Life has been hectic for a while now. And that feels like an understatement. With added responsibilities at work, church and home, I have barely been treading water. And then I had an epiphany recently. I have to make the main things the main things. Let me elaborate using a situation in the bible that led to my epiphany.
In Acts 6:1-7, we see a shift in the early church that set the stage for continued growth in the life of the church body. The number of followers had grown substantially, which means the workload had grown as well. A complaint arose against the Jewish core of the church from the Greek-speaking people that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of aid. After hearing this, the apostles made a critical strategic decision and acted swiftly. “And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out form among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (verses 2-4) The apostles knew that, to be effective, they needed to make the main thing the main thing.
All of us are limited in the amount of energy we have. We can argue that some have more than others, but the truth is there are only 24 hours a day for every person that walks this earth. Some choose to maximize their time and therefore get more done. Others squander it and get next to nothing done. If we do not maximize the time we are given, we will minimize how effective we are in life.
So I have been asking myself hard questions on how I use the 1,440 minutes that are at my disposal every day. At least a quarter of that time is spent on sleeping. Factor in an additional 10-15% for eating, bathing, restroom stops, driving time and other non-negotiable activities. What do I have left? 60%. That is 864 minutes remaining to take care of the responsibilities I have. I work four, ten-hour days Monday through Thursday, which leaves me with 4 hours to tend to my non-work life (aka personal life). That’s not a lot of time because I choose to devote a substantial amount of that to my loved ones. It’s been a tough reality to look at, and writing about it is even more discouraging! But it’s led to some cool revelations.
1. I have to prioritize my relational energy. Because of how scattered and busy life has been for me, a number of important relationships have suffered. My brothers, for example, have received very little from me in terms of calling them and investing in those relationships. I regret that and am trying my hardest to give them more of my energy. I also realize I have been spending energy in places that are counterproductive and spread me too thin. I can only be close to a small number of people. Jesus chose 12 men to pour into, and even whittled that down to 3 because he understood that effectiveness is more quality than quantity. Actually, it is quality and quantity in terms of time, but less is most definitely more in terms of the number of close relationships you maintain. So I drew a series of circles the other day, with the smallest sitting at the center and representing my inner circle. From there, the circles get larger and represent the rings of relationships I maintain. The further out from the center, the less energy I devote. It’s not to say that those people or groups don’t matter. I’m just choosing to be strategic in who I invest in. So, I am choosing to invest more in my brothers because 1) they are family and 2) they will always be a part of my life…I wouldn’t have it any other way.
2. I have to delegate busy work that detracts from the main thing. In my role at church, I asked my pastor recently what he sees my main roles to be. His answer helped shape how I handle my responsibilities at church. Busy work is counterproductive for me because it distracts me from helping lead the church, which is one of my primary roles. And I can’t effectively help lead the church if I am emotionally and spiritually drained because I’m so busy doing other things. For example, a situation came up recently that I needed to be able to keep my feelings in check and provide wisdom and insight into. But I was unable to keep my feelings in check and I realize now that my insights did not come from a position of wisdom and humility. And this happened because I have allowed myself to be stretched too thin. This doesn’t mean I’m exempted from good, hard work. Any leader that isn’t willing to serve is a bully and shouldn’t be followed. That’s my opinion anyway. My point is that no leader is above rolling their sleeves up and doing some hard work. But it is important for every leader to know what work is beneficial or counterproductive.
The benefit I’m already experiencing in this is that I find that mind isn’t as cluttered. By making the main things the main things, I expect to see how effective I am increase. The other benefit is that others get to step into new roles and responsibilities and experience growth as well.