I get asked frequently how I am able to get so much done and still take care of myself and my family.
I pastor a large church. I maintain a separate nonprofit ministry, where I speak at various conferences and events. I have an active online presence. I mentor about a dozen pastors—some in groups and some as individuals—plus I mentor four young leaders in our church. And, I try to stay active in the community—serving on a number of nonprofit boards. But, mostly, I strive to be the person, husband and father my congregation could seek to follow.
OK, typing out a list of my activities does remind me I’m busy. Productive would be subject to interpretation, but certainly I have adequate (and more than adequate) activity in my life.
Honestly, I never feel I’ve accomplished as much as I would like, but after receiving the question so many times, perhaps I should attempt to answer.
As I’ve reflected of what helps me accomplish much, I came up with some thoughts as to how I’m able to maintain productivity.
Here are seven secrets to being a high achiever:
I’m extremely intentional
This is probably number one. I strive to live my life for a purpose, which carries over into everything I do. (Notice there are even seven steps in this answer. This was intentional.) If you could name one word to describe who I am as a pastor, leader, husband, father, friend and child of God, it would be intentional. (By the way, I’m intentional about resting too.) I even put the last sentence about rest in here intentionally, because I knew someone would wonder.
I don’t sit still long without a purpose
Being still is a discipline for me. Some seasons I’m better at it than others. I realize some people have no trouble with this, but I do. As I said about being intentional, I have to make myself rest. My mind is constantly in motion. If I’m watching a television program, which isn’t often, I’m doing attempting to do something productive while I watch—otherwise I feel I’ve “wasted” time. I wish I could say I’m always doing the “best” things, but certainly more activity leads to the potential for more productivity. Doesn’t always work this way, which is why some of the other points I’m listing are far more valuable than this one. But, I try to be productive even with down time—and, although it’s taken years to understand this, resting is a productive time.
I strive to maintain my health
I’d love to say I always watch what I eat, and I do to a certain extent, but mostly I exercise to stay fit. I’ve learned the more out of shape I am the less effective I am in all I attempt to do. It impacts me physically, emotionally and spiritually when I skip my time exercising. I’m more productive when I’m most physically fit. I’ve recently learned too my body needs to be adequately hydrated to feel at my best.
I work from a plan
Whether it’s long-term or short-term planning, I try to have one. I begin most every Monday morning (or sometimes Sunday nights) planning the week ahead. I find I’m more successful in my week if I’ve put some plans on paper prior to beginning any activity. Daily I begin by reviewing my plans for the day. I begin each day with five minutes spent on making a checklist of what I have to get done. At the beginning of a year, I plan the year. I periodically look over larger time spans of my life and plan or review where I’m going. Now, the further I get from the date, the more difficult it is to solidify my plans—life disrupts—but without a plan I find I’m spinning my wheels more than making progress.
I take advantage of opportunities
Did you catch that? It is not complicated, but it is a powerful principle. Networking. Delegation. Time-management. Learning something new. Cultivating dead times. I am intentional (there’s that word again) at looking for opportunities as they present themselves. If I’m waiting at the doctor’s office, I’m probably writing a blog post or replying to emails. Small opportunities lead to huge opportunities. I seek those moments. (By the way, I always have something with me where I can make notes. When ideas come I want to be ready. Intentionally ready.)
I try to stay ahead
This is hard. I’m a procrastinator by nature—like most people are—but as much as I can, I try to stay one step ahead of the snowballs in my schedule. They happen to all of us. If I’m prepared when those times arrive I can better keep them from being a disruption in my productivity.
I prioritize my life and schedule
I say no often. It may not seem like it to an outside observer, but I do. I say no a lot. I have come to the realization that I can’t do everything or be everywhere. I’ve tried to figure out what’s most important in my life, my work and my walk with God, and I put those things first. I even schedule some of them to make sure nothing gets in the way. I consistently ask myself questions such as, “Am I the right one to be doing this?” “Is this the best use of my time?” Again, intentional.
It should finally be noted, I’m in a different season of life these days. I’m an empty-nester. When my boys were home life was different. I was intentional then too, but in different ways.
Which of these would help you the most? Any you would add to help others (and me)?
This article originally appeared here.