What Needs to Go?
One of the most important types of decision making is deciding what you are not going to do, what you need to eliminate in order to make room for strategic investments.
~Necessary Endings, Henry Cloud
Deciding what we aren’t going to do is almost as important as deciding what we are going to do. It seems counterintuitive, I know. But there’s a ton of truth to it. Let’s think it through.
We certainly don’t want to be know for what we are against. As a pastor with self-awareness, I know that this is one of the biggest criticisms of the American church today. Too many people speak openly and often about what they are against as the church. Let’s face the fact that this only leads in one direction: a closed-off, combative church. I’ve seen too many clips of IFB preachers talking about what they stand against to be convinced otherwise.
I know that we all need to have particular boundaries, but when we spend so much time trying to decide who is in and who is out, we are missing the bigger picture. After all, isn’t that similar to what the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were doing? When we try to get a homogenous group, we are bound to leave people out. But the Church was never intended to be homogenous — that’s the biggest mistake we can make.
However, there is a difference between being against something, and deciding what you aren’t going to do. Resources — whatever those resources may be: money, time, ambition, desire, will — are always going to be limited. Even the most energetic person has to sleep. Deciding what we aren’t going to do is a matter of resource and time/energy management.
One of the productivity “hacks” that I’ve really come to embrace — especially as an introvert — is energy management. I know that certain things are going to take a lot of energy, and so, I have to plan my day accordingly. I try not to have too many meetings in a single day, or even over the course of a week, because they drain my energy, and I still have other things that have to get done.
When I look at my weekly schedule, I have to mentally prepare for what the week is going to look like, and if I have something that’s optional while everything else is stacked up, I may not take part in the optional activity, especially if it’s something that I know is going to take a lot of energy. I have to decide what I’m not going to do every bit as much as I have to decide what I am going to do.
So, how do we do this? How do we prioritize our schedules and decide what we aren’t going to do?
First and foremost, we have to decide what is most important to us.
As far as I’m concerned, family has to be a priority. When you’re married, you are no longer living just for yourself. Your spouse must be a priority. I have two young kids, a five year old and another that’s going to be seven this week. For the most part, they are a major priority. Beyond that, emergencies with extended family have to be prioritized as well.
To each their own, but if your family isn’t a priority for you, then you may be missing something very important in your life, and you probably ought to get that figured out before your family isn’t around any more.
Next, you need to figure out your secondary priorities.
What this looks like is going to be completely up to you. Is it church? Work? Community organizing? Volunteer opportunities? Figure out what’s most important in your life, and make time for it.
Lastly, learn how to say no.
Too many people don’t know how to say no. It could be from not wanting to let others down, or from a whole variety of reasons that I can’t think of right now. But the bottom line is that your calendar is going to get filled up by something or someone. Ideally, you should be the one to decide.
So, set your priorities. Set your boundaries. Decide what to do, as well as what not to do. Do these things, and you’ll gain a lot more control over your time.