How to Be Productive Without Annoying Everyone Around You

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Have you ever gotten an email auto-response that reads something like this?

Dear esteemed colleague,

Thank you for your email.

In an attempt to be more efficient and effective, I am only checking email once a day. So, though I may not respond to you right away, this will help me serve you better in the end by making me more focused.

Lukewarm regards,


Well, maybe not the lukewarm regards part. But that is kind of the vibe you get from it, isn’t it?

As a productivity aficionado who also happens to be a Christian, emails like that give me mixed emotions.

On the one hand, I think, “good for you, being more productive!” But on the other hand, I think, “Yeah… but you do know I’m waiting on you for an answer from you, right?”

The inspiration for emails like the one above came from Tim Ferriss. Ferriss is the author of the bestselling book, The 4-Hour Work Week. He’s also the OG lifehacker. And this email trick was one of his many suggestions that rapidly swept through office inboxes in the late aughts.

I’m not saying it’s a bad idea to set up a similar auto-responder to manage email overload. But I am saying that productivity-minded believers have to walk a narrow line when it comes to how “interruptable” we allow ourselves to be.

As Christians, we want to be people who exhibit Christ-like love. And Christ-like love means self-sacrifice. Sometimes, unfortunately, that sacrifice is your own productivity.

I talked more about this concept in this video

There’s a balance here. We have our own responsibilities. We cannot abandon our priorities to become slaves to everyone else’s. We do have to manage interruptions. But we also have to treat our co-workers, family, and friends with respect.

It all comes down to this heart attitude:

People aren’t interruptions to be managed, they are fellow image-bearers to be served.

If we keep that in mind, we will find the right balance.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:8

This article first appeared in my weekly newsletter, Reagan’s Roundup.

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  • The movement of limiting email has brought a great tension to what productivity is. It’s not just getting things done. And that email zero responder has been one that has a tension and I appreciate how you bring that out. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks, Brian! I agree. I’ve been reading Cal Newport’s new book A World Without Email, and it’s really made me rethink the whole nature of what it means to be productive.

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