A good post by Scott Belsky at the 99%. The five types he discusses are:
- Reactionary work
- Planning work
- Procedural work
- Insecurity work
- Problem-solving work
“Which one thing, if I accomplished it, would result in the greatest number of all these other things that I also want to do also getting done as a result?”
This is the converse of yesterday’s post, where I made the point that you have to be OK with not doing everything and instead focus on what’s best next.
Here’s the irony: When you focus on what’s most important, you often get all the other stuff “thrown in.” This happens by virtue of the spillover effect. Doing the most important thing leads to positive ramifications that often accomplish the aims behind all those other things you weren’t able to do.
I’m not saying you will literally find that all the things you decided to leave undone are accomplished. Some of them will be. But more significantly, the point behind them will often be accomplished through the spillover effect.
But if you try to do everything directly, you often end up accomplishing nothing. (Or, almost nothing.)
The point is to do what’s best next, not everything that’s next.
And the reason for this is the simple fact that there will always be more to do than you possibly can do. It is simply impossible to do everything.
And, if you know what’s best, if you know what’s most important and what really counts, you will be OK with that.
Here are some notes I jotted down when I was working on the chapter in my book on mission statements. They are brief and scattered, but here they are in the event that they are helpful to you.
In my chapter, I go against a major problem in most books on productivity. Most of them talk about having a “mission” or “purpose” to your life, but they say “that’s a very personal thing, something for you to decide for yourself.”
I think that’s wrong. Pretty bad, in fact. The reason is that since we didn’t create ourselves, we cannot define our own purpose. God himself defined the purpose of life. What we need to do is identify the purpose he has defined, say it in a way that captures the unique angle on that he has placed in our life, and align ourselves around it. Or, better, align ourselves not first around our “purpose,” but the gospel, with our purpose directing us but the gospel empowering and defining us.
Interestingly, the Bible talks about the purpose of life a lot. You even see mission statements all over the place, especially in Paul.
Here are my brief, rough, notes:
Criteria any Potential Purpose Must Fulfill
Must create happiness. Flourishing. So when the Bible talks of “blessedness,” we are in this domain.
It must create a happiness that is eternal, not fleeting. And happiness that is great, in itself invincible, and that can endure through immense trial and difficulty.
What the Purpose of Life Is
Making God look good. Making “good reports” about him abound. Making joy in him abound.
But not just anything does this. Mercy is at the heart of it. And justice. And, you must really do it for his glory. Micah 6:8; Isaiah 1:18; 58:1-13; Mt 5:16
What This Does
You can fulfill it each day, and yet never fully complete it. There is always more.
It drives your actions, gives purpose, and cannot be exhausted or wear out.
That’s why we need to go beyond the common practice of distinguishing the urgent from the important to distinguishing the imperative from the important.
Don’t just think in terms of urgent vs. important. Think in terms of imperative vs. important.
Absolutely true. Amen.
Here’s the research:
One of the key points I am making in my book is that we should not simply do good when a need crosses our path, but that we should proactively make plans for doing good for others.
I bring together the various strands in the Scriptures that teach this, one of which is that evildoers are presented in Scripture as making plans for evil (Satan himself being the chief example — Ephesians 6:11 [note the word "schemes"]). If the wicked create plans for harm, how much more should those who follow the Lord create plans for good.
Here’s something interesting on that. Proverbs 24:9 says: “The devising of folly is sin.” In other words, not only is carrying out plans for harm sin, but the actual planning is itself sin.
Conversely, it stands to reason, then, that making plans for good is itself righteous and good. Carrying out plans that serve others is good, but so also is making those plans in the first place.
That should be an encouragement not only to take initiative and be proactive in devising good things we can do for people; it should also be an encouragement for those who have sought to do good things for others but been hindered in the execution.
Take heart that recognizing the opportunity to serve, along with the planning and intentions and forethought, were themselves good and pleasing to God — even if you weren’t able to execute and make them happen.
No. It’s only against planning done with a mindset that we are the final authority, rather than God:
The Bible Affirms Planning that is Done in Dependence on God: “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)
The Bible is Against Planning that Does Not Take God into Account: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. . . . Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16)
Here’s how we can put it: The Bible is highly in favor of planning, and in fact commends and, it can be argued, commands planning.
But planning can be done in two ways: God-dependent and godless. And, godless planning is not what you might expect. It can seem innocent. But godless planning is any time you create plans without taking God into consideration — without acknowledging his authority over all things, and that heaven rules, not you. It calls this type of planning arrogant. And we can fall into it without even knowing it.
The Bible is pro-planning. But it is anti- what we might call arrogant planning.
And arrogant planning doesn’t mean necessarily being high-handed and in opposition to God. It can mean simply forgetting about him in making your plans.
Getting things done:
“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” (Proverbs 14:4)
You need to do both. But things will not stay perfectly organized, and there will be times when they get almost totally out of hand.
That’s OK. The manger won’t always be clean, and it’s worth it.
Keep things as orderly as you can, and when they get out of control for a while, make sure to eventually take time to clear the decks.
You shouldn’t generally have to chose. But if you have to for a time, fruitfulness is more important than organization.
And, don’t begrudge the time you have to spend getting and keeping things organized. That’s a necessary part of things, which is the main point of the verse.