The Book of Proverbs has a lot to say about productivity. Not only does it teach us how we can be more productive, it teaches how we can be more biblically productive.
Some of these principles you can find in secular productivity literature today. (Indeed, many of the proverbs can be found in secular ancient Near East literature, verbatim.) But seeing them in God-breathed Scripture reminds us to adopt those principles with a God-centered perspective. Other principles in the list don’t get as much ink or pixels in productivity books or blogs. Let us consider how to incorporate those in our mindset and our workflow, so that we can glorify God all the more in the work that we do.
22 Productivity Principles from Proverbs
1. Productivity is a result of intrinsic motivation and self-direction. “Tools” won’t turn you into a productivity guru.
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. (Prov. 6:6-8)
2. Resist the temptation to continually chase new ideas. Focus on the responsibilities you have been called to do. Put the gifts and talents you have been given to work.
Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. (Prov. 12:11)
3. Being responsible and diligent will probably lead you to opportunities for greater influence and leadership.
The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor. (Prov. 12:24)
Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men. (Prov. 22:29)
4. Productivity is messy. Don’t confuse being organized with being productive.
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. (Prov. 14:4)
5. But when everything is a mess all the time, that is a sign that you are not being productive.
I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. (Prov. 24:30-32)
6. In productivity – as in all things – talk is cheap. Don’t tell me your life mission statement, tell me the one step you took yesterday toward your most important goal or project.
In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. (Prov. 14:23)
7. Laziness not only leads to less productivity, it creates obstacles for productivity. On the other hand, the more productive you are, the easier being productive becomes.
The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway. (Prov. 15:19)
8. Productive people are not know-it-all’s. They understand they will get better results if they get other people’s advice
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. (Prov. 15:22)
9. Planning is important. Planning shouldn’t be avoided on account of God’s sovereignty, nor should you elevate planning as if we can direct our destinies.
The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. (Prov. 16:1)
Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established. (Prov. 16:3)
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. (Prov. 19:21)
10. Thoughtful progress over the long haul is better than quick bursts of effort that lack direction.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. (Prov. 21:5)
11. Laziness is not neutral; ultimately it is destructive. It wastes time, money, and other valuable resources.
Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys. (Prov. 18:9)
12. The love of sleep is the root of all unproductivity.
Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread. (Prov. 20:13)
13. An unproductive person reaches the height of his creativity while making excuses.
The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!” (Prov. 22:13)
14. A productive person finishes what he starts. The lazy person can’t complete the smallest of tasks.
The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. (Prov. 26:15)
15. The productive person knows that certain seasons call for certain kinds of work.
The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing. (Prov. 20:4)
16. Productivity doesn’t mean everything always goes smoothly. It means you plow through the tough days to get something done.
If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. (Prov. 24:10)
17. Being productive is not just about knowing what to do, but knowing the order and priority of what should be done.
Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house. (Prov. 24:27)
18. The vastness of your plans and aspirations are not the mark of your productivity. It is about what you actually accomplish.
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. (Prov. 27:1)
19. Though perhaps not in the short term, in the long term it is more productive to prevent the disaster that you see coming in the future.
The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. (Prov. 27:12)
20. Don’t be ostentatious with your productivity habits. You’ll annoy everyone around you!
Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing. (Prov. 27:14)
21. Mundane chores and maintenance activities are an important part of being productive.
Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who guards his master will be honored. (Prov. 27:18)
22. It is possible to be productive without looking like a productivity guru. Probably the most productive people are those who don’t need tools, apps, etc. Don’t try to look productive. Just get your work done!
Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer; the rock badgers are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; the lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces. (Prov. 30:24-26)