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Selective Neglect

Written by Rebecca Okamoto on Feb. 22, 2014

We all need to be reminded about priority setting now and then. A lot of advice focuses on what to choose. Here's advice on choosing less:

Selective Neglect.

This perspective comes from Pastor David Davis, West Region Vice President of the Michigan District in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Pastor Davis sends a weekly leadership email to new ministers, and priority setting is one topic.

Whoa. A minister? Shouldn't Pastor Davis be advocating doing as much as possible? But Pastor Davis notes to the ministers, "You're in the Lord's service, you're not the Lord." If the divinely inspired need to prioritize, so do mere mortals. We all need to decide what can be delayed, delegated, or simply let go.

Here's an excerpt from Pastor Davis:

You have heard it said, “Do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” That often holds true, but not always. Sometimes you should put off until tomorrow what you can. In A Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership Steven B. Sample argues that a good leader at times intentionally puts things off until tomorrow. Some things do work themselves out without our attention. That’s part of the beauty of selective neglect.

Here are some tips to consider for the successful application of selective neglect:

  1. Check your motives. Don’t be driven by your need for personal affirmation; rather be driven by what really needs to be done.

  2. Focus on the important not the urgent. People can get so caught up responding to all the little urgencies of the day that they never get to the important points.

  3. Prioritize according to duty : God, family, congregation, self. Think of selective neglect in terms of whom you are neglecting and not just what. You will choose more wisely this way.

  4. Plan every day for more than a day. Planning helps you sort out not only what can be neglected, but for how long. Some things can be neglected this week but must be taken care of next.

Give the day your best shot; do what must be done. Get after it; get after it good. If there are things that can and should wait, apply selective neglect—wisely and carefully.

There is ALWAYS something more that can be done. But there are also things that can wait. Let them.

Here's different perspective on priority setting and focus: Invest Time, Don't Split Time

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