Wrestling with Productivity

Benjamin Kane —  August 4, 2015

I love nothing more than a completed to-do list. Seeing each item crossed off fills me with a sense of accomplishment. Here’s the thing — even though I love the sight of a completed to-do list, I get bored with using that method as a means of being productive. So, in my hopes of being new and creative, I search for new ways to be productive. And let me say, I’ve tried quite a few. Books, websites, apps, and trainings—you name it, I’ve tried it (or thought about trying it!). The truth is, I never stop looking into new products and books; if I’m searching for information on being productive then I’m being productive, right?


Nonetheless, ministry (and other professions) and life require us to do certain things at certain times. To that end, I offer three ideas about how to engage when you are wrestling with productivity.


I call them phases. I get really excited (ask my wife or good friends) about something and dive deeply into it only to quickly realize how much I don’t like it. I used Donald Miller’s productivity plan; I read and attempted to implement Tim Ferris’s 4 Hour Work Week, and now follow two blogs I highly recommend, James Clear and Tristan de Montebello. In the end I realized I couldn’t mimic their lifestyles and patterns completely. So I stopped trying to be them and used what I liked. My advice—search widely and experiment and then borrow what works for you and leave the rest in the books.


I have a love/hate relationship with routines. I know how valuable they are and have witnessed it first hand in my life. But I fear becoming a boring robot that functions using a strict routine. So I search for new ways to be productive. I’ve tried more variations of a to-do list than Baskin Robbins has flavors. And I’m always a sucker for a suggestion for a new book or weekly plan that aims to help me. One day I hope to write the “Crazy-Working-Dad-and-Pastor-and-Spouse-Who-Doesn’t-Have-Enough-Time-for-Anything” plan. (I’ll keep you posted!)


I’d love to write my sermons on Monday and have the rest of the week free, but that isn’t realistic. But I do try hard to write the final word of my sermon on Thursday afternoon before I go home. I tell myself that Friday and Saturday are my days off and that is family time. I even put “Family Time” into my calendar as a reminder.

I’d also love to be one of those people who never uses social media, but I’m a glutton for a good picture, funny post or provocative article so social media is a part of my day. So I set a goal each day to only check Facebook and email twice a day. I’ve also started using Rescue Time (recommended by James Clear). That program tracks what I’m doing during the day and sends me a weekly report. I can’t rationalize hard facts!


Productivity is a constant wrestling match. One gift ministers have is that – no matter what – Sunday is coming. Maybe this is an additional idea about productivity, but the truth is we can’t change anything about when Sunday arrives so it is more of a given than an idea. But it does give us a framework around which we might construct our week.

How have you created a productive work week? Where have you struggled?

Benjamin Kane

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Ben is a husband, father, son, brother, and a PC(USA) minister. These identities provide him myriad glimpses of God's unconditional love and grace. He is a Duke basketball fan, NPR listener, reader of almost anything, occasional writer & runner, hopeful New Yorker cartoon creator, and discerner as to who God is. He is the Pastor at Howard Memorial Presbyterian Church in Tarboro, NC--"the crossroads of western civilization."