Published: 9 years ago

Creating Space: The Final Frontier

Earlier this week there was a story about an armored car that somehow dropped a bag of money out of the back door (and I feel like and idiot when I leave my wallet at home).  Thousands of dollars littered the highway, and dozens of helpful people stopped to retrieve it.  Permanently.

Get in your mind what that looks like: hundreds and hundreds of green pieces of paper floating in the air, landing in the median, blowing to the shoulder of the road.  Then picture yourself in the middle of the scene: money falling all around you, but you picked that particular day to wear you pocketless pants. (What? You don’t have pocketless pants?  Shocking.)

That’s a good analogy for our lives: we tend to have a tremendous amount of information coming in, but few systems to capture it.

Consider this: over the last two days I have read well over 500 pages of books, sat through nine hours of meetings and conversations, typed up 11 single-spaced pages of notes, listened to at least five podcasts and sermons on my commute, scanned 200+ blog posts and hundreds more Twitter feeds, and attempted to catch a few minutes of the TV news.  (And you thought preachers only worked on Sunday!)

Most of that downpour of information was good.  Some of it was intriguing, insightful, and helpful.  A fraction of it was absolutely necessary.  But without the proper post-downpour capturing, it all goes to waste.

When I read a book, I’ll underline and circle and jot notes and argue with the author, but then put it on my shelf before I transfer the info to a usable next step.  When I go to a conference, I walk away with tons of ideas, sparks of creativity, and renewed passion…but then the notes get filed away before I actually do something with them.

However, there’s something about these last two days that has convinced me that I must do better.  I need to do better.  I have to create space to process.  Before I open the next book, before I book the next conference, before I confer with the next pastor, and before I pastor the next church member, I have to make room to capture and process what I’ve been given.  To do otherwise is to squander the gift of the original information.  It’s bad stewardship at best, and it’s a lost investment of time, money, and resources at worst.  I have to create space.  You have to create space.  We have to create space.

I’m interested in your system (and I’ll bet other readers will be, too).  What processes do you practice in order to capture, manage, and reuse information? What has been helpful to you? Comment below, or if you’re shy, send me a direct e-mail.

And I promise…I’ll create some space to process your response.

  1. Zack says:

    Great question/topic, Danny!

    This is something that I personally struggle with a lot, and I have a feeling that my generation as a whole does pretty poorly with it.

    The sheer amount of information that is available to me in a given day is staggering. I hard this week that the average American hears/sees/encounters three THOUSAND marketing messages EVERY DAY.

    And that’s mostly just information that I’m not even trying to consume. How much more when we add the books, blogs, tweets, sermons, conversations, etc.

    Even the simple invention of the cell phone has a pretty amazing effect on our culture. I was driving home yesterday and noticed how almost everywhere I looked, people were on the phone. And I figured that most of the folks who weren’t on the phone were listening to the radio. I wondered how the world might be different if all those people were just sitting in silence. Pondering life. Noticing the new life of the Spring. Hearing God’s still small voice…

    We certainly weren’t designed for the world we live in. Or, at least, we weren’t designed to live in it the way we do.

    Like I said, I’m still not very good at maximizing my effectiveness in this culture, but one thing that has been very helpful for me is to simply reducing the amount of noise as much as it is in my control to do so.

    I try to intentionally turn off NPR for a portion of my drive. I choose to let the phone ring and return calls when I have the mental capacity to actually listen to someone. I read significantly fewer books now than I did a few years ago. And I listen to fewer sermons throughout the week.

    The result is that when I read my Bible, or savor a few pages of a book, or hear a good sermon, I’m actually able to think about it for more than 6 seconds before I flush it and move on.

    But like I said, I’m REALLY bad at this. It’s just a target that I think is worth shooting at!

  2. Mark D says:

    Thanks for this post, this is exactly the problem I been having but I have been unable to identify it until I read this. Information overload to the point of things flying in one side of my brain and out the other. I obviously don’t have a good system yet, but now that I’ve identified the problem I think I know what I need to do next…make space!

  3. ryan says:

    hire a full time admin to reread your notes, type them up and then be ready to find them w/o a seconds hesitation (sounds like somebody we know).

    seriously, for me…share info with someone else. Teach it, blog it, do something with it. I can’t wait to hear how you do it. What about JD?

  4. Brad B says:


    This occured in me, but on a spiritual level. I get to spend a couple of hours following every workday with God @ Bruegger’s. He just started blowing up my mind and I didn’t wanna forget. So this led to my blog.

    My thought is: Write it down now; Act on it later.
    [Just b/c you can’t possibly act on everything you think and are taught immediately. Just don’t forget to come back to it :)]

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