The Most Important Choice You Make as a Leader

Do you know what the most important choice you make as a leader?

You make it every single day. In fact, several times a day you make this one choice to affects all other choices in your life. It isn’t just affecting your church or business, it affects your health, your family and every other aspect of your life.

Do you know what it is?

The most important choice you make as a leader is who and what gets your time and attention. 

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You know what happens if you waste time, spend time on the wrong thing. The affects ripple out in your life and in your church. If you fall behind on an assignment or a project, it affects other things. Stress levels go up, performance goes down.

And it all goes back to the simple choice you make on what gets your time and attention.

Everyday, when you choose to do something, you choose to not do something else. This might be choosing a meeting over sermon prep. Choosing to work on a budget item instead of being in a meeting. Putting out a fire instead of thinking about long-term planning and dreaming.

Here are 7 ways to make the right choice when you are faced with two choices of what gets your time and attention:

  1. Decide ahead of time what is most important for you to accomplish each day. This is the first step to managing your life and responding to what comes across your desk. You need to know what is most important in your life and job. All the things you need to accomplish in a week are not equally important. Every week there are things left undone, emails not responded to, blogs not read, meetings that you skipped and yet you didn’t get fired. Know what you have to do and do it.
  2. Don’t respond to what feels urgent. That word feel is important because what often feels urgent is not really urgent. Just because someone says they have to meet with you today does mean you need to meet with them today. Things that appear like fires have been brewing for days, weeks or months. Attempting to put it out today won’t matter. Just because something is urgent to someone else does not mean it is urgent to you.
  3. Respond to things when you choose you to respond. Email, voice mail, texts, updates on social media. They are all calling for your attention. This goes back to #2, but decide when you’ll respond to them. I schedule when I’ll check email, when I look at the blogs I read. Do it on your schedule, when it works for you. If someone says, “did you get my email?” Kindly respond, “Not yet, I’ll respond when I look at it.”
  4. Learn the art of saying no. Saying no is hard because we are afraid we will miss an opportunity. Guess what? If you say no, you might miss an opportunity, but that’s okay. Every opportunity isn’t for you. Opportunities do have a way of coming around again. And remember this simple principle: every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else simply by the fact that you don’t have time to do everything. Choose carefully what gets your yes.
  5. People will take whatever time you give them. If you give someone 5 minutes to meet with you, they will take 5 minutes. If you give them 30 or 60, they will take all that you give them. If you give them no time limit, they will meet with you until Jesus returns. People will take whatever you give them. Decide ahead of time how long a meeting or conversation will last. When you return a call, start by telling them how long you have. When you set up a meeting, set a start time and an end time. People will get down to business faster if you tell them ahead of time. This isn’t uncaring, there are other people and things that need you as well.
  6. Things fill the time given to them. This is the same as #5, except about assignments. If you don’t have a deadline, things take forever. Have you noticed how productive you are the night before a test or an assignment is due or the day before you go on vacation? You get a lot done. Why? You have a deadline. Tasks fill the time given to them.
  7. Remember, you are responsible for managing your time. No one else is responsible for how you spend your time. No one else feels the affects the way you do. If you are a pastor, your church isn’t responsible for how your time is spent. They have an opinion on it, but you are accountable for it. Same with your boss. They have wants, desires and ideas, but they aren’t accountable for it. They aren’t responsible for saying no and managing your time well.

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How to be More Productive

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Everyone wants to be more productive. We want to accomplish more in less time, be more organized, have less email to answer, less meetings, more effectiveness. Yet, no matter how many books we read, we feel more stressed out about it.

Here is one tip that everyone I’ve ever talked to who is productive, organized and accomplishes a lot.

They all do this.

Ready?

Plan your day. 

Sound simple right?

Most people simply let their day come at them. They might have things they need to get done: take the kids to school, go to work, write a sermon, attend a meeting, go to a bible study, answer emails, but they haven’t thought about what they need to accomplish and if it is that important.

Now, some people advocate planning their day at night and if that works for you, great. I can’t do that. If I plan my day the night before, I tend to lay in bed and think about the upcoming day and struggle to fall asleep. Instead, after I eat breakfast and after I’ve had some coffee and read my bible I sit down and lay out my day.

Here are some helpful questions:

  1. What has to get done today? A lot of what you are going to do today, you don’t have to do or someone else could do. This gets back to your goals for life. What do you hope to be or do? Often, we simply respond to fire or things that urgently appear on our calendars. Instead, plan what is important and accomplish that.
  2. What if I accomplished it, would make today feel like a success? This is a crucial question and sometimes the answer is only one thing, not many. Sometimes it is 3 things. Each day if you can answer this question and accomplish the answer to this question, it will go so far to reaching your goals for your life and accomplishing what God put you on earth to do.
  3. Do I need to be in that meeting? Have you ever sat in a meeting and thought, “Do I have to be here?” If so, you didn’t plan your day, you let someone else plan your day. Now, I know you have to be in some meetings because you get paid to be there, but you could talk to your boss about better ways to do meetings. Many times we have meetings simply to have meetings. Churches are notorious for this. Don’t do something just to do something.
  4. Give everything important a minute. Everything that is important or that gets done has a time attached to it. If something matters, it gets put on the calendar. Whether that is soccer practice, family dinner, writing a sermon, date night, exercise, reading a book or taking a nap. Everything that gets accomplished gets a minute. People ask how I exercise or read. The answer is that I schedule it. When that time rolls around, it is time to do crossfit, it is time to read. This helps me decide what I want to do and then do it. Too many people simply allow their lives to happen and then they end up tired, watching too much TV or letting someone else plan their life. By giving a minute to one thing, you are keeping a minute from something else.
  5. How can I add value to others today? One of the best ways to not waste your day and be productive is to help others, serve others and benefit others. Yes, this will take time and maybe away from something else, but you will not waste time when you help others.

The bottom line is your day will go to something, someone will plan your day. You can either take an active role in that planning or a passive role. I think you’ll agree, the ones who are productive, less stressed and more fulfilled are the ones who take an active role and plan their day. 

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like
  1. Kathy Keller on A year in biblical womanhood. I haven’t read this book, but after reading how sloppy the author handled biblical interpretation, which is the main thrust of the book, seems like it would be a waste of time.
  2. Homosexuality and the modern church.
  3. Barnabas Piper on 7 things every pastor’s kid needs from their pastor/dad. Convicting stuff.
  4. Andy Stanley on Why a church environment matters more than we think.
  5. 10 rules about meetings every pastor should abide by.
  6. Russell Moore on iPads, iPhones and Christians parenting.