Don Carson’s Three Secrets of Productivity and Godly Efficiency

The January 2013 issue of Tabletalk interviews Don Carson. One of the questions is this:

Given the large quantity of high quality of work you are able to produce, what does your average workday and workweek look like?

Don answers (pp. 68–70, numbering and formatting added),

My schedule varies so much from day to day and from week to week that it is difficult to give you a realistic picture. Many weeks during the academic term, my working hours are heavily tied to responsibilities at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS). One year in three, however, I have no regular lectures at TEDS—though I do maintain my PhD students. In essence, I wear four hats:

  1. TEDS responsibilities,
  2. preaching and lecturing here and there,
  3. The Gospel Coalition (TGC) responsibilities, and
  4. writing.

Some of these overlap. For example, some of the writing is tied to lecturing, while some of the speaking is tied to TGC. But each of these domains imposes its own urgencies at different times:

  1. writing produces its deadlines,
  2. syllabi just have to be created by assigned dates,
  3. TGC conferences and other meetings have fixed spots in the calendar, and so forth.

Three secrets of productivity, however, are worth mentioning:

  1. Learn to fill in the little empty periods that clutter each day.
  2. Don’t fritter. When you work, work hard; when you are not working, quit entirely.
  3. Discover how different aspects of your work can leverage other aspects of your work. For example, choosing your reading to feed into things that you’ll be preparing over the next six or nine months adds to godly efficiency.


  1. Called to Work
  2. Keeping Your Gmail Inbox at Zero throughout the Day
  3. D. A. Carson’s Theological Method
  4. D. A. Carson Publications
  5. D. A. Carson MP3s Now Hosted by TGC
  6. Don Carson’s Festschrift (at the occasion of his 65th birthday)
  7. Happy 65th Birthday to Don Carson!


  1. says

    Good reminders and habits to have. I’m always amazed at how men in the past were so prolific and how efficient we would need to even somewhat reflect what they’ve done in their lifetime. Thanks, Andy.

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