I get asked frequently: “Pastor, how do you get so much done and still take care of yourself and your family?”
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.
I do have a lot of responsibility. I pastor a large church undergoing transition and change. I have an active (some would say over-active) online presence. I blog regularly to a growing audience and interact daily with my readers. I maintain a separate nonprofit ministry I’ve managed for more than 10 years where I provide consulting and teaching to pastors and churches.
I frequently take on extra writing projects and speaking opportunities, which usually keeps me doing something different every week. And, I strive to be the person, husband and father my congregation could seek to follow.
Okay, typing that paragraph reminds me. I’m busy. Productive would be subject to interpretation, but certainly I have activity in my life.
As I’ve reflected on what helps me accomplish much, here are seven thoughts:
My 7 Secrets
1. I’m intentional. That’s probably number one. I strive to live my life for a purpose, and that carries over into everything that I do. (Notice there are 7 steps in this answer. That was intentional.) If you could name one word that describes 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 that last sentence about rest in here intentionally, because I knew someone would wonder.
2. I don’t sit still long. 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 or attempting to do something productive while I watch, otherwise I feel I “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. It doesn’t always work that way, which is why some of the other points I’m listing are far more valuable than this one.
3. I exercise. I’d also love to say I watch what I eat, and I do to a certain extent, but mostly I exercise to stay fit. I’ve learned that the more out of shape I am the less effective I am in all that I attempt to do. It impacts me physically, emotionally and spiritually when I skip my time exercising.
4. 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. 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.
5. 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, that’s why I always have something with me so I can make notes. When ideas come, I want to be ready. Intentionally ready.)
6. I try to stay ahead. This is hard. I’m a procrastinator by nature too, but the more 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.
7. I prioritize. I say no often. It may not seem like it to an outside observation, 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 that 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)?
Ron Edmondson is a pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky. He is also a church leadership consultant passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Prior to ministry, Ron had more than 20 years of business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner. Follow Ron on Facebook, Twitter, and his blog at ronedmondson.com.