Today I am continuing this series on getting things done. Yesterday we saw that we exist to bring glory to God, and that, as Christians, we bring glory to God when we do good works for other people. Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14) and now calls upon each one of us to “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Therefore, “productivity is effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.”
This definition of productivity calls us to action: We need to structure and organize our lives so that we can do the maximum good for others and thus bring the maximum glory to God.
I mean to get very practical as we move forward today, but first I want to address one misconception about productivity and lay down one challenge.
One Misconception, One Challenge
The misconception is that productive and organized people always hit their deadlines, never have to request an extension, and never feel a crunch at the end of the week. But this is not the right way to measure productivity. Why? Because God is sovereign and we are not. Our responsibility is to plan, organize and execute to the best of our ability, but to realize that circumstances and providence may interrupt and delay even our best-laid plans. There are better ways to measure productivity, and we will discuss those later. For now, though, I simply want you to realize that God has a way of interrupting our plans and that even the best plans may fail.
And here is the challenge. There is really no great gain in being a productivity monster and constantly wiping out massive lists of things to do if the rest of your life is out of control. Productivity—doing good—has to extend to all of life, not just to one part of it. It has been widely shown, and it has been my experience, that when we emphasize one major habit, others inevitably follow. Displaying self-control in one area of life somehow shores up self-control in others. So consider taking this challenge: If you want to have an organized life and get things done like never before, commit to exercising three or four days a week. Or commit to the daily disciplines of reading the Bible and praying. Pick at least one major habit and pursue that even while you pursue getting things done. (Learn more)
And now it’s time to get practical.
Areas of Responsibility
We all have complex lives in which we are constantly attempting to strike a balance between competing demands. We have families, churches, hobbies, and jobs, and all of them are competing for the same 168 hours we are given each week. Though time is finite, the possibilities for using that time are near-infinite. Productivity depends upon brokering peace between each of the different things we could do at any given moment.
The path to peace involves first defining our areas of responsibility. Now hold on. I know some people are going to think this is not practical enough, and they want to get straight to to-do lists and organizing information. We will get there. But not yet. Bear with me, and you will see that this is as practical as anything that follows.
Each of us has areas for which we are responsible before God, areas for which he will require an accounting. We are all responsible for the care of our bodies and souls, parents are responsible for the physical and spiritual well-being of their children, husbands are responsible for provision, church members are responsible to extend love to the other members of the church, and every Christian is responsible for caring for the poor and for sharing the gospel. And that is only scratching the surface.
Here is what I want you to do today. I want you to think carefully about your areas of responsibility and list them. Now here’s the challenge: You need to have everything you are responsible for in life encompassed in one of these categories, yet with as few categories as possible. You will need to think about all of life and try to create broad categories.
I have structured my life into five areas of responsibility:
- GFC [Grace Fellowship Church]
- Business [Web site, speaking engagements, books, and so on]
There is no responsibility I have in life that falls outside of these five areas. If I am asked to be something or do something, if I am asked to dedicate time to something, it will fit into one of them.
I will tell you more about those categories in a moment, but first, a word of clarification: As a pastor, I am able to combine both my vocation and my local church involvement into a single category of GFC. You may need to have one category for work and another for church. You may also wish to have a category for your hobby if you are heavily involved in it, or a charity or ministry if you dedicate a lot of time and attention to it. Your areas of responsibility may be very different from mine and vive la difference!
Action: Create a list of your areas of responsibilities.
Before we finish up for the day, we want to take this one step farther. Now that we’ve come up with those broad categories, we want to think a little bit about each one and begin to define different roles within them.
Within my family area of responsibility I have certain roles: Spiritual care, for example, and home maintenance, and financial care. Within my GFC area of responsibility I have other roles: administration, young adult’s ministry leadership, board member for the Pregnancy Care Centre, and so on.
Here are a few of the roles that fall under each of my areas of responsibility:
- Spiritual fitness: Scripture reading, prayer, church attendance, reading good books
- Physical fitness: diet, exercise
- Administration: planning, reviewing
- Spiritual care and leadership: Aileen, children
- Home: repairs, renovations
- Financial care: budget, kids’ allowances
- Family growth: vacations, fun, family nights
- Administration: facilities, paperwork, committees
- Elders’ Meetings: preparing, leading, overseeing action items
- Members’ Meetings: preparing, leading, distributing information, overseeing action items
- Young Adults’ Ministry: ministry vision and direction, meeting planning, content preparation
- Pregnancy Care Centre: Board meetings, committee responsibilities, spiritual support
You can find your roles by asking this question: What specific tasks, roles, projects or responsibilities have been assigned to me in each area of responsibility? Or you could ask, For me to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” in this area, what will I need to faithfully steward? As with those areas of responsibility, it is better to have fewer roles that encompass several items than to have hundreds of roles. Be as thorough as you can, but don’t worry if you miss a few. This will be a living list that you will add to and take from on a regular basis.
Action: List your roles within each of your areas of responsibility.
And that will do it for today. Do put some time into considering your areas of responsibility and your roles within each of them. It is tempting to skip this step, but resist the temptation. The investment in time will pay dividends in productivity.
Discussion & An Optional Project
Here is an optional project if you would like to get a head-start on what will come. Consider auditing your use of time for a couple of weeks. You may want to do this in all of life—to determine exactly how you use each of the 168 hours allotted to you each week, or you may want to do it only for whatever area of responsibility consumes the greatest part of your week. Tools like Toggl, RescueTime or Hours can handily record every moment of your time. A journal can also do this perfectly well. Record the way you use your time and then try to understand how much of it you currently dedicate to each of your areas of responsibility and/or to your roles within them.
Feel free to use the comment section below to ask any questions you may have about areas of responsibility and roles, and I will attempt to answer them.