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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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.

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  1. Brett Lott on Being a Christian and a writer.
  2. Eric Geiger on Is a pastor a leader?
  3. The secret to public speaking.
  4. Scott Cochrane on Why is matters how a leader invest their time.
  5. 9 things you need to know about demographic studies and trends.

Stop Giving Him an Out

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One of the things I hear women do too often it seems, especially church planter’s wives is give their husband an out.

Recently, Katie and I were talking about a new book she read called The Church Planting Wife. She told me she liked a lot of it, but felt like the author kept giving her husband an out for his sin.

Here’s how it happens for couples, whether they plant or not.

He is busy. People want his time. He needs to give it. So, during dinner he answers his phone, email or text. During date night he has his phone on. I’ve sat and heard wives say, “People need him.” No they don’t. Your husband isn’t Jesus and that is sin.

Now, before you think I believe pastors shouldn’t care for people or be available, that isn’t the case. But, the reason pastor’s don’t take vacations, days off or be present with their families. The reason they schedule something every night, run themselves ragged is not because there is so much church planting work to be done, but because of sin. Because they think they have to care for everyone, be there for everyone, meet every need, be at every meeting, be involved in everything. The pastor is not the only person who can do something in a church. In fact, the New Testament shows in numerous places (take Ephesians 4 for example) that if the pastor is the only one doing something, that’s an unbiblical, unhealthy church.

Are there times you need to move something around with your family for an emergency? Yes. Should you ever skip a day off or work on it? Sometimes that happens.

If that becomes the norm, that’s when sin creeps in.

Men, if this is you and your wife makes excuses in her head for you not being present, skipping days off, feeding your idol of being needed and thinking you are Jesus. Repent. Women, if you make excuses for his sin, you need to repent of that and stop doing that.

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I Don’t Have Time

As a pastor, you get to talk to a lot of different people about a lot of different stuff. One thing that is increasingly true in our world is that people are busy. Between jobs, sports, hobbies, kids, activities, sleep, we are constantly moving.

At some point, every pastor has a conversation with someone that goes like this, “I would like to be in a small group” or “I would like to serve” or “I would like to date my wife” or “I would like to spend more time with God, but I don’t have time.”

This is a big lie and everyone is buying it.

Here is what I mean: every fall, I make sure that I don’t miss a Steelers game. I Tivo the shows I want to watch, I work out 5 days a week.

The problem isn’t that we don’t have time, the problem is that we don’t use it well. I could write a blog post on how we waste time and time savers, and I probably will, but right now I want to burst this bubble of, “I don’t have time.”

You and I have all the time we need to do the things we want to do.

Everyday, when I say yes to something, I am saying no to something else. I state everyday by how I use my time, what is important and what is not. Now, what you say is important by how you use your time is your prerogative, but you do decide what is important by how you use your time.

Here is my challenge for you:  look at your calendar and decide, if every time I say yes to something I am saying no to something else, do I like what I am saying yes to and what I am saying no to? Recently, I started to see that I watched way too much TV, still far away from the national average of 5 hours a night, but too much. I am trying to spend more time reading, talking with Katie, playing basketball and wrestling with our kids.

Remember, you have all the time you need and you have decided how to use it.

So, use it well.