Productivity with God in mind

Lately I’ve been reading about and listening to podcasts on productivity, task management, and getting more and bigger things done. I’ve picked up some good ideas, and was inspired to think through my own processes of workflow, task management, and my scattered to-do lists and calendars. I picked up, straightened up, and put up a lot of stuff that was laying around my house and work area, which helps me feel like I’m making progress. As one writer and podcaster, Gretchen Rubin, writes, “Outer order contributes to inner calm.” I believe it.

But the more I listen, and come across more sources and people talking about these subjects, the more it all sounds the same. They all feed off of each other, adding their own tips and tweaks and “hacks” (Where did that word come from, anyways? To me it’s a verb for what a cat does to a hairball). Perhaps I’ve reached the point of saturation.

And so it is time to stop.

It is the point where I have to stop listening about and thinking about productivity, and be productive. I have to stop strategizing and rearranging and systemizing and automating and actually DO what is on my new-and-improved to-do list (if you’re even supposed to call it that; there’s debate).

Just the other day I heard some productivity guru-types talking about “productivity journalling”, and another few people talking about daily journalling (described the same way), and it sounded like a secularized, business-friendly, watered down version of Ignatius of Loyola’s prayer of examen. I came upon the Examen unexpectedly, and not while searching for material on productivity. There are five basic elements of the prayer, which can be done in various ways, but looks basically like this:

1. Ask God for light – ask Him to give you His eyes for the day, and to see as He sees as you pray the Examen.

2. Give thanks – thank God for all that He has given you throughout the day, small and big alike.

3. Review the day – look back at your day as it unfolded, and see how you responded to God in each moment. God may bring specific things to focus (as you asked Him to!) and will help you see why that event, feeling, or action is significant. Review your thoughts, words, and deeds toward God and towards others, and towards yourself as well.

4. Face what’s wrong – ask God for forgiveness for those things that you did wrong today, and receive His forgiveness.

5. Look at the day ahead – think about what is coming in the day ahead, what you will do, who you will meet. Ask God for His help and anything you may need to face the day and approach every moment with Him.

While the world may call it what it likes, about productivity or self-reflection, the practice of the Examen is a God-centered way to review our day and improve in the next. Try it for a few nights, and see what God speaks to you through it. As you open your heart, motives, and attitudes to God’s evaluation, you may find that your productivity is not the only thing that improves.