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When Your Neat Office Is a Bad Thing

Eric McKiddie
Eric McKiddie
2013 3 Oct

It’s a mistake to say that neatness, organization, and productivity are all synonymous. You might not be able to discern this from the desktop organization aisle at Office Depot.

Organization and productivity must go together, but they are not the same thing. It’s the difference between keeping your tools in the toolbox (organization), so that you can find them when you want to build something (productivity).

But perpetual neatness doesn’t go with organization or productivity. This is made plain in Proverbs 14:4:

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.

Can you imagine a farmer showing off his clean barn, while his fields remain, as Jesus put it, white for the harvest?

The point is that productivity is a dirty business.

This verse is apropos in ministry conversations, since pastors are compared to oxen (1 Tim. 5:18). How many pastors have clean barns, but unharvested souls?

You can keep a clean manger, but it will cost you your crops. You can keep your office clean, but it will cost you getting the most out of your opportunities for ministry.

For example…

A well-ordered theological library is a pleasant sight. But bookshelves that Melvil Dewey would smile at contain books that are never used.

After a nice stroll through a meeting agenda, you don’t have to follow up with a coworker. But meetings with no red faces are meetings where no hard decisions get made.

A task list that is perfectly prioritized provides an accurate look at the work you are currently responsible for. But a task list that is organized (and reorganized…and reorganized) never has check marks.

This isn’t to say that you never clean up after hard day’s work. Put the books back where they belong. Follow up with the teammate that you heatedly debated with. Reorganize your tasks, after you do them (not to procrastinate doing them).

But the point of reclaiming your neatness is to lose it again. You tidy the place up in order to make a new mess with your next project.