One of the biggest complaints from leaders is that they don't have time to get everything done they wanted to, that they're "too busy." It's true there's way more expected of leaders today, especially in ministry, than a generation ago. But the problem isn't because of greater expectations and longer to-do lists, it's a problem of priorities. That's why I don't think we have a busy problem in leadership, we have a mixed-up priority problem.
Think about it for a minute, you can always find a couple hours to watch football on a fall afternoon, or a morning on the lake, or to interact on Facebook. We make time for what we think is most important. That's priorities. Aligning your productivity with your priorities won't take away the stress level of leadership, but it will free you up to focus on what's most important and devote less time to what's not (You can read more about Urgent & Important through the Eisenhower Decision Matrix).
1. Schedule Interruptions - We're surrounded by the interruptions of text messages, emails, and other instant correspondence. So build blocks into your schedule to account for these interruptions. Close your email application on your computer or change the settings on your phone so you don't have the constant ding. If you check and respond to this on scheduled intervals, it provides you uninterrupted focus time.
*Note: Emergencies are a different story
2. Delegate - There's a big difference between delegate and dump. When you delegate, you're giving away leadership which helps spread your influence. Delegation involves giving both responsibility and authority. If you give someone an area to oversee, they need the freedom to lead and decide without getting your approval. Delegate as much as you can. It might hurt, but there's not much that only you have to do. When you delegate you're multiplying leadership, which helps build a healthy ministry climate. People not only do ministry but they have ownership of it.
3. Keep Your Places In Order - When I worked at Starbucks I was introduced to this, that our "First Place" is home, "Second Place" is work, and "Third Place" is our recreation. If you're going to be an effective leader, especially in ministry, it starts at home. How are you leading your family? How are you loving and serving your spouse? What about your kids? Are you an engaged parent or are you constantly distracted? Are you staying healthy and balanced with recreation? Or has your hobby and interest crossed the line into one of the other places?
4. Develop Accountability - Do you have someone or a group you are accountable to? Not just surface "how's it going?" accountability, but real accountability. The kind where you have to be honest because they have your best interest in mind. Having accountability lets you have a structure in place to keep balance, and to have a forum to share how you're doing professionally and personally. This group helps you to balance priorities, focus on what's most important, and protect you, your marriage, and your family. Leaders without accountability are doomed, because they will continue to spin plates until it all comes crashing down.
5. Use An Effective System - Some people do time blocks, some do day planners, some use Covey's Seven Habits, or a dry erase board. Whatever system you use to schedule your time and emphasize your priorities, use it. I love time blocks because they can always shift around based on emergencies, crises, and drop-ins. Using a system helps keep the rhythms of ministry leadership in front of you (Sunday will be here quick, have you built time for sermon prep; Hospital visits planned throughout the week show you when you have time for deacon lunches, etc.).
6. Focus on Your Calling - As a ministry leader, you need to do this as a reminder for why you are where you are. You're there as a shepherd, leader, servant, teacher, counselor, and more. You're there because God has placed you there. And you're there because God has gifted you to handle what's before you. You're there because He is going to finish the work He started (Philippians 1:6). So when things get crazy around you, that's where we have to come back to our calling.
What would you add to this about priorities, busyness, and ways to manage time?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.