Not to long ago, I was sitting in a friend’s office, and he made a very telling statement. “I mean, when would I find the time to do that?” He was struggling with the dispersing of time spent doing what he felt he should be focused on, or even called to do, time spent putting out fires, answering calls, replying to emails and dropping anything when someone walked into their office. Sound familiar? Now, don’t get me wrong. We are called to serve those we lead, but also we need to remember that we can only effectively do so much and can only be as effective as we choose to be. You have the choice to be in charge of your schedule or your schedule will be in charge of you. There is this law of leadership: Spend your time on the 20% of things that will get 80% of the results. Or spend your time on the 20% of people who will give you 80% of the results for your organization.
You may think to yourself “but that isn’t fair, what about the 80% who are wanting my attention?” This doesn’t mean we never connect with people outside our inner circle or that we become unapproachable, the reality is that the effectiveness of our investment will always be limited. If you choose to be the one who invests in everyone you will only be limiting the effectiveness of your organization to reach people, because there is a limit of people you can connect with. Furthermore, we need to break free from the idea that we are the only ones who can serve, connect, and invest in people. There are people who are ready to be given this responsibility and truthfully, you may be robbing them of this and in many ways could be better equipped to do so. Even Jesus himself invited 12 and spent the majority of his time investing in those twelve.
Think of your time as currency. When I first got married, we were broke! Much like anyone starting out, we needed to budget our money very closely so we would have enough money to get us through the month. We needed to decide how we would spend it, how much we would spend on each thing and prioritize the needs and wants we had. When you are working on a budget, you need to figure out how to spend that money in the most effective way possible, because when you spend it all, it is gone. In the same way, everyone only has 24 hours in a day. It is up to you how you decide how to spend that time and if we are going to be most effective with that time we should be as diligent in how we spend it as we would our money. You wouldn't simply hand out cash to anyone who asked every time someone asked. So why do we do this with our time?
In the end, we are the ones who answer the phone calls, dictate when and how we answer emails, who we invest in primarily, and are in charge of what we spend our time doing. Maybe you are in an unhealthy environment with unrealistic expectations. Maybe your job description was written for Superman. Maybe you even feel trapped in your position because there is nothing on the horizon. I don’t know what you face in your daily lives, but I can assure you of this: Things don’t have to be the way they are. You can’t control all the external pressures you face, but you can control your internal decision to be pulled by them. Ultimately you have two options: 1) Continue down the path you are going and burn-out, quit or even put yourself into an early grave, or 2) you can choose to make a change.
Half the battle is in our own minds. How do we actually find this balance? How can we take control of our schedules and not continue to allow our schedules to take over our lives? It all starts with the principle of threes.
I have heard the analogy in a various different ways. Three plates that get filled with food, three buckets filled with water, three meals to be eaten, etc. But no matter what the picture is being depicted, the principle is the same. These three pictures represent three areas of attention of time and energy spent and these three things range from low capacity to high capacity:
1. Things that only I can do (low capacity)
2. Things that I can delegate but involves training and investment of others (medium capacity)
3. Things I can delegate with next to no or no training or invest or invest by others (high capacity)
When I say capacity, what this means the amount of energy that you expense accomplishing something. Think about it like the buckets being filled. A smaller bucket has less capacity to hold water than if it was larger. The easier the task (like delegation with low investment) would be represented as a larger bucket, because you can fill it easier and with more. Or think about lifting weights. The heavier the weight, the more energy it takes to lift and less amount of reps you can do which equals less capacity to lift that heavier weight. For example, when delegating small tasks, you actually have a high capacity in this area because it takes much less energy than tasks you have to give a lot of your vital attention to.
It might be time for you to sit down and write out a list of all the things you do in a day, week, and month and start to put them into these three categories. Start with things and areas that can fall into category three and can be easily given away. Ask yourself: why are you still holding on to these? Who is already before you that has a passion to take something like this on and doesn’t need much or any training? Then let them go. Release people to use the gifts and talents they have and want to use and flourish in them. You will be amazed how easily people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves and will be happy to help when it engages their gifts and talents.
Next, look at the areas that would need to build up teams of people and start looking for the right people for you to engage, mentor, and release. This will take more energy and don’t let the excuse of not having time get in the way. Besides, after you release some of your section three stuff, you will have more time for what matters most. Remember, in the short term it will be hard work, but in the long term, it will pay off.
It will be in this second stage where the battle will be won. There will be areas that you could and should be building leaders up to take on. This is the hardest area because it involves a lot of extra energy in the front end; mentoring people—especially leaders to take on key areas—takes a lot of work, But trust me it pays off in the end. Too often we say we don’t have the time to invest in the this area, but, in the long term, we don’t have the time not to. What this means is you need to look at the things that your organization is called to do and explore what needs are being met, and what things need to get done?
As an added bonus you will be mentoring people who will in turn mentoring others. Is this not the call… the dream? Think about it: The second stage people can mentor the third stage people who in turn could become second stage people down the road. It is leaders mentoring leaders who mentor leaders. In turn you will also have created a mentoring culture where people are being fed into as people, equipped and released to do what they do best, fulfilled and passionate. In the end you will no longer be doing it alone, but equipping people to do the mission of your organization, and see a robust culture of multiplying mentorships. (And by the way, this is also a little thing called discipleship too.)
After you have laid out all the things that you can give away, it leaves you with a short list of the things that you should be focusing your main attention. You release people to do what they are passionate to do so you can focus your attention on the things that only you can do. Remember, this has low capacity, because it is a small list and should be as they are the big things that take the majority of your time and shouldn’t be overtaken by high capacity stuff. The things left over should be the things that give you the 80% results in your organization and you will be freed up to focus your attention on those leaders who will have 80% of the effect on the organization and the people/teams you serve. It isn’t about hard work at this point, but smart and effective work, and as the leader you are not called to do it all, but gather a dream team to accomplish it together. It becomes a team effort now and you are shouldering the work together. It is all about inviting people into the mission before you all.
All of this will only work if you stick to your guns, don’t allow yourself to fall back into old habits (even if the transition means waiting for the right people), and cast a vision of why this matters.. This shift is important and this shift will cause your organization to be more effective in it’s mission.
I will leave you with the words of Andy Stanley: “Don’t strive to be a well-rounded leader. Instead, discover your zone and stay there. Then delegate everything else. ...Everybody in your organization benefits when you delegate responsibilities that fall outside your core competency. Thoughtful delegation will allow someone else in your organization to shine. Your weakness is someone’s opportunity.”
Drake currently serves as the Editor-In-Chief of boldcupofcoffee.com and the Executive Pastor at gateway.ac as well as an avid speaker, writer and leadership coach/consultant.
Drake is passionate about seeing people thrive and come alive. To BELONG, wrestle with what they BELIEVE and BECOME people FULL OF LOVE, FUELLED BY FAITH, and ADDICTED TO HOPE. Drake is also a life learner and loves being challenged to think deeper and grow further. One of his favorite things to do is spend a good amount of time in a good café or coffee shop with a good book or engaging conversation. To be able to share in someone else's journey and experience is always a pleasure and honor. You can also connect with him at your personal page at drakedelongfarmer.com. To read more articles by Drake, simply click here.
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