I geek out every time Apple releases a new iOS update. It's fun to see the changes, the new capabilities, and exploring more of what my phone can do.
I had that love until the last one. Not because it wasn't a good update, but because it comes with a new feature: Screen Time. Every week it gives me a report that's both convicting and mind-numbing.
I'm preaching through Ephesians at our church and the passage I'm working on now is a double gut punch. In Ephesians 5:15-16 Paul tells us to "look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of time, because the days are evil." Other translations might say "redeem the time." Regardless, even though Paul had no idea how we'd use our time 20 centuries after he wrote these words, they still speak through the ages.
For leaders, our time is our most precious resource. We can navigate financial constraints. We can work around volunteer or staffing limitations. But the one constant is that we'll always have the same amount of time. The best leaders learn to discipline their time and make the best use of it. But what we can't say is that we "didn't have time."
If we want to make the best use of our time, what are some steps we can take?
1. Set limits on distractions - In our ADHD Squirrel world, we're so easily distracted by the ding of our email or our texts. Sometimes we need to protect ourselves from ourselves. So we need to close our browser, we need to shut down our email app, and we need to silence our phone. Very few distractions are worth our immediate attention. Unless your house is on fire or the President is calling, you don't need to feel bad letting it go to voicemail, responding later, or checking messages during some down time.
2. Put it away - I'm the worst about this, so this one is as much to me as anything else. My loathing of meetings goes back to being in staff meetings that droned on, and my only respite was answering messages or checking Twitter. I know. It's rude. It's disrespectful. I get it. I'm not moral grandstanding here. Just saying it's a problem. That's the first step, right? But if we want to give our undivided attention to people, sometimes we have to make the disciplined step to put our devices away.
3. Schedule - I put schedule blocks in when I will reply to messages and emails. If I don't, I'll be a slave to the constant dinging. Returning calls and messages is important, that's why it goes on my schedule. I don't ever want to be thought of as inaccessible. And when we as leaders don't schedule and don't prioritize following up with people, it's easy to get there.
4. Put it away, Part 2 - Putting it away after you get home is just as important, maybe more so, than putting it away in professional settings. This is one I need to get better at. It's easy to kick back and scroll in the evening when you're tired and just want to zone out. Put the phone on the charger, plug the laptop up, and leave it there.
5. Check your heart - We don't necessarily have to bow to a statue to be guilty of idolatry. Idolatry happens whenever we cling to, crave, or serve something or someone with our hearts more than we do God. We've replaced Him with a cheap substitute (see Romans 1), and we've given ourselves over to a god who cannot be satisfied nor will it relent. We can make idols of screens--not just our phones but our laptops and TVs and movie theaters or whatever else we look to for visual satisfaction. At the core, maybe we have a heart issue that needs to be conformed back to alignment with the Word?
A helpful resource is the book 12 Reasons Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.