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Productivity Addiction

I just got home from three weeks in Bali. I took work with me, but for the last week of our vacation, I tucked my laptop into the darkest, furthest corner of my room and didn’t dare open it. I sat by the pool with one of my best friends. I rode a scooter with my husband. I played dolls with my daughter and let me son practice “magic” tricks on me. I went out for dinner with my friends, watched the season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead. Twice. And binge read “Outlander.”


There is nothing wrong with working hard. I’m huge advocate for it. I am not, however, an advocate for relentless productivity, the pursuit of busyness and the exhaustion of doing too much in too short of a time. I fear we have developed an addiction to productivity. We are ‘owned’ by our work.

How many hours? How much money? How many boxes ticked? People reached? Margins met? Problems solved?

We fall into the trap of wearing the answers to these questions like a badge of honor, showing off how busy and economically productive we are. And look, I get it. We go through seasons where we work around the clock. We put in the time and the money and the back-breaking, heart-aching effort to get our work completed. We’ve been there. We ARE there. We are working hard and often into the night, with little money but a lot of hope and heart. We (personally) sacrifice time with our kids and friends and each other to get our work completed. Work is work guys, whether you love it or not.

Maybe as well as being addicted to productivity, we have reduced its meaning to be something that only applies to lists, jobs, money, business and even fame. Productivity as a journey rather than a destination looks different than ticks next to check boxes, money in the bank, and a job completed.

I used to think that the less I slept due to work was a good thing. I was proud of my poor sleep habits and wore them like a badge. I was a good, hard-working, sacrificing person because I was willing to go without sleep to get the job done. We used to say, “We’ll sleep when we’re in heaven.” The trouble is, that’s not something that you can physiologically maintain over time. Your BODY, MIND, and SPIRIT need sleep. And if you wait till heaven to get it, you might get there sooner than you want to.

Real productivity, the life-giving type, has a flow to it. It’s not full steam ahead, guns blazing, heart racing, don’t stop, keep going, all the time… That kind of approach to being productive and moving forward with your life will fizzle and burn out. It’s also one of the reasons why so many of us ignore our “end of rope/rock bottom” moments (yesterday's devotion). We’re just too busy to pay attention to the hurting places in our lives. Which may keep us moving forward for a time, but it never makes for longevity and endurance.

And the mix takes a lifetime of tweaking to get right.

A part of productivity is renewing your strength, rejuvenating your spirit, resting your body. Healing. I work hard, but to keep it up, I need to rest, sleep, play with my kids, take care of my body, expose myself to wonder and beauty… spend a week or three in Bali with my besties. It's all a part of the flow. It’s a part of the journey.

Just because it doesn’t LOOK LIKE anything is happening, it doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Who knows what miracles can spark within you when you put aside your “to-do” list, and get down on the floor and build some Lego… For my son, it was everything. For me, it was healing.

And now, I’m ready to work. And the ‘work’ does not own me.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG).

Written by Liz Milani

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