A gossamer-thin line separates our electronic devices from being the tools of our own productivity and our becoming the tools of someone else’s. We ignore this line at the risk of fullness of life, human relationships, spiritual health, and gospel witness. Here are five ways to fight back by faith.
I have been on a 35-year pursuit of the killer app of time management. I started with to-do lists, graduated to categorized index cards, a fully filled-out Franklin Planner, then to a series of new software apps on desktops, laptops, and the palmtop. I’m not unlike a Silicon Valley executive who recently said that he manages his time best by re-entering tasks into new time-management applications.
For most of human history, time was thought of as mainly the cycles of nature — night and day, the positions of the sun and moon and stars, the changing of the seasons. The agents of the hunting, gathering, and agrarian economies needed only look to the world and its weather to discern what time it was: time to get up, to track, to forage, to plow, to seed, to harvest, to sleep. They were less engaged in managing time than they were in managing their sustenance and storehouses through years that were sometimes fat and other times lean.
In the late 1870s, a laborer and machinist at the Midvale Steel Works in Philadelphia noticed that the other millwrights were not using their machines properly, and were driving up labor costs in the process. Frederick Winslow Taylor produced the first efficiency study and in doing so created the practice of “scientific management,” from which we ultimately were given the concept of “productivity,” a linguistic construction of the words product and activity, or “product activity,” as it were.
Cultural critics and political activists have warned for years of the dehumanizing effects of industrialization. As we moved from taking our timing cues from the natural world around us to taking them from line bosses with stopwatches, men and women were reduced from being God-commissioned subduers and dominion-keepers of their well-provisioned world to that of being mere cogs in the gear works of so many industrial processes.