I love Christmas movies. One of my favorites is Home Alone. It tells the story of young Kevin McCallister who is unintentionally left home alone while his family flies to Paris for the holidays. During the flight, Kevin’s mother can’t shake the feeling that she forgot to do something before they left. After discussing it with her husband for a few minutes, she panics as she realizes that they left Kevin behind, and she blurts out, “Kevin!”
Although I’ve never left a child home alone, I can relate to Kevin’s parents. I’m guessing you can too. Let me explain. I’m going to assume you’re busy. You’re probably juggling lots of balls at the same time. And sometimes, a ball gets dropped. As a result, you end up letting someone down.
Every pastor (myself included) can recall times when he forgot about a church member’s surgical procedure. Every parent (again, myself included) can remember a time when we were unable to keep a promise to one of our children because we had too many other balls in the air. Every husband (I’m 3 for 3) can remember a time or two when he forgot to pick up milk at the grocery store on his way home from work.
Sadly, for some of us, these unintentional letdowns happen more often than we’d care to admit. Sometimes, multiple balls hit the ground.
Glorifying God in Our Commitments
As followers of Jesus Christ, one of our primary goals in life is to glorify God in all things (Colossians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 10:31). If you’re like me, this verse comes to mind when I’m engaged in a spiritual activity. Sometimes I think about it when I’m facing temptation. It definitely crosses my mind whenever I’m trying to make a major life decision.
But if I’m honest with you, I don’t think about glorifying God very often when it comes to keeping my commitments. My work and family responsibilities don’t always seem like areas of life that the Lord seems particularly interested in. But that’s a false assumption.
The reality is if I’m going to glorify God in all things, then I should do everything in my power to avoid these unintentional letdowns. To love and serve my neighbors well by keeping my promises and commitments to them. That’s true for me, and for you as well.
Our Minds are Fallible
Unfortunately, the Bible teaches that we are fallible creatures. Although we are created in the image of God, our minds (just like every other part of us) have been marred by the effects of sin. This means that our memories are not perfect. Sometimes, we forget things. Our recollection of the details can become fuzzy. If you’re a Christian, you have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, but you still forget about your child’s baseball game sometimes.
That’s why relying solely on our brains to remember all of our commitments and responsibilities is a really bad idea. We are doomed to failure if we do so.
Develop a Second Brain
In case you haven’t noticed, I like to be productive. My wife would probably call me a productivity nerd, but I digress. In my quest to become more productive for the glory of God, I have read several books on the subject. (In case you’re wondering, my personal favorites are What’s Best Next by Matt Perman, Essentialism by Greg McKeown, and How to be a Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott.)
In Allcott’s book, I learned a concept that has stuck with me for several years. It’s called utilizing a “second brain,” and it’s designed to take the pressure off your real brain when it comes to your memory. In other words, you need to have a place to capture thoughts at the moment they arise so that you can return to them at a later time. If you’re familiar with David Allen’s Getting Things Done, he calls this idea “ubiquitous capture.” (You can probably understand why I like “second brain” better!)
Call it whatever you’d like, but I believe that as followers of Christ, you and I need to develop a second brain. An intentional plan to record our ideas, appointments, and tasks so that we don’t drop the ball on our commitments. An intentional strategy to love and serve others well.
If this sounds like an area of your life that could use some improvement, consider the following seven options as a potential “second brain.” If you’re like me, you may choose to utilize more than one.
- Pen & Paper. This option works well for those who prefer to stay away from technology. As long as you keep something to write with and something to write on, you can log your ideas and appointments in this tried and true method.
- Digital Calendar. If you have a smartphone, you can store all of your appointments in a calendar app. I use Google Calendar and it syncs across all of my devices. It also provides notifications 30 minutes before all appointments so I don’t forget about one.
- Digital Note-Taking App. Again, if you have a smartphone, you can record your notes in a digital notepad app. I use Evernote to store any ideas that come to me when I’m not in my office. It syncs across all my devices, so I always have access to my notes there.
- To-Do List App. That are many task management apps on the market where you can record all of your tasks, along with deadlines and other details. I have used Todoist for years, and I highly recommend it for personal to-do lists. Similar to Evernote, it syncs across all my devices.
- Record Voice Memos. Most smartphones and other devices include the ability to record voice memos. So, if you’re driving and you have a great idea, you can record a voice memo and still keep your eyes on the road!
- Weekly Task Capture Exercise. Once per week (usually on Sunday evenings), I sit down with a pen and a few pieces of paper. I then write down everything that comes to mind that has not been done yet. I keep writing these things down until five minutes pass with no new thoughts. I then transfer these tasks into my Todoist app.
- Daily Planner. I’ve used several different planners over the years. I currently use a Panda Planner because it allows me to keep track of my top daily priorities, the flexibility to determine the order I will complete my daily tasks, as well as space to take notes each day.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “Let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no’” (Matthew 5:37). As followers of Christ, we should strive to live out this verse in our daily lives. If we make a commitment, we want others to be able to count on us to keep that commitment. This is simply Loving Your Neighbor 101.
There’s certainly more that could be said about this topic and more that could be done. After all, many books have been written about personal productivity for a reason. But this is a good starting point. Utilizing some of the suggestions above won’t guarantee that you’ll never drop the ball on one of your commitments in the future, but it will make it less likely.
Which of these options will you try? What other options are not on the list? Comment below, and let’s talk more about it!