The Joy of Forgetting What You Need To Remember

If I have my timing right, the last conference I spoke at was the 2020 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors. It was early February and we were just beginning to hear unfamiliar words like “COVID” and “coronavirus.” (A search through my inbox shows that the first mention of it was from an old Adam Ford newsletter in which he speculated that the outbreak in China was far worse than anyone was letting on.) I didn’t think much about the virus as I traveled to Minneapolis and at that time never would have imagined the way it would slam borders shut, disrupt travel, and close down the conference industry. I never would have imagined I wouldn’t attend another event for more than two years.

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My topic at that conference was “Pastors and Productivity” and I enjoyed leading a seminar that took pastors through the opening steps of constructing a system meant to help them become more productive. It was based, of course, on the system I outline in Do More Better. I led the seminar, spent some time in meetings and fellowship, and then flew home. Just a few weeks later Ontario was locked down, the borders were closed, the airliners were in long-term storage in Arizona, and my entire calendar was blank.

A couple of weeks ago my church hosted a Weekender event for pastors and I was asked to dust off that very same seminar and to present it again. So I printed the same worksheet, opened the same slideshow, and presented pretty well the same content. I was gratified to see that it stood up pretty well, but did have to acknowledge how different my life has become in the two years between. The pandemic massively simplified my life and did so primarily by taking away almost all travel. I could still write the blog and work on books, but all speaking and all travel was gone. I could see how what I presented there had been flexible enough to easily bend with the changing circumstances.

As I led the pastors through the seminar, I saw that one core idea is still the most helpful of all: A good system of productivity allows us to experience the joy of forgetting what we need to remember. One of the great difficulties many of us wish to overcome in life is the fear that we will miss something, neglect something, forget something. We fear that we will miss an appointment, neglect a responsibility, forget a deadline. And as long as such fears remain present, we have trouble relaxing, we have trouble setting our minds at ease. One productivity writer wants his readers to have a “mind like water” but I’m content to help people achieve a mind that is at rest.

It’s for this reason that the main idea I present in the book and seminars is the value of creating and then perfecting a system that you trust to such a degree that you become confident it will remember what you need to remember, prompt you to do what needs to be done, and remind you to complete what is due. The practice I want people to aspire to and them embrace is getting things out of your head and into your system. This may have the side benefit of allowing you to attempt more and accomplish more. It may have the side benefit of convincing you to attempt less and accomplish less—less overall, but more of what really matters. The main value, though, is not accomplishments, but peace.

Ultimately, a strong system of productivity isn’t necessarily meant to help you do more, but to ease your mind, to calm your heart, to allow you to have confidence that your system is good enough, perfected enough, robust enough to grant you the joy of forgetting what you need to remember. Whether you learn that system through Do More Better or through one of a hundred other worthy books, I highly recommend creating some kind of a system—a system that fits your personality, a system that suits your life, a system that puts your mind at rest. You will know that system is where you need it to be when you trust it enough that you can forget what you need to remember, confident that the system will remember it for you.