As men, many of us spend a significant percentage of our waking hours at work. There can be a temptation for us to think of work as a “necessary evil” that keeps us away from the things in life that we really enjoy. As Catholic men, we shouldn’t think of work this way. Instead, like other areas of our lives, we should use the time we have at work to follow our Lord’s instruction to “be perfect” (Matthew 5:48). We should also consider the way others viewed our Lord’s work, when they exclaimed that “He has done all things well” (Mark 7:37) and try to follow His example by doing our work well. Here are some practical ways to perfect your work:
1. Prepare for Work
Athletes spend time preparing for practice to make their time most efficient and beneficial. They’re purposeful about the foods they eat before practice; they hydrate, they stretch, they have a routine. They do these things because they know that a lazy practice is, at best, a waste of time and, at worst, damaging to achieving their goals. How often do we prepare for our work? Instead, do we hastily run from our cars to our desk to start checking e-mails and frantically preparing for meetings? A great way to prepare for work is to walk through our daily schedule with our Lord in prayer. Open up your calendar and go through each commitment with our Lord. Ask him for the virtues necessary to become a saint in each situation that you will face that day. For example, if you know that you’re going to have a meeting with your boss at 2:30 and, during that meeting, there will be a temptation for you to unnecessarily brag about your recent successes on a project, ask our Lord for humility during that meeting. Anticipate temptations you will face during that conversation and set boundaries for things that you will (or will not) say during the meeting. Do this with each commitment. Not only will this allow you to act with prudence as you walk through your day (especially when your emotions may control you), but it will also reduce the chances that you’ll overlook a meeting or commitment—which can waste other people’s time. Even if your calendar suggests that you’ll have a slow day, ask our Lord to avoid the temptation to procrastinate and to use the time at work (given from Him as a gift) efficiently.
2. Purposefully Introduce Devotions Into Your Work
When I’m busy at work, I tend to forget about other things. In some ways, this can be good—if we’re doing our best, we should focus intently on our work, and avoid unnecessary distractions. However, we must place our work in its proper priority with other, more important, obligations: namely, our relationship with our Lord. To be aware of our Lord’s presence as we work, we should consider saying a quick prayer before we begin our work. Ask our Lord to help us work well. Ask Him to allow us to work as St. Joseph worked: with Christ by our side and always in conformity with God’s will. Offer your work up to the Lord for your intentions, the intentions of your parish priest, or the Holy Father. A five second prayer like this can focus our work, and remind us why we need to work well. It’s also a great practice to set a reminder to stop and say a quick prayer during your day while you work—you can set a reminder in your electronic calendar to alert you to pray the Angelus at noon (there’s an app that can do this as well), or to pray at 3:00 in the afternoon, the time when our Lord gave the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. In most work environments, it would be inappropriate for our workspaces to resemble our local Catholic bookstore—with crucifixes, icons, and statues filling every empty space. However, placing a small cross on your desk, or prayer cards in places that you’ll encounter them during your work, will give you subtle reminders during the day that your ultimate goal in this life is not work, but heaven.
3. Finish Your Work Well
It’s easy to start a project, but it’s difficult to finish one well. There are many temptations at work to do just “good enough” to get by, instead of doing your best work. When your work is complete, review your work and ask yourself whether the work is worthy to be an offering to our Lord. Does it reflect your best work, given the time restraints that were imposed on you and the resources that you were given? Taking that extra time to run a spell check—not out of selfish reasons, but with a mindset to make your work a perfect offering—is pleasing to our Lord. This mortification, like fasting, can teach us to deny our bodily urges in favor of sharpening the virtues of perseverance and fortitude.
We know very little about Christ’s 30 years before his public ministry, but we can logically assume that he worked alongside St. Joseph to support the Holy Family. As Catholic men, we should strive to do our work with the same perfection, focus and drive that Christ would have shown in His work. Through this, not only will our work be a sacrifice worthy of our Lord, but it will also be an opportunity to serve others and be examples to others in our workplace.
This article was submitted by a guest blogger for The Catholic Man Show.
Brandon Watson is a lawyer in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He and his wife, Roni, have four boys (Bennett, John Paul, Max, and Fulton) and attend the Parish of Christ the King.