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A month ago, I reviewed Tim Challies’ productivity book, Do More Better. In that review, I noted then that the productivity books only make a difference if you actually follow their plan and implement their system. At that point, I had been using Challies’ recommended combination of calendar, task-list, and information-capture apps, and was starting to see some good fruit come of it.
You may be asking: How is it going, a month later?
The good news is that I’m still using this system, which is more than I can say for my several past attempts at improving productivity. I am using Todoist and Google Calendar and Evernote every day, and I find that I am able to stay on top of appointments and responsibilities more consistently.
I find I’m also feeling much less stressed about appointments and obligations, because I no longer have that nagging “I’m forgetting something” worry in the back of my mind. This is a huge relief for me.
The bad news is that the best system in the world cannot change my sinful tendencies. And I’m using the word “sinful” very specifically. My tendency is toward inertia, laziness, and procrastination. Rather than taking care of tasks at hand, I am tempted to put them off. Todoist has a very helpful (and simultaneously, very dangerous) feature that allows you to reschedule or postpone tasks, over and over. When used with discipline, this is a great thing: life happens, and sometimes you can’t cross everything off your list.
In my case, it’s not “life” that’s happening, so much as “books” and “presidential debates” and “I-don’t-wanna’s.” So I’ve been pretty bad about bumping things down my list that I really could have completed–putting off until tomorrow what I can take care of today. As a result, even with a great system in place, I’m still in danger of becoming “lazy-busy” and letting the procrastination spin-cycle start to take over.
The great news is: I’m more organized and self-aware now than I was before. Having these tools in place and using them every day keeps me aware of my responsibilities and, despite my back-sliding, keeps me “on the hook.” I’ve established a good habit of immediately putting tasks into my task manager, appointments into my calendar, and information like shopping lists and date-night ideas into my information-storage app. I know where to look for all these things and can pull them up easily, so my life really does function a little better.
Would I still recommend the “Do More, Better” system? I sure would, but with these 3 caveats:
- No productivity system will give you motivation you don’t have. It will make it easier for you to be productive. It will help you become more effective and efficient. But if you don’t want this, no phone app or website will make you want it.
- No productivity system will cure your sin problems. If you struggle with laziness like I do, the solution is not more alarms, more tasks, or more information. The solution is repentance and obedience. It’s recognizing that laziness and selfishness are heart issues, sin issues, that need the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to break.
- No productivity success will make you holy, righteous, or good. The Todoist app has this little “productivity karma” feature that reflects how many things you’ve crossed off the list in time. I get the idea, but I can imagine how many people derive joy and personal pride from watching that little number go up. I’m not saying it’s wrong to be happy when you finish things; I think it’s a gift from God to find a level of satisfaction in your work. But even if I work this system perfectly, and knock out everything on my lists before they’re due, it won’t give me true peace. It won’t give me security. It won’t give me value or worth. My hope, my peace, my security is found in the completed work of Jesus, the Son of God who died in my place and rose again to eternal life, guaranteeing my future inheritance with Him. There’s nothing wrong with trying to be more effective and productive, for the good of others and the glory of God. But my joy, my value, and my hope should never be tied to my to-do list or my calendar, because even on days when everything is falling apart and I’m not able to get anything done, I am no less loved, no less accepted, and no less secure.
So. About 2 months after I started using these tools, I find I’m doing more and doing it better. I still have a long way to go, but I’m thankful that I have a system and strategy in place to help me be a better steward of my time and resources.
Your Turn: Have you tried a productivity system like Tim Challies’ “Do More Better” approach or David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”? How has it worked out for you? Let me know in the comments.