Personal Growth

I Can’t Get Anything Done Around Here

by John Pate

child playing in the foreground with a parent working in the background

When Greg graduated with his accounting degree and started his first job, his workflow was humming. No matter what projects he tackled, he accomplished them quickly and accurately. If you asked Greg to rate his productivity level on a scale of 1–10, he might say he was clipping along at about an 8.

Then Greg married a girl he met at church. His life slowed somewhat to accommodate the change, but he was ok with that. His productivity level went down to a 6.

Two kids later, however, Greg’s workflow is suffering. Between sleepless nights and unplanned doctor visits, he’s running at about a 4. Of course, his family life is important to him, but it seems to be eating his schedule alive, and he’s not sure what to do about it.

An Inherent Weakness

Let’s face it. Your family will slow you down. Several of my friends and I entered fatherhood at about the same time. It wasn’t long before we were urgently sharing the titles of productivity books with each other. It seems we were all wondering the same thing: “How can I keep being productive … and be a dad at the same time?”

Don’t get me wrong. Books on productivity can be a huge help, but productivity systems don’t completely address what’s going on here. The reality is that family introduces a new weakness into a dad’s life. And that’s a good thing.

Power in Weakness

We find in 2 Corinthians 12:1–10 that God has a different view of weakness. Paul recounts how God introduced weakness (his “thorn in the flesh”) into his life. Paul prayed that God would remove this weakness only to hear Him say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (12:9).

We are easily impressed by high-powered professionals and effective productivity hacks, but think about our productive God for a moment. The God who created the entire universe in less than a week and daily sustains the galaxies knows productivity. Whatever God plans, he accomplishes, and He does so with perfect economy. Your immensely powerful God is perfectly productive.

This is the God who delights to work in and through your weakness.

What you may view as the golden years of productivity may not have been as productive as you thought. And those circumstances today that wreck your schedule may be the most truly productive circumstances yet. In fact, God may be using that gear-grinding interruption not just to change events, but to change you!

In other words, the weakness inherent in family life is the very way in which God is accomplishing His infinite purposes.

True Productivity

If we’re honest, this truth may call for a realignment of our ambitions and workflow. Here are a few steps you can take to pursue true productivity.

1. Identify God’s Purpose

By human standards, the builders of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 were approaching the pinnacle of human achievement. God, however, was not impressed. For all their success, they were missing the very purpose for which they were created (see Genesis 1:27–28; 9:6–7).

In terms of human productivity, they were succeeding; in terms of divine purpose, they were failing.

Is it possible that you, like the tower builders, are pursuing the wrong ambitions? These ambitions could include pursuits like …

  • Building wealth
  • Excelling at a hobby
  • Keeping a clean house, a manicured yard, or an organized garage
  • Becoming recognized and respected
  • Having successful kids
  • Mastering your schedule

These pursuits aren’t all bad, but if any of them becomes your primary pursuit, you will fall short of true productivity. As dads, it is important to ask, “What is God’s goal for me?” Then align your goal with His.

Simply put, you exist for God’s glory alone (Colossians 1:16). God has placed you here “to work and keep” His earth (Genesis 2:15) and to bear His image before others (Genesis 1:27). As a believing dad, you are called to serve and love those that God has placed in your life (Mark 12:31). Loving, leading, and serving my family—that’s the kind of goal that will make an eternal difference!

It might be helpful to sit down for a few minutes and write out your mission statement with the above principles in mind. Then jot down your roles and responsibilities and how they fit into that mission statement. Knowing God’s purpose for you is the first step to true productivity.

2. Realign Your Schedule

After identifying God’s purpose, you will probably need to realign your schedule to reflect that purpose. So often, we fill our workflow with activities that feel productive but are actually impeding our true productivity.

How will you know where God wants you to adjust your schedule? Here’s a clue: look for divine “schedule jams,” those moments when you hear yourself saying, “This isn’t working!” Those moments may be divine cues that an adjustment is in order.

The cues could look something like this:

  • A recurring injury that hinders your ability to pursue your favorite hobby
  • Unexpected health costs that stop your financial plan in its tracks
  • Increasing frustrations with the job that was once your greatest joy
  • Continual home interruptions that keep you from any evening down time
  • An extended period of busyness that has begun to take its toll on your family’s health

Prayerfully consider how God would have you realign your schedule.

3. Rejoice in Your Weakness

The world may consider those who pursue God’s purpose to be weak. But when we are weak, He is strong!

No wonder Paul didn’t just accept weakness; he learned to “boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Rejoice in your weakness; lean into it, and watch God begin to do amazing things through your family. Your weakness is your strength.

One of the most productive things you can do is build duplos with your toddler for an hour or take a Friday evening to play a round of golf with your son. If loving, leading, and serving your family is a God-given goal that makes an eternal difference, prioritize that.

Here are a few ideas to consider as you seek to leverage your weakness:

  • Create a block-schedule. To quote the missionary Jim Elliot, “Wherever you are, be all there.” Ask yourself what is truly important and create blocks of time for those things. For example, consider blocking out your evenings exclusively for your wife and children.
  • Work hard. God’s grace for weakness should never be an excuse for slacking off (see 1 Corinthians 15:10). In order to be “all there” when you are home, you are going to need to make every moment count as you fulfill your other responsibilities.
  • Don’t compare. It is foolish to compare ourselves with others (2 Corinthians 10:12). Don’t become distracted by how productive other dads seem or what they are able to accomplish. Remember, your God wants to work through your weakness.
  • Be realistic. You’re not a machine. Even in the midst of your busy schedule, take time to sleep and exercise.1 Take 60-second “sanity breaks” (without your phone) to pray and regroup.
  • Do it with them. Have a church responsibility or ministry you typically do alone? Bring the family with you! As you do so, not only are you ministering with your children, you are ministering to your children. They will be able to see God’s priorities and power at work in your life and in theirs.
  • Have fun! Your children need to know that it is no duty or drudgery for you to hang out with them. Laugh with them! Enjoy them!
  • Abide. Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). It is only as we abide in the vine that we can bear much fruit. Abiding starts when we believe in Jesus as our Savior and continues as we daily trust and walk with Him.[^2] Dads, we can’t do this on our own. But as we rest in Christ, He will infuse our lives with His infinite strength.

God wants to bless your family, not through your strength or productivity, but through his infinite power. By God’s grace, what may seem like the weakest years of your life can be the best years of your life.


  1. It’s a husband’s responsibility to help his wife do the same. Maybe watch the kids after dinner so that she can take a power nap. You could also make it a routine for her to grab a coffee one evening a week so that she can get some alone time.

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