Friday, November 7, 2008

You Got Me Goin' In Circles, Part 2

First off, if you missed it, please take a minute and read yesterday's post.

... So, you want to get off the Merry-Go-Round? You want to escape the insanity? You want to turn in your blue tights with the big "S" on the front and occasionally get some time to invest in the things that matter the most?

Here's a little secret. Just between us. You can.

I'm going to introduce you to a powerful tool that will help you have more time to do the really important things like having dinner with your spouse or cheering at your kids' games.

Everywhere you turn, someone wants -- NEEDS -- you to do something. You must learn the answer that will set you free.

Here it is. "No."
Practice saying it. "No."
Listen to the sound of your voice. "No."
Try to say it with gentle authority. "No."
You don't have to yell or scream. You don't need steam shooting out your ears. Consider the following...

Many years ago a pastor friend was teaching me from one of his life lessons. At the time, he pastored one of the largest churches in the country. He told me how, in his busy schedule, it was hard for him to meet people he could talk to about Christ. Therefore, he made himself available to a local mortuary to preach funerals for families who had no church or pastor. He told the Funeral Director that he could call on a moment's notice and the pastor would change his schedule to perform the funeral.

About then, his older son was playing Pop Warner Football. The boy's coach called the pastor, who had played college football, and asked him to help out as assistant coach. The pastor politely explained that he was so busy he just couldn't do it.

As he hung up his phone, he looked up from his desk to see his secretary standing in the doorway. She was old enough to be his mother and she had a "no nonsense" way of talking to him. "You have time to do anything you please," she said. Then she turned and walked out. He knew she was right.

He picked up the phone, called the coach back. "I've changed my mind," he said. "When's your next practice?" As soon as he ended that call, he called the Funeral Director. "I'm sorry, but I am changing my schedule. Please don't schedule me again without checking first to see if I have time."

In a simple, gentle, authoritative way, he said, "No."

Gordon MacDonald is a pastor and author whose writings mean much to me. I learned something from him that set me free: "I have another commitment." He goes on to explain that "another commitment" might mean time with my kids or my wife. It might mean time for rest on a Saturday before a "crazy busy" Sunday.

Those four words have helped me stay in the race, doing what I do. Sometimes I am asked by one of life's sprinters why I don't cram more into every day? My answer is that life -- and I think ministry -- is a marathon. Don't get me wrong. I have plenty to do and I stay pretty busy. The difference is that I mostly work on those things that I think make a huge difference in the long run. And I constantly reevaluate, making adjustments as needed.

I discovered long ago that lots of people have great plans for how I can use my time. That's why I must establish priorities and set my schedule first. Then I change it as necessary.

It's not perfect. But I'm not as dizzy as I once was!


beckiwithani said...

This is so true for teachers, too!!!

What I have found, though, is that for many people just saying "no" is not enough. Their time management skills are not great, which means that they don't get as much done when they ARE on the clock as they should ... and they end up bringing work home with them (both emotionally and physically). If every company focused on teaching its employees time management skills, productivity would go up. I think this is an untapped market! I mentor new teachers this year, and it's one of the BIG things I'm working on with them. As an aside, if productivity goes up, sometimes we can actually afford to say "yes" -- because we have new time in our actual workday schedules.

I do realize the irony of me writing this comment FROM WORK ... but one of the nice things about managing time well is that little breaks during the day are possible. They help with sanity.

C. Beth said...

"I have a commitment"--thank you for reminding me of those words!

Sam said...

Wow, Becki, what great insight! Your comment takes me back to the years when you were quite young. Sean and I would quickly say that we are left in the dust by the time management skills of the females in our family. Consequently, I had to make a concerted effort to work on it for years. In fact, the first thing we did with new staff for many years was sending them to time management training. One of the features of the company we used was that, once you took the training, you could go back at any time for a free refresher. Therefore, I went for a new dose every time we trained someone else on the staff. I'm no longer in the loop of this part of business. Do you think this lack of training is now pandemic or is it unique to certain occupations like teaching?

beckiwithani said...

I think it's pandemic!

I know that there's been a lot written about this in business and pop-econ books, so I'm not being original -- but our generation's idea of "efficiency through multitasking" is just not proven to work. Tons of studies have been done on this, and people think they are getting more done by multitasking, but invariably either one of the tasks is left in the dust and the other is done at less-than-optimal capacity, or both fall far short.

I don't think it is a coincidence that most of us have lightning-fast computers and internet connections.... The opportunities (temptations?) for multitasking are far more wide-ranging in today's workplace than in the past. There's a big difference between your radio airing a song or show that pulls your attention away occasionally, and your computer (which you are probably using for music, instead of a radio) dinging every few minutes to tell you you have mail.

Sam said...

Becki, you remind me of how I bragged when I was a teen that I could watch a TV show, listen to music, carry on a conversation and do homework all at the same time. I smile now at my naivete' to even think such a thing.

We are trying to maximize our office space because we have outgrown it. One of our problems is that every time someone walks in the door, they momentarily pull anywhere from two to five people away from their task at hand. Getting back in focus after that momentary interrupt can take a minute or more of lost productivity per person. It adds up. And that says nothing about all those phone calls, regular and cell phone, emails and other general interruptions.