Time: you can’t spend it twice

As Peter Drucker pointed out the first question anyone who wants to become an effective leader has to answer is, where did my time go?

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Some resources are expandable – not infinitely, but you can make them grow.

  • You could always raise more money (in both good and dreadful ways, I know)
  • You could always enlarge the building.
  • You could always grow the church (in both good and dreadful ways, I know)
  • You could always find more volunteers
  • You could always multiply the number of churches, and converts, and disciples.

I’m not saying any of these is easy, or automatic, or your fault if it doesn’t happen.

But it is conceivable that such things can happen.

Not so with time.  Your week, no matter how many hours you work, is finite, and you can’t reclaim it. Spend half an hour with cat videos, and its gone – poof – forever.

Now, this isn’t to make you feel guilty about watching cat videos (though I could if I wanted, and I very nearly do –  there’s gospel work to do, people, why are you watching ‘fat cat jump fail’ again?).*

It is to make you realise that how you spend your time as a pastor is a more serious question than how you spend the church’s money.  Much more serious.**

Because it’s a zero sum game.  You can’t spend time twice, and you can’t make any more of it once it’s gone.

It becomes more serious as we become more senior in our roles. The number of potentially good things we could do increases, which means we have to choose more intentionally, which means we have to refuse to do quite a lot, because spending time on this means I cannot spend the same time on that, and that is where I need to give my leadership attention right now.

The more senior you become, the less discretionary time there is to play with.

What’s more, the more senior you become, the less discretionary time there is to play with. You not only have to attend meetings, you have to plan and lead them; you’re not just one member of the team, but the leader – the leader of each member, individually, and of the team as a whole; you don’t just execute your part of the plan, you get to define the plan, and align each of the parts. In some areas of ministry you get more choice, but mostly you get less.

An example: the leader of the summer camps I used to go on, would sit down after each one and wrote a brief personal note of thanks to each leader for all they had done.  Did he mean it? Undoubtedly.  And when I took over the role, I discovered the delight of saying ‘thank-you.’ But I also discovered the responsibility – the new responsibility that came from being in charge. That ‘thank-you’ had to come, and it had to come from him – and in turn, it had to come from me.

You have to delegate what you can, because there is more of what you can’t.  As I’ve said before, if it was easy, other people would have solved it before it came to your attention. The buck, as President Truman, said, stops here.  When I was Number 2, I used to think ‘The buck went thataway.’  Not any more.

When I was Number 2, I used to think ‘The buck went thataway.’  Not any more.

We’ll come back to that, but to do that means looking at another President, and another blog post.

So for the moment, think over this:

As Peter Drucker pointed out many years ago, the first question anyone who wants to become an effective leader has to answer is, in the last week, where did my time go? And do I know how will I spend the next week?

What matters are of first importance for your ministry?


* To make the obvious point, I’m being facetious.  I’m a dog person. But to make the serious point too, when you relax, do stuff that really relaxes. If watching cats falling off window sills makes you laugh like a drain, do it – but if it’s just killing time, stop.  Go and find something which will refresh, recharge, renew, relax you.

**Unless you’re raising it, storing it, or spending it, illegally.  Let’s assume not.  For the sake of argument.

1 comments on “Time: you can’t spend it twice”

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