How Lifehacking Ruined My Life

For the past week, I have felt an uncontrollable amount of stress. Anxiety is probably more accurate. You know that feeling you get when you are a little nervous about something and then drink a cup of coffee? It’s pretty much like that, except all day, every day. Sure there are a few moments of peace and clarity throughout the day. But sitting down at my desk to do homework, walking between classes, or trying to fall asleep at night, my mind and heart are racing.
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This doesn’t make sense though! I have spent hours on end studying, reading about, and listening to ways to be more productive, use time efficiently, and make the most of every day. I could talk productivity tips and life hacks all day. I have used all of this information to create some systems for my life that will keep me organized, on time, focused, efficient, and stress free. My systems are pretty awesome, and so far I have been consistent with them. I have a morning routine that I love, an awesome calendar, a flawless system for taking and storing notes, a task management system, daily reviews, to-do lists, and even systems for doing homework. I have engineered my life for maximum efficiency and zero stress. And yet, my stress levels seem to be soaring. Why?
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I have been thinking about it a lot, and I think there are a couple of factors that can best be summed up by this sentence:
I have made productivity my god.
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No, I haven’t given up on my faith. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. But I have allowed productivity has slowly expanded its place in my life. Truthfully, I have elevated it to the role of a counterfeit God, an idol. Tim Keller speaks on the idea of counterfeit Gods and idols quite a bit. He explains that a counterfeit god is really anything that we prioritize over God, but more tangibly, it is anything about which we might say “If only I had (insert idol), then I would be happy.” Money. Love. Success. Fame. Approval. Likes. Followers. Productivity?
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Without me realizing it, productivity had slowly crept its way into the center of my heart. I longed for it. If I could just be more productive, then I would be happy and stress free. This is an issue for a number of reasons. For one, it was affecting the way that I interacted with people. Here’s a daily example:
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*walking (running) from class to dorm for homework session*
Friend: Hey Scottie!
Me: Oh, uh, hi. *Looks down at watch anxiously*
Friend: You know that thing we love to talk about and you always feel encouraged and uplifted after talking about it with me?
Me: Yeah *anxiety building*
Friend: Want to stand here by the sidewalk and chat casually about that for ten minutes?
*hastily pulls to-do list and calendar from pocket and fails to see “Casual chat with friend” anywhere on the list or calendar* 
Me: Hey, uh, yeah, sure, maybe not, no, sorry, bye.
*sprints to dorm for unproductive twenty minute homework session* 
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A desk set up for maximum efficiency.
A desk set up for maximum efficiency.
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Okay so that may have been an exaggeration (barely), but you get the point. This is my last semester of college with a bunch of incredible people who I love and care for deeply. This is not how I want to spend that time. But this is actually the less important of the key issues with my idol of productivity.
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When I feel stress and anxiety, I run deeper and deeper into productivity. When I feel overwhelmed, I look for a better system to manage everything that is overwhelming me. It never seems to work. It doesn’t work because I am running in the wrong direction. When I obsess over becoming more efficient and productive, I am failing to give things over to Jesus. I am refusing to rest in His love and trust that He is enough for me. A few pieces of scripture come to mind.
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“A generous man will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25
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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:38
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“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
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These are verses that you have probably heard before, and these are verses that I have used to encourage other people numerous times. Nowhere in these verses do I see a command to work harder, plan better, and be more organized to find rest for my soul. All the times that I am running towards my own endeavors as a way of experiencing peace and rest, Jesus is calling out for me to come to Him, whose yoke is easy and burden is light. My endless search for productivity will never satisfy. But God, ever patient and always loving, is rest for my spirit, peace for my soul and ultimate satisfaction. In my times of stress and anxiety, He is my ONLY hope. He is the one I should run to, not any website or podcast that I think might hold the solution.
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As a simple, tangible step for this, I plan to spend a week without listening to any productivity podcasts or reading any blogs, books, or websites about it. That time will be replaced with prayer, leisure reading, and even listening to the Daily Audio Bible app. I don’t think that it is wrong to use time efficiently and I think productivity tips certainly have their place. In fact, in the future I plan to write a few blog posts about some of the ideas that have been the most useful for me. There is always work to be done, and I still believe that it is good to work diligently. But for now, it is time to take a break from optimizing my life and start resting in God’s grace.
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Where do you run when you get stressed?

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