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Reframing Productivity.



I'm a writer, author, and online educator who loves helping others build intentional lives through the power of habit and meaningful routines.







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“I’m not getting anything done.”

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve typed those five words into the text box and pressed send on yet another message to Lane in the middle of the day.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve held myself to such a high standard of “getting things done.” I teach others how to rule their days. I’ve read dozens of books on productivity. I feel good, and valuable, and worthwhile when I am checking things off a list.

That last statement– that’s the one I’m having to unravel these days. The part of me who defines worth and goodness by tasks completed. I would never look at my daughter and tell her she is good based on what she manages to accomplish. So why do I set that kind of standard for myself?

I think there are “red flags” in our behaviors and beliefs that can fly under the radar for a long time. We think they’re not that big of a deal. But I think there’s eventually a reckoning… a grappling… I think God wants to grow us to new levels and the growth can only happen when some of those old behaviors and beliefs are finally surrendered and dealt with.

I’m a lover of productivity.

If you’ve spent time with me, you’re not surprised by that statement. I love efficiency. I love tackling tasks. I love feeling victory as I plow through a to-do list. Productivity has always looked like one thing to me: getting stuff done.

And that definition works…

… when chaos is at bay.

… when babies are sleeping.

… when distractions are minimal.

… when life isn’t doing anything unpredictable.

That definition worked when I was single or when it was just Lane and me. But as a mom of an 18-month-old who needs and wants so much from me, I’m realizing that my definition of productivity might be limiting. More than that, it might be downright wrong.

I’ve written recently about the trials we are walking through right now with Novalee’s health.

We’ve had two admissions to the Children’s hospital over the last two months and we’ve had to stay there days at a time, Lane and I switching off every 12 hours or so. We’ve been forced to embrace a new kind of normal that sometimes means we have to be on high alert or willing to scrap the plans for the day to make sure her health is stabilized and we don’t have to return to the ER. Some days have been so normal and we thank God for that. Other days have been a wash from the moment we wake up. We still thank God and we begin to take on the day in bite-sized pieces. Hour by hour. Moment by moment.

As you can imagine, this is hard for me. It is hard to slow my pace. It is hard to make no lists. It is hard to just be where my feet are when I’ve long used work as a distraction from the present moment. Sigh. I was going to have to learn these lessons at some point.

By the standards I’ve long held myself to, the last two months weren’t the most “productive” days. I didn’t write. I didn’t schedule things in advance. I didn’t respond to emails in a certain time period. Does that mean I’m a failure? Or does that mean that something within me doesn’t fully know grace, and flexibility, and the truth that hard things happen and we learn to adjust?

In my quiet time recently, God began dismantling this word I’ve held as an idol in my life: productivity.

This season has shown me just how much I’m hardwired to find purpose through doing, not being.

He’s started to show me that, by my standards, there are going to be some days (read: plenty of days) when I’m not productive.

When the tasks aren’t checked off the list.

When the bed isn’t made.

When the day is dismantled after a toddler won’t nap.

I can either embrace that lack of productivity and deem myself a failure or I can shift the way I look at that word and start to see that productivity is experienced in partnership with God.

On days where I feel like nothing is happening, God is doing something beneath the surface.

On days where I’m tempted to say “I didn’t produce anything,” God is producing something valuable within me.

Something the rest of the world can’t see yet.

Something I may never be able to document or filter onto Instagram.

Something that is sacred and valuable but only the people closest to me, in real life, will ever experience the true fruit from.

Patience. Preparedness. Trust. Gratitude. Presence. These are all virtues I’ve been cultivating much more in this season of seeking answers for Novalee but I don’t think I would have ever experienced them to their fullest if my eyes were only focused on what I could produce.

These are the elements God is producing in me. Through each still morning. Through each doctor’s appointment. Through each medical test. Through each answered prayer.

I’m being challenged in a lot of ways to embrace the unknown of any given day.

It extends into daily, tempting-to-call-it-mundane life.

There are going to be days where the plans are made and they crumble before you walk out the door.

There are going to be days where the babe is sick and all you can do is cuddle them on the couch as they nibble on Saltine crackers.

There are going to be days where you get that phone call and that phone call changes all the plans– for better or for worse.

There are going to be days when someone needs you… they need you to sit with them. Hold them. Remind them of who they are. Tell them, in whispers, “You’re going to be okay.”

There are going to be days of toddler vomit. Days of poop explosions. Days of crayons marking the white walls. Days of “I just cleaned all that up and now they’ve pulled out every single toy they own AGAIN.”

These days might not be the days where you feel like a productivity wizard. Where you slash through the lists with a pink highlighter. These might be the days where you’re tempted to say, “I got nothing done.”

But look closer…

Yes, look a little bit closer…

The days might not feel productive by the standards the culture set but something unshakable and lasting is being produced in you as you show up fully to your life, no holding back.

You are becoming the kind of person who is patient… who is kind… who is present… who is “here.”

You are becoming the kind of person who can comfort… who can hold… who can make a killer cup of tea on a dark day… who can cuddle… who can laugh.

You are becoming the kind of person you always wanted to be before the world got in your ear and told you to hustle harder for your worth.

There’s no productivity app for that kind of growth.

You’re going to look back on this time and maybe you won’t have a stack of to-do lists obliterated with checkmarks to show for yourself. But you’re going to be able to say out loud, “I was here. I showed up. Maybe it looks like I produced less, but so much more was produced in me through these good, hard, holy times.

I was here. I was absolutely here.”


  1. Nancy says:

    Ohhhhh boy, did this ever speak to me. I’m in the "after" of just publishing my first book that has kept me extremely productive in the past two years, and now I feel purposeless. I feel the anxiety creeping in. Who am I if I am not DOING something worthwhile? As I seek the Lord for "what next?" I sense Him whispering, "Rest, my child. Sit with me awhile." I know He knows best what I need. It’s time to slay the productivity idol.

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Hi, I'm Hannah

I love writing about all things faith, mental health, discipline + and motherhood. Let's be penpals!


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