1.The point is fruitfulness, not efficiency. You should want to be fruitful like a tree, not efficient like a machine.
But this fruitfulness is a function of God’s blessing, and it is surrendered work that is blessed work. Seek that blessing, and seek it through concrete surrender. Such surrenders are not abstract. Put your Isaacs on the altar. Every interruption is a chance to surrender your work to the only one who can bless your work, particularly when the interruptions come from your kid wanting to play catch.
We can see the principle with the sabbath and the tithe. Less blessed is more than more unblessed. 90% blessed goes farther than 100% unblessed. 6 days blessed are far more fruitful than 7 days unblessed.
2. Build a fence around your life, and keep that fence tended. You should have a life outside your work, and your family should be enjoying that life together with you. Go to work at a reasonable, predictable time, and come home at a reasonable, predictable time. Keep your work on a regular schedule, not an absolute schedule. If the barn catches fire, allow that to interrupt your schedule. But if the barn catches fire three times a week, then perhaps some preventative thinking is in order. When you are driven by the tyranny of the urgent, most of the urgencies aren’t. Let the fence hold.
3. Perfectionism paralyzes. Chesterton once wonderfully observed that anything worth doing is worth doing badly. The sign of a fruitful worker is that he understands the critical difference between “that won’t cut it” and “that is just fine.”
4. Fill in the corners. I typed the outline for this with my thumbs while sitting in a comfy chair at the mall while my wife was being a merchant ship that brings goods from afar. This was far more productive than staring vacantly at a neon Tito Macaroni’s sign would have been. If you have a commute, use the time to listen to books instead of inane DJ chatter. If the books get too serious, or if you do, go back to the DJs.
Do not despise how much can be packed into small corners. I live in a small town, and so my commute is four minutes, more or less. There have been times when I have arrived at the office with the same song playing as when I pulled out of the garage. And yet I listened to David McCullough’s John Adams like that. It was a great steak, and cutting it into little tiny pieces did not diminish the flavor at all.
5. Plod. Keep at it. Slow and steady wins the race. Truisms are true. Work adds up, provided you are doing it.
6. Take in more than you give out. If you give out more than you take in, you will . . . give out. Your lake should have snowmelt streams running into it. Every vocation requires constant learning, constant development.
7. Use and reuse. State and restate. Learn and relearn. Develop what you know. Cultivate what you have. Your garden plot is the same as it always was, so plow deeper. Envying the garden that others have cultivated plows nothing, and brings forth a harvest of nothing.
Strive for deep conviction more than superficial originality, and deep originality will come. Your tomatoes will take the ribbon at the fair, provided you learned how to grow them in your own dirt.