It probably won’t come as any surprise to you that I do a lot of reading on the topic of productivity. I gravitate to the topic. I love to figure out ways to get more done in less time. And I really feel like I have “beat the system” when I am able to accomplish two things at once—for instance, running while listening to an audio book. Just recently, I multi-tasked myself into a nerdish state of euphoria by listening to a book about maximizing time while on a morning run! The endorphins were double that day!
After a while, most of the productivity books start to sound the same:
Focus on your work and on getting things done.
Close your office door (to send the signal you don’t want to be disturbed), turn off your phone, don’t chat with co-workers, etc.
Don’t get sucked in to social networking (Facebook and Twitter) while working.
Check email only at set times throughout the day.
In my last read on maximizing time, the author devoted a significant portion of a chapter to the subject of avoiding and/or creatively “dismissing” people who are time-wasters.
Believe me, there is a lot that I agree with in his line of thinking, but I kept feeling a conflict rise up within me: what if building relationships with those people IS part of my job? And by “job,” I don’t mean what I get paid to do, but what I am here—on earth—for.
I love getting things done. I love checking things off my lists. I love that sense of accomplishment I feel at the end of a good day’s work. Nevertheless, the conflict that I feel stems from the notion that life consists in what I have (the usual measuring stick for “success”) or what I do (the typical practices for becoming successful). Life is who I am, and ultimately, it’s about Who I know—namely, Him—but it’s also about people relationships, about how my life intersects with those around me.
And this is my great conflict with productivity literature—much of it (though not all of it) doesn’t take the “people/relationship” factor into account. Oh, most of it does allow for family and close friends, but I am referring to those people who don’t fit into that category. The books call them “interruptions,” but in God’s grand scheme, they may be a “priority” for that day. They may be a “divine appointment” or a “Cornelius connection.” Though they’re not on my calendar, they may be on His!
So what to do about that internal conflict I feel when having to choose between getting things done or accommodating a chatty-Cathy who seems to have nothing better to do than talk to me about the weather or the state of the union or her kids? Is she an interruption or divine appointment?
I have come to the conclusion that there is no pat answer. Sometimes she is an interruption, and I would behoove myself to follow some of the advice I heard in the audiobook and politely and graciously dismiss her so I can finish my work. But other times, she may be a divine appointment strategically set up by God Himself so that I can relate to her, get to know her better, maybe be of some help to her or her to me.
How will I know the difference? There’s only one way: I’ve got to be “tuned in” to Him. If I’m willing to follow His lead, He will let me know. This means, however, that I have to be flexible, and I have to submit my plans (aka, my to-do list) to His will.
I’m pretty sure if I learn to live like this on a consistent basis, I’ll get the most important things done.
Do you struggle with this same conflict of “values” that I do—getting things done versus giving time to people? Do you agree that sometimes the right thing to do is to “dismiss,” but other times the right thing to do is to engage? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please leave a comment.