The Protestant Work Ethic (or the Puritan Work Ethic) is a concept in sociology, economics and history, attributable to the work of Max Weber. It is based upon the notion that the Calvinist emphasis on the necessity for hard work as a component of a person’s calling and worldly success and as a sign of personal salvation. It is argued that Protestants beginning with Martin Luther had reconceptualised worldly work as a duty which benefits both the individual and society as a whole. Thus, the Catholic idea of good works was transformed into an obligation to work diligently as a sign of grace.
It’s not just the Protestant interpretation of the Bible that is relevant to productivity. Whether you’re a believer or not there’s some absolute gems of productivity-related goodness in there I’d like to share with you (book/chapter in brackets).
1. Remain focused (Genesis 6)
The Bible doesn’t actually record the thoughts and attitudes of those who saw Noah building an ark in the middle of a desert. But you can kind of guess what might have been said (children’s books are good at filling in the details!) It’s a bit like when you’ve got a grand plan that no-one else gets. Keep on going despite what others say.
2. Make others more productive (Deuteronomy 34)
Moses didn’t make it into the Promised Land (due to a previous transgression) but he remained faithful and led others there before his death. It’s important to make other people more productive. Lead by example, even if it doesn’t pay off for your directly!
3. Expect setbacks (Job)
Job had a lot to put up with. He experienced many more setbacks than the average person: Satan took his health, children and wealth in order to tempt him to curse God. But he didn’t. Job’s a great example of putting the hours in and remaining true to your calling. Expect setbacks – they’re inevitable. Plan for them. Don’t moan about them when they arrive.
4. Practise integrity (Psalm 101)
It actually makes for a smoother and more enjoyable life to display and uphold integrity. As the saying goes, “the lier has to have a good memory.” Spend more time being productive by being straightforward and honest in your dealings.
5. Focus on the task in hand (Proverbs 6)
“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” You don’t know what tomorrow will bring. By all means plan ahead, but don’t procrastinate. If you can get it done now, then get it done!
6. Focus on the fruit (Matthew 7)
“Every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.” Seth Godin might rephrase this in terms of ‘shipping’ often and on time. If what you’re shipping isn’t of sufficient quality, look inside to fix the problem.
7. Run the race (Hebrews 12)
St Paul puts it very succinctly: “It is for discipline that you have to endure.” Productivity isn’t about spending all weekend catching up on a project. It’s training yourself and organising your life so you don’t have to do that in the first place. Those who want to win the (personal) race need to put in the hours training.
I’ll have missed lots of application and relevance? What are your favourite productivity-related parts of the Bible? :-p
Image CC BY-NC simpologist