Time Management – 6 Myths

Peter Drucker, known for much sage advice, has said that: ‘Time is inelastic (it can’t be stretched), irreplaceable (it can’t be replaced or reclaimed), and indispensable (it can’t be done without)!’

In other words, time is important and how we manage it is also important.

In order to manage our time well, it helps to understand it as well. To this end, please find below a list of 6 myths surrounding time management in a leadership context:

  1. We are individually responsible for saving the world. Few people will admit believing this myth, but our actions speak louder than words. I am definitely guilty of this, thinking the whole system rests on my shoulders. The clinical trial I work on in my day job. The wellbeing of my family and friends. The Spiritual health of those I’m discipling. It is so easy to succumb to the belief that it all rests on me. Not only is this bad time management, it is bad theology. Yes, may we take as much responsibility as is appropriate for our actions and input, but let us not mistake this responsibility for what it is. A gift from God, that we are to steward with thanksgiving, and humility. Humility to admit, it doesn’t all depend on me.

The Vision – as recorded by Pete Greig – in the 24/7 prayer movements has a couple of lines about the ‘rising generation’: “They pray as if it all depends on God and live as if it all depends on them!

May our prayers be the evidence that we do not hold to this myth.

2. Time is running out, too little is left of it. Yes, time is short and the days are evil. But just as the farmer has learned patience, he is the one who has learned that the best things grow in time. All we can do is follow the proper sequence of planting, cultivating and harvesting. No harvest can be enlarged by frantically hurrying about. In fact, to mix metaphors, if we pull an cake out of the oven before it is ready, we will have wasted time rather than saved it.

3. A leader must be constantly available for all emergencies. This comes out of the belief that was outlined above. God has made us in such a way that we are not omni-present. We are not everywhere at once and we can’t be. In fact when we try, we will only hurt, disillusion and frustrate others. Yes, there is a time to be sacrificial with our availability, but not at the expense of pretending to be God.

4. Rest and recreation are 2nd class uses of time. If you are anything like me, you will be tempted to view working time, and productive time, and efficient activities more highly than reading a book, having a quiet time, being still, watching tv, eating a nice meal. But God Himself, engaged in rest. And it was not a 2nd class use of His time. Rather it was a time where He blessed creation, dedicated it as holy, and admired His work. Next time, you are pressured to surrender rest and recreation, to the demands of workaholism. Consider, if this is wise.

5. Burn out is heroic. I used to think this one. Even though I never ever would have admitted it. I used to think the burnout pastor, spiritual leader was like a battle worn soldier. Until I came to that point myself. There is nothing heroic about burnout, and in fact, it is often symptomatic of a lack of faith and trust in God. Yes, may we be people – who like Paul – ‘strenuously contend with all the energy that Christ supplies us’ (Col 1:28-29). But may we not seek to go beyond that, into reserves of fuel that He has not provided. This is the path to bitterness, resentment and judgementalism.

6. Family must pay the price. Many a Pastor’s family have been told this lie. “Since your husband, wife, father, mother is in ministry you must lose out on deep relationship with him/her”. This is nonsense, and in fact, according to the Bible, will actually disqualify a person from leadership. For if a person cannot keep their house in order how can they be trusted with the household of God. Keeping our house in order, is more than forcing kids to go to school and not take drugs. It is about representing Christ to them, loving them sacrificially (even at the expense of work, reputation and promotion) and being so present that you become an example to them in their faith.

I hope this has helped debunk some common leadership related time-myths. For further reading:

Bible Stories: Moses (Exodus 18), Jesus (Matthew14:9-16)

Wisdom: Ephesians 5:15-16, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, James 4:13-15, Matthew 6:25-34 (with focus on verse 33).

Peace – is not dependent on circumstance

I recently came upon a quote that really really annoyed me. I was reading a book about Christian leadership and the author had used a quote from John Wesley.

“Though I am always in a haste, I am never in a hurry, because I never undertake more work than I can go through with perfect calmness of Spirit”

His point that we should be weary about becoming overburdened by the stresses of ministry. In fairness he had a point, many church leaders burnout and enter extreme moral failures because of overworking.

Nevertheless it still irked me. So much so I had to put the book down, pull out my notebook and dig deeper in my heart as to why this annoyed me so much. Here is my thought-splurge (please excuse my honesty):

Why this annoys me:

  • The Peace of Christ for our spirit is NOT dependent on how much work we undertake.
  • The poor, the weak, the uneducated, the desperate and tired, are the ones who God most delights to use! The single mum juggling three jobs, two infants and a terminal illness, is just as able to go through ‘with perfect calmness of spirit’, as the wealthy church leader who has the luxury to choose which work he will undertake each day.
  • Ultimately, even John Wesley, cannot determine every day, this is for the Lord to do. We have peace not because we choose our workloads but because we trust in God.
  • May we have more spiritual leaders who are examples, in that they can show us how to seek first God’s kingdom in the midst of busy schedules, hectic jobs and family chaos. May we have examples of people who maintain ‘perfect calmness of spirit’ in the midst of intense trial.

Trust in the Bible

Following on from yesterday’s post, I wanted to share a handful more thoughts and ideas around this concept of trust.

Trust is connected to love – we often make trust a separate factor. But the Bible teaches us that ‘love always trusts’ (1 Corinthians 13:7). This is a risky position to take, do we trust those we claim to “love”? (If I could put Selah in a blog post, without feeling pretentious I would!) But consider the love of God, who entrusted to us the body of His Son, knowing that we would crucify, mock, and reject Him. God is love, and He trusts us. When considering our giving of trust to others, let us not measure them and their “trustworthiness”, instead let us measure love. We may be surprised, by how little we actually love.

There is probably a caveat there. But I want to cover more.

Trust in God produces peace – Isaiah 26:3-4 says ‘You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you’. Our feelings of peace are not circumstantial. They are dependent on our trust in God. This is uncomfortable. This sounds insensitive. I know. And yet, does Jesus not say ‘do not worry’, and Paul ‘do not be anxious about anything….the peace of Christ, that transcends all understanding, will abide in you’?! This peace, which comes from trusting God, does not make sense, in the midst of unemployment, terminal illness, national suffering, COVID-19.

Quietness and Trust is Strength – Isaiah offers more wisdom on trust, in 30:13, when he says, ‘in quietness and trust is your strength’. Do you need strength, to get you through your days, the demands of your job, the pressures of family. Then seek it in quietness and trust. My mum would always say ‘the noise is always loudest in the shallow end’ (talking about public swimming pools)…likewise though, we often mistake strength for loudness. The way of God though is to give strength to the humble, grace to the weak and to hear the hidden prayers of the men and women who cry out to Him in their rooms with the door shut!

There are two further stories in the Bible of two characters in the Bible who exhibited trust. May we as people called to great love emulate them.

Ruth who trusted Naomi (Ruth 1:16-18)

The armour bearer who trusted Jonathan (1 Samuel 14:6-8): ‘Do all that you have in mind. Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul!”

How to build Trust

“People will follow you for a while because they picked you. But they’ll follow you over the long term because they trust you.”

“Charm and charisma are like a glider; they fly, but not indefinitely. And they do not do well in turbulent times”

Trust is essential for leadership. But it is also essential for everyday living. My parents used to tell me that in order to drive on the motorway, you needed to attribute a certain level of trust to the drivers on the road – that they would continue to move forward.

But the level of trust required for effective leadership is a little higher. So how can we build more trust?

  1. Consistency (in good and bad, in the secret place as well as the public place)
  2. Dependability (do we make good on what we say)
  3. Openness and honesty (even, and especially, in areas of failure and weakness)
  4. Hard work (oftentimes a reputation of being a hard worker will trump success)
  5. Impartiality
  6. Longevity (it can be harder for a new leader to acquire the same level of trust as one who has ‘stuck around’)
  7. Intimacy and Pursuit of Jesus (As Christian leaders, and Church leaders, people will cotton on to your motives. We can do “all the right things” without a passionate pursuit of Jesus – and people will notice. In contrast, we can make all the mistakes, yet have an evident intimacy with God – and people will notice. Consider the words of the great king: We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You. Consider the words of the great church founder: I made to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ. Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss. I did not come with wise and eloquent words, but rather with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

May we, as Church leaders, as Christian leaders, be people who have large accounts of trustworthiness. In a world where trust is savagely dismembered towards our leaders, may the Church step up with leaders who are trustworthy.

Priorities

“Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment” – John C. Maxwell.

This morning I was reading through The Acts of the Apostles and stumbled upon this verse:

It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables…we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word”

It made me think of priorities and what do we do.

I’m currently feel slowly being nudged back into “church ministry” after a 9+ month withdrawal. It’s been a refreshing and revealing season, with several challenges, unexpected accomplishments and a lot of heart work.

And now, I’m being presented with several opportunities to serve in different ways. From preaching, to mentoring. From youth groups to small groups. I’m still establishing myself in the habit of writing and learning new things in that area.

So how do I choose what to engage with and what not? (See Life Purpose)

In this Bible reading, I realised there is another solution when presented with an opportunity. Another solution aside from engage or not engaging. A solution called: delegation.

Delegation: Frees me to focus on my calling, allows others to step into leadership, encourages me to pass on what I know, affirms the gifts and passions of others.

Nuanced Initiative

Earlier this week I shared a post about the importance of taking initiative. I would recommend reading it, here. However, over the last couple of days I’ve been thinking a little more about initiative and I wanted to add this nuanced post-script.

Talking about taking the initiative is very empowering, it’s very popular and “go-getter” speech. But there are a few important caveats that we need to remember.

1) Initiative doesn’t negate listening to God

The Bible is filled with stories and characters who were so keen to “take the initiative” that they ignored the process of listening to God. We see the downfall of King Saul begin this way, so keen to take the initiative that he refused to wait for Samuel. We see the Israelites, led by Joshua making a hasty alliance with the Gibeonites without enquiring of the LORD. Even one of Jesus’ disciples took the initiative to “defend” Jesus against the Roman soldiers by slicing off an ear! Not a good idea.

Yes, let us take the initiative, especially in areas where God has led us to move. But let us be quicker to listen to God before we act.

2) Initiative doesn’t mean automatic (immediate) success

Just because we act, because we move first, or we move boldly forward, does not mean that we will be successful. (Even if we’ve enquired of God!) This isn’t talked about much, but is so important.

Remember Stephen, who preached the gospel, who did all the right things and was still stoned? Remember Joseph who took initiative to flee from Potipher’s wife – and who was still falsely accused? Remember the early Church, scattered and persecuted? Remember our Lord Jesus, who was without sin, who was crucified?

No, obedience to God, and initiative doesn’t always magically produce “success” (at least how we might define it). In our obedience and initiative, we must take the attitude of the three faithful men who said:

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it…BUT EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, we want you to know…that we will not bow to the image of gold” [Daniel 3:17-18]

3) Initiative taking in one area, doesn’t mean you can relent in other areas

We all have strengths and weaknesses. It will be easy for us to take initiative in some areas of life, more so than in others. Just because we’ve taken the initiative in exercise, doesn’t mean we don’t have to care about our relationships etc.

Final Thought

I’ll come into land with this thought: God encourages initiative. This is why He selected 12 disciples to lead the Church movement forward. This is why repeatedly throughout scripture God is trusting men and women to co-labour with Him, to be His hands and feet, to represent Him in the world.