Find Productivity in Serving Others, Not a To-Do List

As you well know, for me writing is my process of discernment. Here is the current battle.

How do I knock away at my to-do list while still giving others the attention and service God calls me to?

I’m a Slow Learner

I first wrote this question down a few weeks ago. Now I see the answer lies in the question. If my to-do list revolves around me and doesn’t exist to serve others, then I am not being productive. Lately I’ve been struggling to find the time to fulfill my hobbies. The problem is that each of my hobbies are self-serving and done in isolation. I believe these hobbies do contribute to my happiness and well being but I’m realizing they may be carrying too much priority.

My first awareness to this whole productivity vs. service issue came in the classroom. Am I existing as a teacher to work through a set curriculum or am I conscientiously serving the students in attention to their individualized needs? I’ve been searching for a clear cut answer but I’ve only discovered more questions. (This is another testament to why I believe there’s power in inquiry-based learning).

Questions like: Do I sit here and continue refining my lesson or go assist a coworker who I know is in need? Should I stop to talk to the student in obvious frustration or push through with my whole class instruction.    

The questions don’t stop there, it appears that every single situation and decision could become a conflict between productivity and service. I’ve finally discovered this doesn’t have to be the case. The two can smoothly meld together!

See Service in Every Task

I have written down on a notecard, “How is this serving others?” I’ll be keeping that card in my pocket daily until it disintegrates into a lint ball or to the point when I don’t remember why there is a notecard in my pocket. This card will give me a tangible reminder in my daily actions to intentionally spend my time fulfilling tasks that serve. It will also give purpose to the tasks that might be mundane but at the root serve.  

In the posture of service I give students valuable feedback when I’m grading instead of simply putting a grade. In this posture I’m motivated to pack my son’s lunch instead of leaving it for my wife. I’m a better person to converse with. Instead of numbering my to-do list in my mind while you talk at me, I’m engaged and invested in the exchange. When I do need that me-time hobby, I’m trying to do it in time that doesn’t take away from others. Like writing this blogpost at 5:00am the last two days. Moreover, my wife and son are pleased that I chose the quiet hobby of writing instead of using power tools for woodworking in the basement at 5:00am. So you could say I’m even serving my family while they sleep!

I can’t believe it took me several weeks for me to begin to attack my issue of productivity versus service. This also proves the importance of journaling and coming back to previous ideas. But that is another post for another day.


If you are serving someone you are being productive!


“As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.” -Henry David Thoreau


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