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How Intentional Neglect Can Boost Your Productivity

By Brandon Schaefer November 18, 2014

I always get a bit nervous when I realize that it's already November. It’s always hard to believe the end of the year is only 6 weeks away. (That’s right – just over 6 weeks!)

Why am I nervous? Because I feel like I need to go into overdrive to achieve all of those personal and professional priorities I made for myself at the beginning of the year!

Here’s how this end-of-the-year stress festival has looked in the past: late nights, jumbo cups of caffeine, liquid diets, customer sales begging... (I’m in a cold sweat now just thinking about it!).

 

How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Be More Productive

But that's not how I respond anymore. The reality is that I’m less anxious than I used to be. My fanatical dieting has decreased, I’m sleeping more and my begging doesn’t embarrass clients.

If you're feeling the pressure of the end of the year right now, you might be asking, "How did things change for you, Brandon?" As I've reflected on this question, I think much of it can be credited to some insights from Jesus that I've seen in John 12:1-7.

These insights from Jesus have caused me to think and prioritize differently, and as a result, over the past year I've seen an increase in both my capacity and productivity.

 

Insights from Jesus on Focus and Priorities

Let's take a look at John 12:1-7 to see if perhaps this insight from Jesus will help you as well! Here's the passage:

Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living. Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them. Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house.

Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray him, said, “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor? It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces.” He said this not because he cared two cents about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of their common funds, but also embezzled them.

Jesus said, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.” (MSG)

In the first few verses we find Jesus living out crystal-clear priorities. This passage is located in the middle of a process that leads toward Jesus going into Jerusalem to finish the work God had given him to do. Other Gospel writers tell us that Jesus has set his sights resolutely for Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). He has focused his priorities and is moving toward his goal.

With this focus on going to Jerusalem, we observe that a few things change in Jesus' ministry. The speeches to big crowd stop happening, he’s traveling around a bit less, he's not multiplying loaves and fishes anymore... his life has become more and more focused on this new focus: spending more intense time with his disciples, and ultimately defeating death and sin by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. That's the plan.

Yet, in this passage we find that he has a prime opportunity to allow himself to be distracted just a little bit… surely he can take his eye off the ball for a few moments, right?

Yes, Jesus is reclining at the table when Mary comes and breaks a jar of expensive perfume, weeps and wipes it with her hair. It's a shockingly intimate moment with Jesus. Interestingly, it's Judas who is annoyed at this and just has to say something. Yes, the one who's in charge of the finances, regularly stealing the money, and will eventually sell Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver… is upset that the perfume wasn't sold and the money "given to the poor".

Unbelievable.

So this is Jesus' opportunity to call him out! Expose Judas for the fraud he is! Reveal the truth, force honesty and bring repentance. But Jesus doesn't do this. Even though it would have been worthwhile work, Jesus knows it isn't his job to do it right now. He maintains his focus, and trusts the responsibility given to him. His Father says “not you” for this potential opportunity, "You have your own work, son. Let me take care of Judas."

 

Practice Intentional Neglect

I find (with high capacity leaders especially), that while leaders know and can articulate their goals and priorities, they often allow too many additional worries, tasks and distractions to grab their attention.

Sure, you might still get a lot done, but if you allow distractions to grab your attention and time, it will inevitably rob you precious energy vital for creativity, focus and productivity.

Do you want to accomplish all God has for you? Make good in the priorities and passions in your life? Like Jesus, work to not only hear from God what he wants you to focus on, but always what he wants you to intentionally neglect.

You just might be surprised at both the clarity and the capacity it affords you to find breakthrough.

Want to take action right now? Ask God:

  • What am I called to focus on?
  • What can I intentionally neglect?

Then just trust God and stick to it. He’ll take care of the rest…

After all – God took care of Judas.  Jesus didn’t have to do a thing.

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