Productive By Design: The Struggle is Real

One of my great challenges in life has always been focus and productivity.  I have always had grand illusions of grand accomplishments – deep, persuasive or important articles or books that stirred people to be better than they were before reading what I wrote.  I’m sure that there is at least a spoonful of pride in there…maybe a large dose, even (which is a subject for another post!).  Still, I’ve always wanted to be a difference-maker; always wanted to contribute, to encourage, and to motivate.

People have told me from through the years, “You’ve got a book in you.”  Even plagued by years of self-doubt, I started to believe them.  Several years ago, I actually started the process of writing one.  One summer, I even dedicated an entire month to little more than writing it.  I got almost eight chapters written out of a desired ten…then the summer ended and so did my focus on the book.  It’s been the same length now for two more summers.

Recently, I’ve had the desire to pick it up again and finish it with a brand new chapter in mind.  Of course, the problem I now face is having to essentially start over in the process of reviewing what I’ve written and getting back to the place that I know where I’m going because I know where I’ve been.  Hours later, I find myself exhausted from rehashing chapters written long ago, struggling to get to where I can finally write the new material I was earlier so excited to write.

This sums up my struggle pretty well.  It has been the pattern too much of my life has followed.  Because I have always been good at “cramming,” I relied on that rather than methodically following a well-crafted plan over the course of days or weeks.  I had the ability to write an adequately resourced, twenty page paper in less than 24 hours and get as good of a grade as those who had been working for weeks (truth be told, if really pushed I could do it in eight!).  That may sound impressive at first glance, but they learned something more valuable than I ever did: the ability to develop a plan, implement a strategy, and carry it out over the course of time.  As a result, I struggle even today.

Understanding that about myself, I have tried to develop systems of disciplines to aid my climb towards balance and productivity.  I have desired to best steward my God-given time, but have so often failed.

A few days ago, I came across an article while browsing Facebook (in one of those moments of deep focus on the important!), with the tagline, “In the time you spend on social media each year, you could read 200 books.” That, alone, intrigued me since I have a great desire (and have made valiant attempts this summer) to read more books.  200, though?  I found it daunting to consider, but thought it worth checking out.  Doing the math, the author broke down the 200 books to average 417 hours of reading over the course of the year.  Still sounds like a lot until I considered the comparisons he made:  Americans spend on average 608 hours a year on social media and a whopping 1,642 hours on television.  That totals 2,250 hour spent on, as he rightly concludes, trash. Spent reading, that would be over 1,000 books per year.  Crazy!

So, that article pointed me to a book the author recommended.  It’s called Superhuman by Habit, by a guy named Tynan (don’t ask me his last name. Apparently, he doesn’t have one).  I bought it and plowed through it and must say, I was quite impressed.  Besides being well-written, it is fiercely practical.  I was able to glean basic strategies that will me move from the struggle to accomplish certain things into the category of “automated” or automatic habits.  Essentially, as you focus every day on key habits, they become a part of your lifestyle.  Common sense, yes, but if you don’t stop long enough to think it through and determine what habits you are missing, it can seem less than common.

One of the key passages that encourages me to give thought to the development of some key, positive habits is the understanding that it is difficult but possible to do just about anything important if we break it down, analyze it (importance and process), and begin moving forward:

“You can do just about anything if you break it down into habits and execute on them.  That’s not to say it’s easy, only that it’s possible.  The key is to be honest about what’s stopping you from success, take responsibility for it, and create new habits to correct it.”

I may not agree with his worldview on some things (sadly, he attributes the glory of nature to evolution), but his perspectives on overcoming barriers to growth are spot on.  Even this writing is an effort to move in a positive direction in an area I believe is important…certainly important to me.  It’s just one step, but it’s a step.  Maybe I will never be as focused or as motivated as I think I should, but I might just surprise myself and find that I can and will be more focussed than I thought I ever could for the glory of God.  That’s a journey worth taking!

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