By Carey Nieuwhof on Dec 26, 2017
Here’s the sad truth: when your calendar is out of control, so are you. And so is your life.
You likely have one of two problems with your calendar.
Maybe your calendar looks like a maze from which there’s no escape. You’re so tightly scheduled with meetings, appointments and commitments that your first rest-room break opens up in late 2019.
Or maybe your calendar is just the opposite, other than a few meetings, it looks wide open. There’s white space everywhere.
Yet (and don’t miss this). almost all of us end up in the same place: you feel completely overwhelmed.
If you’re a hyper-organized person, you may write everything down, but you feel crushed by the burden of running from meeting to meeting, task to task, obligation to obligation with no breathing room.
On the other hand, if you’re someone who doesn’t tightly schedule yourself, you still get to the end of the day and feel like you got hit by a truck carrying 1000 things that ‘came’ up and derailed your best intentions. What happened to all that ‘free time’ you planned? It just vaporizes, day after day after day. And you’re still not done what you need to do.
Here’s the sad truth: when your calendar is out of control, so are you. And so is your life.
And most of us have a calendar that is anything but in control.
At least six things suffer when your calendar is out of control.
1. You work in it, but you never work on it
There’s a very good chance your greatest contribution to your church or organization isn’t sitting around in meetings or answering email after email after email.
But that’s what happens to you day after day.
The reason so many organizations and churches don’t grow is because leaders never take the time to work on things. Instead, they just work in them.
If you work in it, not on it, you:
Never go on retreat because nobody has the time.
Don’t do long-term planning, because next week is still on fire and you have to solve that.
Never thank your best people with a lunch or dinner out or an afternoon of your time because you don’t have time.
Never plan for the future in bold and imaginative ways.
Working in it, not on it, is a sure-fire way to stunt the growth of whatever you lead.
2. Other peoples’ priorities hijack yours
When your calendar is out of control, other peoples’ priorities hijack yours.
Here’s an example.
For me, one of the most important things I can do is write.
Whether that’s my next sermon series, next message, next book, next blog post or questions for my next podcast, writing is hands down one of the most important things I do.
Yet every text, every phone call, every email, every knock on the door is someone asking you to get their priority done, not yours.
But nobody ever cancels their meeting with me and tells me “Hey Carey, I just wanted to make sure you had enough time to prepare for Sunday and edit your next book.”
Instead, I get dozens (or often, hundreds) of emails every day asking me for something someone else wants.
The principle: No one will ever ask you to complete your top priority. They will only ask you to complete theirs.
Effective calendar control is the best way to manage this reality.
3. You use your gift, but you never develop it
What’s the difference between a world-class performer and an average one?
It’s easy to say it’s gifting alone, and there’s a smidge of truth to that.
But as Malcolm Gladwell has shown, a lot of it has to do with time. People who spend 10,000 hours developing their gift tend to become world class.
Think endless violin practice, football drills, speeches, or even thousands of sets in tiny nightclubs before your band really gels.
Most of us are gifted at something.
The challenge with being gifted is you can probably ‘wing it’ better than the average person.
Honestly, I know I can do this with preaching and public speaking. Put me up there with zero prep, and I’ll still be decent.
The problem is far too many preachers do this week after week after week. So do many musicians, leaders, thinkers and managers.
When you live this way, you cheat your gift. You use it, but you never develop it.
Development takes time. Time to read, research, refine, edit, craft, practice, and try again to make it magnificent.
You are far more likely to become world-class at something if you work at it than if you merely use your gift.
Again, leaders who can’t control their calendar will never develop their gift. There simply won’t be the time for it.
4. Your Dream Dies
This one is so sad.
Repeat the pattern or accidental living, overwhelm and calendar clutter long enough, and soon you’re not in your twenties anymore.
Then your thirties fly by. And before you know it, you’re forty or fifty.
You look back over the last few decades and you notice something died along the way: your dreams.
Because you couldn’t keep up, you never wrote that book, launched that church, pursued that hobby, took that really awesome vacation with your family, or developed yourself to your potential.
Instead, you filled your life with, well, you can’t even exactly remember what you filled your life with. Except it was really intense all the time, and you don’t have much to show for it.
When your dreams die, a part of you dies.
If you can’t control your calendar, that’s exactly what happens far too many times.
5. Your family comes in second last
For too many years, when my calendar was out of control, my family never got my best.
They got my leftovers.
Worked sucked the life out of me. Things were growing so fast I couldn’t keep up. I didn’t know how to keep up.
If you give everything you’ve got at work, you’ve got nothing left over for the people you love most at home.
You’re so tired that instead of serving your family, you expect them to serve you.
That’s a perfect recipe for conflict right there.
Even if you’re winning at work but losing at home, you’re losing.
6. You come in last
I realize your life isn’t about you. I think most of us are working toward a bigger purpose. I am.
But when your calendar creates chaos in your life, you come in last.
Because if you’re at all service-minded, you will give until there’s nothing left to give.
That works for a season. Until it doesn’t.
Your energy is kind of like a bank account. You can deplete it only so far, and then eventually when there’s nothing left, you go bankrupt.
And that’s a bad situation for everyone.
You can’t give what you don’t have.
Love comes from the overflow. So does hope. And kindness. And joy.
God never intended for you to live your life depleted, burned out and hurt.
A Solution (Free Calendar Download For You Today)
I spent my thirties running hard and our church grew like crazy. But around 40, I hit a wall and burned out.
If you’ve ever burned out, you know how terrifying that can be.
By the sheer grace of God and with the help of amazing friends, I came back.
It’s a long story I’ll tell more in this space in the next few weeks, but let me share with you ONE thing that made a huge difference for me.
I completely redid my calendar.
I’ve lived off that calendar for a decade now, and in that ten years published three books, launched courses, started two podcasts, started writing this blog, began speaking internationally AND had more time for family and friends. Not to mention seeing our church grow to the largest its ever been. And I’m as far away from burnout as I’ve ever been.
I know, the math doesn’t add up. Except it does.
For a limited time, I’m sharing the calendar template I live by with you, for free.
You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) adopt my personal schedule, but the calendar download is 100% customizable. It even comes with free video training you’ll get once you download the calendar.
You’ll get multiple versions, including a format you can import directly onto your phone for iCal or GoogleCal.
Your biggest struggle?
I really hope this helps!
The last thing I want is to see more leaders burn out or fail to thrive.
In the meantime, what are some time struggles you’re facing?
I’d love to hear in the comments as we try to get better together.
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