Stop and Think

I am a deliberate person by nature. I have often told my wife, my family, that I am a unitasker — that is, I do one thing at a time. I always thought this was a character flaw, but only recently I’ve discovered it’s really how we all are.

I’ve been slowly reading through Matt Perman’s great book What’s Best Next: How The Gospel Transforms The Way You Get Things Done. What I’ve learned is that being a multitasker is not ideal because you end up doing everything just a little less than your best. What we think of as being more efficient has the opposite effect — we become less so. In fact, Perman says, the only one who’s truly a multitasker is God. He does all things well, all at the same time. What we need to do, rather than a bunch of things at the same time, is do what we need to do well. This is not only better but more glorifying to God.

In light of that, I’ve been thinking of my own way of doing things. As I’ve said, I’m deliberate but that doesn’t mean I’ve been as efficient as I could be. What I’ve come to see is that I need to take a look at the bigger picture — my goals, my motivations, my purposes — and see where I’m headed and where I want to go. This isn’t just a worldly ideal, it’s a spiritual consideration as well. God does not want us to do less than our best. That certainly doesn’t bring him glory when we are careless or lazy about how we live our lives.

So, before I plunge into another new year I’ve been taking stock of where I am and the habits I’ve formed. I am looking at my purposes and motivations. What are my goals? Are they what they should be, in light of what God desires me to be? God is gracious and he is able to continually work in us his will. It is a good thing to stop and think about where I am headed. John Piper talks about drifting leaves that do a great deal of moving but accomplish nothing. God did not create us to be aimless, but to live with a purpose. If there is a advantage of a calendar it’s that it gives us the opportunity to take stock of our situations on a regular basis and, hopefully, make corrections to our course.

God willing, that is my plan for 2016. I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity as well.

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Show resolve, not wishful thinking

Mat Perman, over at What’s Best Next, has a good post about why most people don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions — and how to keep yours. The idea of why people don’t is that they never envision how they will fit into their schedules. So, their resolutions never translate into anything more than wishful thinking. Something needs to happen. Perman explains:

Think of an Olympic athlete. They don’t simply say “my goal is to win the gold medal.” Instead, they adhere to a workout schedule. Without that concrete mechanism of action, the goal would simply be wishful thinking.

Now, what about those more intangible aims such as “lose 10 pounds”? How do you schedule that? Obviously you can schedule the exercise portion of that goal. But what about the “eating less” portion? Speaking from experience, it’s easy to get to the dinner table and forget (or deliberately neglect?) all intentions of eating healthy.

This is where reviewing your goals comes in. Mindsets that need to be more or less continuous (like “eat less”) tend to be kept in mind through regular review until they become second nature. The weekly review helps accomplish this; for things that tend to fall out of mind easily (like “eat less”), just pausing at the beginning of your work day to remember your aims can be helpful.

Which leads to one last thing: you have to keep your number of resolutions small. It’s not possible to create actionable mechanisms for or keep in mind a large number of new (or renewed) aims.

Also good to consider:

God approves of New Year’s resolutions

What if I fail?