Reflecting on Healthy Productivity: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

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Productivity is such a preoccupation in our culture right now.

It is such a common practice now days to announce just how busy we are…without truly evaluating whether or not we are being productive.

I think this misunderstanding of busyness versus productivity stems in the fact that we consider the two to be synonymous. They’re not always the same thing!

Being “Busy” Versus Being Productive:

Being “busy” is practically what is expected, what is sought after, what is typical — especially for us 20-somethings. If we don’t mention how busy we are in conversation with others, we could find ourselves wondering, Will they look down on me and my use of my time? 

And then the striving and the “proving” continues.

On the topic of not being busy — but instead, living a full life — my friend Blair wrote such a neat, thoughtful post called “Full, But Not Busy.” I love her heart behind her commitment to pursue the fullness of life, rather than the label of “busyness” or saying “yes” to everything. You’ll definitely have to check out her blog!

Part of this tricky balance is that I want to be busy doing in life, not busy talking or essentially bragging about how stressed I am. Stress comes in so many forms, but over the years I have learned that sometimes it is preventable. Do I really have to say “yes” to every commitment, committee, activity, project, or even get-together? No, actually. I can budget my time in wise, God-honoring ways that will allow me to pursue a beautiful, purposeful future.

RELATED READING: Learning To Be Okay With Self-Care

We fill our schedules with more and more, and flutter about from one commitment to the next…and sometimes, we need to ask ourselves, are we truly being productive or are we addicted to the idea of being busy?

I’m speaking as a perfectionist. Sometimes I call myself a discouraged perfectionist. There are perfectionists who will stay up all night to tweak things or rewrite their notes from class in even better handwriting…and then there are perfectionists like me who will work really, really hard on a task to produce excellent work, but if I do realize it will never be absolutely perfect, I resign myself to that fact and then move on. It’s a way to emotionally protect myself. We can run ourselves ragged trying to tweak every tiny detail of life – leading us eventually to stop actually living.

My husband is an awesome example of living excellence out in a healthy way. Bjorn skillfully manages triple careers: Army Reserves, farming, and teaching middle school – not to mention being mayor of our town. But is he broken down? Running ragged? Anxious? Not at all. He is incredibly resilient that way and much of it has to do with how he logically budgets his time. Also, I hardly EVER EVER hear Bjorn complain. He quietly, steadily works hard at what needs to be done, does an excellent job, and then can move on to the next task. Three cheers for this guy! He has been a great example for me in my life.

I’ve been reflecting lately on the topics of outward productivity, on priorities, and on balancing life so I am doing what really truly matters.

I want to mention here that I am writing this post just as much for myself as I am hoping it helps others. I’ve got my own “busyness” mentalities that I am working through. My hope is that this reflection will help all of us, including myself, evaluate the difference between being busy and being productive.

If you’re not quite sure if you’re being truly productive, I think that’s a pretty good hint that you’re probably not. Usually productivity yields results in a physical or relational sense (like a finished project or a mended relationship)…and it also inspires a sense of, There. I did it! or We did it! in your heart.

Questions to Ask Yourself:

There are actually 5 questions I have been asking myself lately, including this first “pre-question” to lay the foundation of what productivity means to me.

** The Pre-Question:

Am I spending time on what’s truly important? True, people have different priorities in life, so yours may look different from the next person, but we all should take time to evaluate if what we’re spending so much time on is an actual priority of ours! What is honestly the most important to you? For me, it’s faith, and then my husband/family. Those are what come first in my life. And because of those priorities, I will approach life differently from someone who has other items at the top of their priority list. Thinking about this “pre-question” sets the stage for the next few questions we can ask ourselves.

If I am trying to be productive while around other people:

1 // Am I wasting supposedly productive time by complaining or gossiping? This is a real problem!! Let’s do some simple math: if you have an 8-hour work day and you spend at least 5 minutes an hour gossiping with someone (and let’s be honest, most gossip sessions go on for longer than 5 minutes), you are wasting a minimum of 40 minutes a day!

(I could rant about gossip here, but I know I’ll get sidetracked so I’ll leave it at that. But basically, gossip is stupid. It’s mean. It’s derisive. And it’s not God-honoring or morally helpful. I’ve slip-slided my way into gossip sessions in the past and I’m ashamed and disgusted. And for the purposes of today’s post – it’s a major waste of time!)

If I am trying to be productive while alone:

2 // Am I distracting myself unnecessarily? This is something I struggle with, especially if I’m home for longer stretches of time while Bjorn is gone at army, and I’ve reached the point of really missing him, but I still want to get things done. We need to ask ourselves: Am I wasting my own time with silly little distractions like taking unneeded extra breaks while folding the laundry or sending an email? Am I sitting and scrolling through social media when I should really fling the phone into the other room and focus on the task in front of me? 🙂

3 // Am I really as good at multitasking as I think I am? Many of us (myself included) overestimate how much we can get done…while doing multiple other things! Sometimes, I think to myself: I can eat supper, put on a movie (on one laptop), and get blog posts done (on the other laptop)! It’ll be great! But life doesn’t always work that way. In fact, even my low-key music playlist doesn’t always keep me distraction free; I had to turn it off to really focus on writing this post! 🙂 So, we often think we are multitasking rockstars, but many tasks in life benefit most from being given our true, full attention. 

4 // Do I need to clear my head or my heart? This point may seem like it contradicts the #2 question about distracting ourselves…but sometimes, you just plain can’t get something done if your body, mind, or heart need a break! If we’re sitting at the computer for too long, our bodies need to stretch. We may even need a short walk, which helps clear our head too! If we have a lot on our mind, sometimes that needs to be addressed in order to make room for productive, focused thoughts! And finally, if something is weighing on our heart – if we need to resolve a silly argument with our spouse, or apologize to a co-worker, or even lift up a situation in prayer to God – then that needs to happen. Only then can we turn around and give our tasks our full attention!

Which of these areas do you find you need to work on most? Have you noticed certain things that pull your attention from productivity?


    1. Thanks, Bailey! It was a really interesting post to write – stuff for me to reflect on myself! 🙂 And I can totally sympathize with the “too busy” thing — what’s crazy is that we all are given a 24 hour day; it just depends on how each person uses it!

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