I have a great job. I’m convinced of it. And everyday I’m grateful to God for leading Kel and me down this path to work with some of the most dynamic and amazing up-and-coming youth ministry leaders who come to study at Bethel College in Mishawaka, IN.
I have a great job. And each summer I realize it. Teachers are fortunate to have some months of wide open space, a chance to study, write, travel, and renew for the forthcoming school year. It’s also a temptation to be haphazard. To waste the chance for artistry (thanks, Seth Godin). To squander the days on meaningless busywork that amounts to little and renews nothing.
Haven’t you done that to? Had a full week to accomplish something and by the end of the week had little to show for it? How about the New Year’s resolution that is broken before February? Seriously, what are the “next week I’m going to start ___” promises (they’re really excuses) that you’ve been repeating for months or years now? If you looked over your life, are you really doing what you know you should be doing (your diet, how you spend/save money, what you have for a spiritual life, how you’re growing intellectually or socially)? It’s not just excuses or fear that keep us from these things. It can be haphazard living, the filling of our lives of busywork that looks good, takes time, but doesn’t help move us forward toward our goals.
I’ve learned a few principles over the last few summers, some guidelines that I’ve discovered isn’t just about my summers, but actually are true during the school year. And I’ve seen them at work in others’ lives too, people who have actually mastered them much better than I have.
1. Disciplined work actually provides freedom. If you, taking a Covey term here, put in the BIG ROCKS first each day. For me, that’s meant that I get up 2 hours early than I normally would. My best, most creative, hours are the earliest ones. This also means that the top of my TO-DO list comes first and I pack the smaller tasks (little rocks) around those big ones. I don’t want to end the day without taking at least one significant step forward on a project. Three steps are even better.
2. True renewal and re-creation doesn’t involve media. This is a big of a soapbox for me now and I plan on exploring it more in a future article. I love media, but I’ve learned that I have to create huge margins in my life away from it. Some examples:
- I take one day off of computers each week. A “sabbath” day from being “connected” (this term is an interesting one to explore. Were people not connected with each other before computers?)
- Silence each week for an extended period. Quiet.
- Cell phone is off as much as it is on each week.
- Email is not constantly running at work. That pop-up window can easily distract. You’re not morally obligated to respond within minutes of an Email. Pick 3-5 times a day where you’ll do Email. Or less? Try it.
- Recognize Facebook as an advertising platform and limit usage to 2x a day. I’m amazed at how much time people spend on this website.
- Bloggers – create a time schedule for your week within which you’ll blog. Then don’t touch it outside of that schedule.
- Youth ministry leaders – keep track of your time spent for one week a month. Then put that in following categories – study/prayer, reading, meetings, time with youth, social media, set-up. You can break down the time with youth into – school events, youth group meetings, building relationship time, appointments, or small groups. What percentage of your time that week was spent with youth? Less than half? Less than 20? How about social media (be honest)? More than 10?
3. A plan for reading important books and developing significant friendships. I’ve heard it said that you’re only as good as the people you spend time with and the books you read. What do you read? Why do you read it? I love fiction, but I have to make sure each week includes one or two other books that intentionally challenge me in better directions.
4. The difference between those who do and those who don’t is that they DO. No matter how much we want people to feel good about themselves, the bottom line is the bottom line. My many friends who write fiction prove this over and over. The difference between those who publish books is that they sit down and write. Every day (almost). Until they’re done. Those who finish a PhD demonstrate this as well. There are tons of ABD (all-but-dissertation) folks out there.
The proof is in to DO. Want to run a 5K race? Want to lose 10 pounds? How about pay off credit card debt? There’s no magic wand, no moons to line-up outside Jupiter. It’s in the DO. And, you need to know it isn’t going to be easy. There’s a wall of inertia facing you, a pull to that doesn’t want you to exert much energy in this new direction. The farther you get going, the less that inertia works against you. So, get rolling.
It’s a new week, a summer (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) of wide open spaces. What purposeful steps can you take? How can you make sure your progress is purposeful and not haphazard?