How to gain 1000 more productive hours in 2017
What would you do if you somehow got 1000 more hours to do meaningful things in 2017?
During the first decade of ministry, I worked way too many hours as our church grew.
Ironically, even though our church was about half the size it is now, I worked more hours than I work today. Plus I never felt like I had the time to write books, blog, podcast, or speak to leaders in the wider church or even optimally hang out with my family. I was working way more hours but at a fraction of my actual capacity in terms of results. All of it led me to burn out after 10 years in ministry.
By the grace of God (and I mean that), I recovered from burnout.
But as soon as I began to recover, I realized that I had to develop a new rhythm and pattern. If I returned to my old ways I knew I would simply end up in the same place.
So I invested a lot of time and a fair bit of money in coaching and counselling to figure out new patterns that could make me far more effective and productive leading at a higher level. I knew that reaching more people couldn’t equal more hours. Because if it did, I was toast.
As I gained new insights into time, energy and priority management, I was able to work fewer hours and get far more accomplished. Not only did we start reaching more people than ever at our church, but I discovered time to do other things like write books, blog, launch podcasts, speak to church leaders and have more time at home with my wife and kids.
If you could figure out how to organize your time, energy and priorities so they worked in your favour, there’s a solid chance you might gain three productive hours a day. Gain 3 productive hours a day back, and you’ve got 1095 newly realized hours to your credit in 2017.
Or let’s say you can’t fully realize 3 hours a day (because you’re relatively super efficient and effective as a leader). But instead, let’s say you manage to gain back 3 productive hours a week.
That may not sound like much, but do the math. How do 3 hours a week add up? Well, over the course of a year, that’s 156 hours, the equivalent of nearly 4 work weeks. You basically get a working month back.
Either way, that’s a lot of time.
Over the last 5 years, leaders kept asking me “How do you get it all done?”
I’ve answered that personally in conversations, and through different blog posts, but I realized if I systematically wrote it all down in one place and developed it as a course that could help leaders individually at their own pace, it would have a far greater impact on a leader’s life. That’s how the High Impact Leader course was born.
So how do you find 150-1000 hours to lead with much greater impact in life and leadership? Here are three concepts to get you started.
1. Admit you've got the time
So many leaders just assume they don’t have the time to do what they want to do. It’s even reflected in the way we talk.
Think about it: how many times in the last month have you caught yourself saying or thinking I don’t have the time for that?
I realized that, over time, that phrase had become one of my most frequently uttered responses any time someone asked me to do anything new or extra.
Get involved in a new project? Sorry, I don’t have the time for that.
Take on one more event? Sorry, I really don’t have the time.
Come over for dinner Friday? Man I’d love to. I just don’t have the time.
Then one day I woke up and realized…all high impact people I admire who produce so many great things with their life don’t get any special treatment. They get 24 hours in a day. Just like me. Just like you. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Think about it: it’s not like when your church grows to 10x the size, somebody gives you 10x more hours. We all get the same amount of time.
So I made a key shift that helped me so much.
I stopped saying that I don’t have time time. And I started admitting I didn’t make the time.
That sounds like a small thing, but if you do it consistently, it can be revolutionary.
Try it for a week. Stop saying you don’t have the time (because you do). Start admitting you didn’t make it.
That will force you to have some hard conversations with yourself when you realize the most productive person on planet earth got the same hours you did today.
You may not want to always say you didn’t make the time out loud. After all, if your mom invites you to dinner and you tell her you’re not going to make the time, well…that’s not great at all.
But you should admit it to yourself.
When you (silently) admit you aren’t going to make the time, it forces you to ruthlessly evaluate your priorities. You’ll realize that never making time for your mom, or your most important priorities—or a life dream—is a mistake.
And when you’re dead honest with yourself about not making the time to work out, or do proper sermon prep, or have a date night with your wife, or work on your top priorities it’s so much easier to change.
Begin here: Stop saying you don’t have the time. Start admitting you didn’t make it.
2. Stop cheating your gift
You’re gifted at something.
It might be communication. Or strategic thinking. Or music. Or administration. Bottom line, your gifting is what you’re naturally best at.
When you’re gifted at something, that also means it’s easier for you to do that thing that it is for most people. You can likely do it faster and with far greater ease than most.
And that’s exactly how leaders get trapped. Under constant time pressure, leaders who are good at say, preaching, might give their best time away to meetings, email, projects and other pressing tasks knowing that they can probably write a decent message after hours or in the cracks of a busy week.
Instead of blocking out 10 or 20 hours to study, pray, research, wordsmith, test ideas and even practice, too many preachers whip something off quickly and let it go at that. Or worse, they download someone else’s message and re-teach it.
What happens when you do that year after year after year?
Well, you use your gift. But you never develop it. And as a result, you cheat your gift. You will be good. But you will never be great.
Now don’t miss this. Once you know your key gifting, developing it is the key to growth.
I know you’re thinking…but I don’t have 10 or 20 hours to develop my gift.
I get that. But here’s what happens when you actually budget the time .
First, it forces you to ruthlessly evaluate all your priorities and eliminate so many things you’re merely good at, but don’t have the potential to be great at. As our church has grown and my leadership has developed, I’ve stopped doing almost everything except communicating, casting vision, honing strategy and leading a handful of people close to me.
Second, having a team work in the area of each member’s key giftedness is a church or organization’s key to growth.
If your gift is leadership development and you spend most of your time developing leaders, you will develop an amazing leadership culture.
If your gift is structure, you’ll be able to scale and organize as you grow. If your gift is preaching, you’ll get so much better when you focus.
And as a result, you can (and probably will) grow.
3. Stop reacting
Ever notice your Monday to-do list rarely gets accomplished on a Monday…or sometimes even by Friday?
Too many leaders remain baffled at why this happens day after day, week after week.
I’m a huge technology fan, but technology isn’t helping you and I when it comes to keeping your priorities straight.
Work life these days is a series of constant interruptions, from the person who knocks at your door or cubicle wanting ‘just five minutes of your time’ to a constant flood of emails, text messages and phone calls.
And you know what every one of those interruptions does?
It pushes somebody’s else’s priorities ahead of yours.
Think about it. Nobody ever asks you to accomplish your priorities; they only ask you to accomplish theirs.
Which is why it’s so hard to get things done.
If you want to lead with high impact, decide that you will not succumb to constant interruptions.
Decide ahead of time how to spend your time. Block and tackle your key priorities. Schedule them in your calendar. Ignore email. Shut your office door. Turn off notifications on your phone. And get what matters most done.
When I started doing this it revolutionized my productivity.
Here’s what hit home. If you don’t decide how to spend your time, someone else will decide how to spend it for you.
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