Need to be More Productive? This Helped Me.

Living productive lives requires vision and focus. Vision directs your decisions. Not only by pointing you towards a target, but also by eliminating other targets as options. The standards of our world have programmed us to think there are no codes beyond the culture and nothing beyond the moment. This has birthed twin maladies: YOLO and FOMO (You Only Live Once and Fear of Missing Out).

In a world with so many enticing options this becomes a real fear. It keeps people from committing to one thing. What if? What am I missing? This can cause us to over-commit our time.

Busyness keeps people from using their gifts for God. They have so filled their life with other things that there is no room left for God’s mission. I can see it coming years in advance. Mom and dad have little Alvin running from activity to activity but with little time to learn about the eternal significance of God’s work. Alvin grows up with the idea that we can live fully committed to God without placing a priority on the advancement of the kingdom. Alvin becomes a nice man with a nice family that does nice things; meanwhile, God is looking for dangerous people to do dangerous things and fighters who push back darkness with their lives not tolerate the Goliaths of our world taunting us day in and day out.

Our dreams should include God’s dreams of the entire world hearing about redemption through Christ. Our dreams should focus on eternal values not temporal trinkets. When I filter my passions through God’s heart, the vision becomes clearer and I can begin putting together a plan that I can act on each day, month and year.

Choose Your Targets

Each fall, I spend a season in prayer and I ask God for direction in three areas: What character traits does he want me to grow in, what skills should I add to my life, what projects should I pursue? I then write down a short list of things and post it in a prominent place in my office.

A President Helped Me be More Productive

I then take my daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly goals and run them through the decision-making matrix that General and President Eisenhower used. When I learned of this matrix, it helped me see where and how I misused my time and energy and grow in productivity.

President Eisenhower used a matrix to help him manage his tasks and decisions. All tasks can be divided into four categories: 1. Urgent and important, 2. Urgent but unimportant. 3. Important but not urgent 4. Unimportant and not urgent.  You will do your best work in the third category—important but not urgent quadrant.

Urgent and important tasks require immediate attention (urgent) and move us toward long-term objectives (important). Looming deadlines, emergency situations, unforeseen car issues, time-sensitive important communications all fit into this category. Not long after Thanksgiving my appendix burst and I needed surgery. This was urgent (I needed immediate attention) but also important because one of my long-term goals was to live long term! Often with better planning, quadrant one activities can move into your sweet spot of quadrant two.

Quadrant two, not urgent, (don’t require immediate attention) and important (move us toward our long-term goals). These include well-planned, creative productive time. This is where you do your best work and get the best return for your investment. Your brain is relaxed enough to be creative and you have enough time to produce great results.

Quadrant three activities are urgent (demanding immediate attention) but not important (they don’t propel you toward your goals). These are often disguised as interruptions from people who want your help with their goals. It’s great to be a team-player, but don’t neglect what God has called you to accomplish.

Quadrant four activities are not urgent and not important. These are time-wasters. Mindlessly surfing the net, video games, scrolling Facebook for hours could all fit into these categories. Try to limit these to 5% of your time.

For more on productivity and personal management, we have some great lessons in our Christian’s Guide to Wealth Creation. Click here to take a tour.

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