course, that never-ending pile of dishes on my counter.  These I have to focus on doing before other tasks because it’s easy to put them off ’til later, when I’ll have to do them again anyway.  (Unfortunately, if I ignore them, they turn into much larger, much harder tasks than they need to be.)

After I’ve accomplished the eternal “tasks”, tackled the immediate concerns of the day, and embraced the repeatable tasks that I know I’ll do tomorrow (or next week), I then can tackle the remaining tasks on my list. That might include blogging, running, creative writing, emailing, etc.

Allow for Some Distractions.

Let’s just face it.  Life is never completely as we plan. Sometimes, we wake up just not feeling so hot, the cats are making a mess of the house (yes, it happens), a friend calls with a crisis, the internet is down, or life just happens.  After all, Proverbs 16:9 reminds us:

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.

Knowing this, plan your schedule with a little leeway. Plan for traffic, for distractions, and for a little mishap here and there. If you think you’re task will take thirty minutes, plan for forty minutes in case you start late, it takes longer than expected, or you get interrupted in the process.  This will help you stay on-track and give you some flexibility for the unexpected.

Any questions? Feel free to ask, but tune in next week for more Talk about It Tuesdays and our discussion on productivity!

1 thought on “Talk about It Tuesdays: Productivity (Pt 3)”

  1. I also have learned that I need to set *realistic* goals. When I would write a list, I used to write all of the things I wanted to get done. Either I wouldn’t write a list . . . and flounder around, or I’d write a list and I’d put on a lot of things that I wanted to do that day. (Something pertaining to each of my interests – e.g. writing, artwork, scrapbooking, or whatever – when in reality I usually need to focus on one particular “interest”, in addition to daily tasks, of course.) But my day would NEVER go in such a way that I would do all those things. If I was super-diligent and disciplined, maybe I could, but I’m not, and there would always be things coming up . . . just talking to people, and reading things, and taking a walk, helping someone with something, and other seemingly “little” things, and before I know it the day is gone and I’ve only done a few things on the list.

    I realized that if I was honest with myself, I didn’t really think I was going to get all those things done. I wanted to feel like I was pursuing all of my interests, so I didn’t want to leave anything off. But I’d look at my list and go “Oh man – that looks like too much work – I don’t feel like doing all that stuff -!” and just wind up doing the things that were habitual. (Or I wouldn’t look at the list at all, because it bugged me all the things I wasn’t doing.)

    I realized it helped me a lot more if I just put on a few things that I wanted to get done (besides the daily tasks or other tasks that come up of things that need to get done). “Just” working on artwork, or writing, can take up quite a bit of time for me, because I’m the kind of person who tends to work on the same thing for a long time. If I don’t have a specific thing set that I want to work on that day, I find it hard to get started on anything.

    And when I have less planned for the day, it is easier for me to “take myself seriously” (instead of just looking at the list and then ignoring what it told me to do) and actually strive to accomplish that one (or two, or three) thing(s). It also helps me to ignore whether or not I “feel” like doing that thing, and just make myself do it, when I am just focusing on one thing.

    Buutt . . . I feel kind of sheepish writing all this, because to tell the truth, I still really don’t have structured days – at all! My days are full of a lot of random things like going over to help a neighbor hang up a quilt, helping a little sister brush her hair, helping my mom put stuff in the attic, or things I don’t like to admit, like getting distracted on Facebook.

    Lately I have been using a site called Remember the Milk to keep a list. It sends you e-mail reminders on the date that you said the task needed to be done. It helps, but I find what helps the most is to keep in mind the things that are highest priority.

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