Being Productive Doesn’t Make You More Valuable

In this episode:

Do we make productivity into a gospel? Being busy doesn’t make you more valuableChecking boxes or being prolific doesn’t make you a better person. 


(Article contains affiliate links. This means that when you click a link and make a purchase, I might receive a small commission from that purchase.)

Inspired Life

I talk a lot about productivity, and I’m a person who always has a lot of projects and dreams. But while I was out for a walk recently, something I heard on podcast made me think about how easy it would be to set productivity as something to desire so much that it becomes a pursuit in itself. It can become our ultimate goal to produce rather than to find meaning.  

Yes, I have days of complete overwhelm. Then there are days when I think I have it all together and everything is manageable.

Perhaps you have heard of the concept of prosperity gospel. It’s way of thinking promoted by some teachers that God wants us to be wealthy and healthy. Let me be clear. It’s a false narrative supported only by taking little snippets of Scripture out of context and pasting them together into this idea that God rewards us with prosperity if we just have enough faith. It leaves people who experience hardship after wholeheartedly following Christ with a lot of questions about what they did “wrong.” 

This is an attractive model because who doesn’t want to be rich and healthy? But it’s so dangerous because God doesn’t promise that. It’s called a gospel because gospel means “good news.” It’s warped because it replaces the good news of grace and forgiveness and replaces it with something different. 

But let me bring up a different concept that I think can be just as dangerous. I’m going to call it the productivity gospel. I know I’m not the first person to come up with that expression. But these are my thoughts on the concept. 

How much do we measure our worth by what we do?
How often do you ask if you’re doing enough?

I think it’s the reason why when someone asks how we’re doing, the first thing we mention is how busy we are. 

  • The productivity gospel says:
  • Fill every moment
  • Always be doing
  • Feel guilty for resting
  • You’re good if you produce
  • Your level of productivity demonstrates your commitment
  • You must measure up to others

Somewhere I grew to believe that being unproductive is a bad word. Sometimes unproductive equals being. Just be. 

I grew up in a culture of work ethic where it wasn’t cool to be caught sitting around. I want to give one caveat. In my church culture and at home, we took sabbath to a place of legalism. We rested. We napped. It was the one day where we could read books and lie around. But I’ve learned that type of sabbath isn’t a gospel either. 

Let’s talk about solutions and balance. 

Life, Repurposed

Productivity is not bad, but it isn’t the gospel. I’m currently reading a good book, but it almost implies that success is a hustle that includes sleep deprivation, pushing your limits, and learning to live with the stress of all that. I say there is an in between. Rather than defining ourselves by how much we do, let’s take a different approach that helps us to know if productivity has become our new gospel.  

Three questions to ask yourself about productivity 

  1. What is my motivation? 
  2. How often am I willing to pause productivity to be with people?  
  3. What is the cost of my drive to produce? 

First, why am I driven? What is my why?  

 This leads to more questions. Are you trying to prove something to others? Are you just doing stuff with no real purpose? Are you addicted to the adrenaline of productivity without real purpose?  

As a highly productive person, I do find myself adrift sometimes and doing busywork that doesn’t propel me anywhere. But I also have figured out my sweet spot for when my pace needs to change. Others don’t always get to see that part and may assume I’m burning myself out. They see the sprints, but they don’t see where I stroll. By working in my sweet spots and resting in between, I can get so much more accomplished. Because I also schedule that slower time, my schedule appears very full. But it doesn’t mean I’m at a flurry pace all the time.  

Even with a purpose in mind, I get out of focus sometimes. If you value productivity, I invite you to join me in asking what motivates you. If it’s someone else’s approval, that might be a red flag.  

How often am I willing to pause productivity to be with people? 

This helps me to measure how healthy my drive is. Yes, there are times I need to tell family members that I have a deadline. And I have boundaries. But it’s also important to be able to email a friend, meet a mentee for lunch, offer advice to a protégé, serve as a leader, have supper with the family and such. Those people moments are important. If we’ve made productivity our gospel, the relationships suffer. Why? Because it becomes easy to rationalize that I’m doing a good thing so the suffering is justified. If I accomplish all that I want to but lose a connection with the people who mean the most, the finished project means nothing.  

Lastly, what is the cost of my drive to produce? 

If you aren’t sure what the cost is, some of your family members might be able to help you out with that info:  

  • Being so tired I’m impatient.  
  • The financial burden of purchasing more tools and apps and gadgets. 
  • Rules and regulations for my systems that don’t offer grace and flexibility.  
  • Marriage conflict. 
  • Costing sleep 
  • Giving up things I enjoy 

 The goal here is  

  1. What is my motivation? 
  2. How often am I willing to pause productivity to be with people?  
  3. What is the cost of my drive to produce? 

 You’ll find your sweet spot when you: 

  • Have a clear motivation. 
  • You still make time for people who matter.  
  • And you’ve counted the cost without overspending. 

Let’s look at a resource. 

Recommended Resources

Today’s resource is one from my wish list. I’ve appreciated every book Michael Hyatt has written, so I’m definitely looking forward to when I can read this one by Michael Hyatt and his daughter Megan Hyatt Miller. 

Win at Work and Succeed at Life: 5 Principles to Free Yourself from the Cult of Overwork

About the book: 

Great leaders are driven to win. Yet career wins can come at great cost to your health, relationships, and personal well-being. Why does it seem impossible to both win at work and succeed at life? 

Michael Hyatt and Megan Hyatt Miller know we can do better because he's seen it in his more than four decades as a successful executive and a loving and present husband and father. Today Michael and his daughter, Megan Hyatt Miller, coach leaders to live the double win. Backed by scholarly research from organizational science and psychology, and illustrated with eye-opening case studies from across the business spectrum and their own coaching clients, Win at Work and Succeed at Life is their manifesto on how you can achieve work-life balance and restore your sanity.  

With clarity, humor, and plenty of motivation, Win at Work and Succeed at Life gives you 

      • an understanding of the historical and cultural forces that have led to overworking 
      • 5 principles to rethink work and productivity from the ground up 
      • simple but proven practices that enable you to slow down and reclaim your life 

 Refuse the false choice of career versus family. You can achieve the double win in life. 


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(Please note: books posted here on my blog are purely because I want to share them. Sometimes I receive free copies for review, and other times I purchase the books. Some I get from the library. Either way, any endorsement I offer here on the blog is simply because I want to talk about the book. )

Michelle Rayburn is the author of The Repurposed and Upcycled Life: When God Turns Trash to Treasure, as well as a small group Bible study to accompany the book. Learn more about these and her other books here. A sample chapter of the book and Bible study are available for free download.

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