In our search for productivity, we often rush. An undercurrent of hurry sweeps through our days, and we feel pressured to get more done than ever before.
And it isn’t just imagined. Modern culture is moving faster than ever.
The average person receives 121 emails and sends or receives 32 texts daily. In 1820, Thomas Jefferson, one of the world’s most prolific correspondents, complained to John Adams that he spent from sunrise to sunset replying to inquiries, reportedly 1,267 correspondents that year. Today, we receive tens of thousands of messages each year. (More if you are in a group chat!)
As we consider how to get more done of what matters most, it is good to look to Jesus’ example. His life gives us a picture of a slower, more intentional pace.
Here are a few of Jesus’ practices that will teach us to slow down our pace while simultaneously increasing our productivity.
- Trade running for walking throughout your day.
Jesus walked everywhere. Some scholars estimate that he walked over three thousand miles during his three years of active ministry. There is no mention of Jesus ever running.
What would it look like for us to “walk through our day,” slowing our frantic pace in exchange for taking more time with what really matters? A practical way to achieve this is to prioritize your to-do list to allow yourself adequate space to complete the tasks at the top of your list. Instead of feeling defeated that you don’t get enough done, this will help you to plan your schedule around your most important tasks. Michael Hyatt, leading productivity expert, recommends having three main objectives for each day.
If you feel yourself rolling your eyes and thinking that you have twelve to fifteen “must-do” items each day, you are not alone. Narrowing down your tasks takes effort and intentionality. The result is that you remain focused on the items that truly help you progress toward your goals.
2. Remain focused on the task at hand.
Jesus’ life is a model of being present in the ministry and relationships God called him to.
Much research has been devoted to debunking multitasking. Instead of helping us to accomplish more, it has been proven that multitasking actually decreases our ability to get things done by as much as 40%!
It’s easy to start one task only to go down the rabbit hole on other items. Reevaluate how much time a task will take and allocate it correctly in your calendar. Improve your focus by silencing phone notifications, closing down email on your computer, and—whether in the boardroom or at the dinner table—being present in the moment and relationships at hand.
The Navy SEALs have a famous saying: “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” Their example of deliberate, focused action, especially in a crisis, should serve as a reminder that being focused on the present will help you to get further in the future.
3. Align your calendar to your values.
Jesus understood his calling to preach the good news to the poor and free the captives (Luke 4:18). His ministry was focused on living out that calling.
This is a reminder to break from our frenetic hurry and evaluate how our use of time aligns with our values.
We can all get caught in the tyranny of the urgent. Emails to be answered, appointments to be made, last-minute “emergencies” at work. When we spend our energy simply responding, our heads hit the pillow exhausted as we wonder what we accomplished that day.
Instead, set aside time to process to what degree your life’s priorities affect how you spend your time. You may be surprised at how little intentional time you are giving to what matters most. Instead of just getting more done, let’s get the right things done.
4. Prioritize a rhythm of rest.
There are many examples of Jesus drawing away from the crowds that followed him to spend time in prayer.
Likewise, you should have both a weekly rhythm of Sabbath and create moments of rest throughout your day.
Carving out time to rest may look like twenty-four hours of Sabbath. However, even taking fifteen-minute breaks during the workday (especially to spend time outside) will help to boost your creativity. As you find the rhythm of rest that works for you, you’ll notice that the calmer pace allows you to think more clearly, solve more complex problems, and lead with more intentionality.
In the long run, the hustle culture will leave us burned out and disconnected from our calling as Christians to love God and love one another.
The slower path allows you to focus on time with God, be present with those you love, and find purpose in your daily work. And that is the measure of a truly productive life.