A few years back, I was invited to speak at a conference. It wasn’t huge, but it was one I’d heard of, and I was enormously flattered to be asked. It was also extremely well organised, so I had over a year to get ready for my talks (the organiser liked to announce the programme for the forthcoming conference as the previous one closed).
I gave my talk, it went OK, and I settled back to enjoy the rest of the speakers. The next morning I was making conversation, and someone asked me,’Chris, how do you find time for all that reading?’
I was about to burble something about it not being difficult to read a bit and prepare when you have over a year’s notice, when a familiar, precise, and booming voice spoke over the breakfast table:
“He doesn’t find time. He makes it.”
John Stott. Typically arresting – and typically true. Because what he said wasn’t about me, of course – it was about him. He had been asked a thousand times, “Dr Stott, how do find time to read so much?” “How do you find time to write so prolifically?”
And the well rehearsed answer was the one that spoke over the marmalade that sunny morning. He never found the time. He made it. Time for prayer, for reading, for speaking, for travelling, for his beloved birds.
The most productive people are equally selective, of course. They know which books they are going to read next, and when, and why. They know the sermon series round the corner, and make the time to do enough reading ahead to be fresh and interesting. They know how to stop multitasking, and just – focus, on the one task at hand, for the required hour, morning, day.
That means they refuse to do things, intentionally. Beside their lean ‘do list’ sits an ever-growing ‘don’t do list’. And they, or their team, guards it like Smaug’s golden hoard.
This is the time of year when things kick-start again in churches. The summer is nearly over, and the autumn programme has started its run. The diary begins to fill up with people and events.
How are you going to find the time for everything?
You won’t. So determine, now, to put the blocks of time in your diary which will not move if your big project is gong to happen. Reading time, thinking time, writing time. The blocks of time before which even crises will have to bow the knee. And if your diary looks a bit too tight for that until the other side of Christmas, then start working on January, February, March. And the year after that. How many intentional years do you think it took to plan, and write, just The Cross of Christ?
You will never find the time. Make it.
5 comments on “John Stott’s secret”
Spot on, Chris!
Make time to read Deep Work by Cal Newport. Makes the same point.
Reading it at the moment! Is really good (as expected) and I’ll be reviewing it soon – but he uses more than Stott’s seven words.