“Productivity? But I’m a stay-at-home mom!” Those were my wife Aileen’s words of despair when we sat down to talk about the fact that our lives were veering out of control. We were emerging from an especially busy season but coming up to what promised to be an even busier one. Our son was ready to begin high school and was looking for his first job. One of his younger sisters had ballet lessons twice a week while the other had her soccer games and playdates. We had commitments at church, friends we wanted to spend time with, and the inevitable deadlines for work. We knew it was time to take control of our lives, of our calendars. We needed a way to sort through the million-and-one things we could do in order to focus on the few things we actually should do.
And we did. Together we found a way. We found a way to be productive—me as a pastor and a writer, and her as a stay-at-home mom, mentor, and church ministry leader. We found it and stuck with it. Even better, along the way we found out why it is so important for each of us to emphasize productivity—the best and highest kind of productivity—in whatever it is God calls us to do. My new book Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity tells a lot of what we discovered.
Here are 5 things we learned along the way—5 productivity tips that can help the busy mama.
Aileen has often told me that the greatest challenge of being a mother is not the sleepless nights or the endless piles of laundry. The greatest challenge is that she feels so unproductive so much of the time. She has good intentions, but at the end of the day feels like she has accomplished so little. Even then, a lot of what she has accomplished promptly gets destroyed—the clean bathroom is soon piled with wet towels, the tidy living room is immediately cluttered with stuff. Hours of work are undone in a moment. Emphasizing productivity seems to just heighten the frustration and futility of it all.
But then we learned that we had been measuring productivity all wrong. We were measuring it by tasks accomplished and projects permanently completed. We saw that there was a better way, God’s way. Before God calls us to anything else, he calls us to this: “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). Productivity is doing good to others for the glory of God, and that’s why productivity matters.
Productivity Is For Moms
If it is true that the measure of productivity is doing good to others for the glory of God, then productivity is not only for the CEO with the corner office and company car. It is not first about making money or checking off items from that never-ending list of to-dos. It is not about getting more stuff done, but getting the right stuff done in the right way and for the right purposes. And in that way productivity is for all of us. It is even for the busy mama.
Productivity is for moms because moms have the opportunity to do good for others all day long. When you feed and comfort that crying baby you are doing good for someone else, and that brings glory to God. When you pray with your daughter and sing her to sleep you are doing good for someone else, and bringing glory to God. But productivity does not end in the home and family—it extends outward to friends, neighbors, church members, and everyone else you encounter. Productivity is a calling for every person in all of life.
Productivity Gives Direction
This view of productivity gives direction to life. It helps orient your life. It assures you that what you do is not meaningless and not merely crossing items off a checklist. What you do brings glory to God when it is done to serve others. In this way even the most mundane tasks have great significance. Washing the floors, changing diapers, making dinner—these are as significant as preaching the sermon, closing the deal, or earning the commission. They are equally significant because they can be done equally for the good of others and the glory of God.
Mom, the challenge of productivity is to get better at doing good. The challenge is to orient and direct your life so you are emphasizing the good of others and the glory of God.
Productivity Takes Practice
Productivity does not come easily or naturally to most of us. For most of us productivity requires patience and practice, it requires tools and it requires routines.
Tools can be as simple as the calendar that displays the family’s events, lessons, and appointments. It can be a little more complex—a task management system to help you track what you need to do and when you need to do it. And routines are important too—routines to help you get your day started and routines to periodically help you think about all of the responsibilities God has entrusted to you. These things take practice, they take time to learn. But the time and practice is rewarded with productivity.
Productivity Is About All of You
True productivity calls you to effectively steward your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God. This is just as important for the busy mama as it is for anyone else. This call involves using your gifts, the spiritual gifts you were given when the Lord saved you; it involves deploying your talents, those areas of natural strength; it involves managing your time, those 24 hours God gives you each day; it involves making use of your energy, the strength or vitality that ebbs and flows through the day and the week; and it even involves your enthusiasm, the passion and interest you can bring to those works you love to do. God calls you to take all of that and to apply it carefully, faithfully, and consistently to the great goal of doing good to others. And that is the truest measure of productivity.
So why don’t you make this your morning prayer:
God, let me be a faithful steward of the gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm you have given me. Let me use them all today to do good to others and bring glory to you. Amen.
My new book Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity is designed to teach this kind of productivity. It will teach you 3 essential tools for getting things done, the power of daily and weekly routines, and much more.