Margin: Recommended Resources

Margin Resources

I love the amount of discussion our current series on margin is stirring up within Restoration City.  If you’re looking for additional resources on creating margin in your schedule, here are some of the titles that have influenced me over the years, with a link to Amazon if that’s where you buy books:

The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst.  The title of this book has become a phrase around our house.  Hardly a day goes by without Laura or I saying, “What’ the best yes for our family?”

Crazy Busy, Kevin DeYoung.  Really short, really practical and really grounded in the gospel.

Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less, Greg McKeown.  Not written from a Christian perspective but filled with so much wisdom.  It’s one of the most formative books I’ve read in the last 4 years.

Margin, Richard Swenson.  A little technical and slow at points but still stands out as one of the Christian classics on the topic of margin.

What’s Best Next, Matt Perman.  By far the most theologically dense and helpful book on productivity I’ve ever read.  If you think all of this margin stuff doesn’t connect to the gospel, this book will convince you otherwise.

I’ll post similar resource recommendations for the upcoming weeks when we talk about margin in our finances and relationships.

 

 

 

Leaders Are Delegators

White Board

As we bring our “Live From Love” series to a close, we’re spending two weeks focusing on the life of the Old Testament King Josiah, the only man in the Scriptures described as loving “the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might.“(2 Kings 23:25)  This past Sunday we talked about how our love for God leads to a life of ongoing repentance.  In doing that, we skipped over some leadership development gold in 2 Kings 22:3-7 that I want to pick up on today.  You’ll see it pretty easily as you read the text:

In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam, the secretary, to the house of the Lord, saying, “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may count the money that has been brought into the house of the Lord, which the keepers of the threshold have collected from the people.  And let it be given into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the Lord, and let them give it to the workmen who are at the house of the Lord, repairing the house (that is, to the carpenters, and to the builders, and to the masons), and let them use it for buying timber and quarried stone to repair the house. But no accounting shall be asked from them for the money that is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly.”

Josiah is a master delegator.  He empowers a team to do what he could never do on his own.  He’s able to inspire a group of people to work together to accomplish a goal, which is foundational to effective leadership.  Perhaps this kind of delegation is expected when renovating a temple – no one can do that on their own!  But the reality is that we need to practice this kind of delegation frequently in our lives as leaders.  Think of all the things we do every week as a church: lead 10 different community groups, load in and load out production equipment, lead worship, preach a sermon, disciple kids, serve our community, administer an organization, reach college students in DC, etc, etc, etc…  I don’t think there’s one of us that really think we can do any one of those tasks on our own.  But all too often we find ourselves trying to do what we know is impossible – take on a massive project without anyone else’s help.  

If that’s you, then take a few minutes to consider the model Josiah gives us for effective delegation.  His delegation is anchored in four key principles:

Clear Vision

Josiah doesn’t leave it up to his team to decide what they’re going to accomplish.  He fills the vision vacuum – they’re going to repair the temple.  And He’s not just envisioning a minor facelift.  They’re going to have to buy timber and quarried stone to get this done.  He’s speaking into the aim and the scope of the project.  That’s what good leaders do.  Some leaders are so afraid of being called a micro-manager that they abdicate this part of the process.  That’s not leadership.  It’s the exact opposite.  It’s abdicating leadership to someone else who will fill the vision vacuum you’re perpetuating.

Adequate Resources

Some leaders thing it’s enough to walk into a meeting, drop a little vision bomb and then check out completely.  Not so fast there, little leader!  Maybe you and your team have worked together for so long that they can take your vision and run with it.  But you always need to stay engaged around the fundamental question of whether or not the team has the resources they need to execute the vision.  Josiah deploys money, senior aids and resources to the project.  He gives the team what they need to get the job done!  That seems so simple when we read it in the abstract but I can’t tell you how many times I see leaders set their people up for failure by casting some glorious vision that the team has no chance of achieving because they lack the resources (money, time, people, skills, training or tools) they need to get it done.  That’s not leadership.  That’s just frustrating people.

Freedom To Execute

As much as Josiah leans into the vision and resource conversation, he leans out of the strategy and tactics conversation.  He realizes that the carpenters, builders and masons know a heck of a lot more about renovating a temple than he does.  So, he does one of the hardest things for a leader to do.  He shuts his mouth and lets others take it from there.  He lets his team do the job he’s called them to do and he gets out of their way.  If you violate this principle, this is when people will call you a micro-manager.  To put it even more bluntly, this is when you prove that you aren’t really a leader.  You’re more of a taskmaster with a lot of assistants.  Trust me, you don’t want to go down that road.  You can’t possibly be an expert on every area of a project.  So, if you insist on calling all the shots, you’re insisting on an inferior result.

Trust

In a leadership move that must have driven his accounting department crazy, Josiah tells the workers not to worry about saving their receipts.  He trusts them to buy the right materials, in the right quantity to get the job done.  He trusts they aren’t going to take some home for their back patio.  He trusts that they aren’t going to be lining Uncle Al’s pockets with some kickbacks.  He gives them cash and tells them to get it done.

Granted, most of us aren’t going to go that far (and good stewardship requires some financial integrity) but don’t miss out on the significance of what Josiah is doing.  He’s looking for concrete ways to tell his guys that he trusts them.  Most leaders pay lip service to the idea of trusting their people.  Josiah knew he needed to find specific ways to communicate that trust.  In his case, that meant no receipts.  In ours it might mean allowing people to make decisions, be flexible in their work schedules, feel valued even when they make a mistake or not have us hovering over their shoulders every minute of the day.

Josiah shows us what it looks like for a leader to lean in at the right time and lean out at the right time.  He does it all to bring about a goal far beyond what he could do on his own.  That’s God’s call for all of us who are leaders.  Let’s follow Josiah’s example and be real delegators.

Digital Detox

digital detox

We can get so used to experiencing life through the screen of our phone that we forget how much better the real thing is.

To combat this, I did a little digital detox last week.  No email, phone or social media for five days (with one minor exception…just to keep it honest!).  I knew it would be good for my soul.  I didn’t know a few of the other things I would learn.  Here’s the most significant:

  • After sitting out five days, it took me less than an hour to get caught up on my email, texts and social media accounts.  It was amazing how many problems had resolved themselves or no longer mattered.  I say all of this because I usually spend an hour a day on email.  Imagine getting 4-5 hours of productivity back every week simply by checking email less!
  • I found myself thinking about and praying for real people in my life more than normal.  All of the attention that normally goes to people I don’t even know on my Facebook newsfeed automatically swung to people I do know and really care about.  Cutting off my digital connections enhanced my personal connections.
  • I was able to enjoy the moment.  Technology is wonderful when we use it well.  When we use it poorly, it leaves us playing with our kids, thinking about an email, wondering if a tweet was directed at us, and debating if the whole scene is cute enough for Instagram.  Everyone looses, especially the kids.

So, I’m not swearing off technology.  But I am resolved to use it better…and it might not be all that long before my next digital detox!  Maybe you should schedule one as well.  If five days seems unbearable, could you do five hours one weekend?  If the answer is no, you really need to detox!

War Against Distractions

distractions

It seems like the faster our world moves, the harder it is to get anything done.  Maybe I’m just particularly susceptible.  After all, a co-worker once told me I had the attention span of a fruit fly.  But I don’t think I’m the only one.  Our world is increasingly littered with distractions.  There’s always something trying to pull us away from the truly important.

I’ve realized the only way to accomplish my goals and be faithful to what God is calling me to do is to wage war on distractions.  I need to consciously, systematically and brutally battle against them.

Here’s just a sample of the distractions I’m warring against these days:

  • Email.  I only check it at three designated times per day.
  • Facebook and Twitter.  Two designated times per day for these.
  • Mindlessly surfing the internet. I use Google Chrome as my browser and Stay Focused to limit my amount of time online.

Here’s some distractions I’m trying to avoid all together:

  • Unresolved conflict.  It’s hard to be productive with a low-grade conflict grinding away in your mind.  The Bible is on to something when it says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” (Eph. 4:26)
  • Gossip.  Why are you wasting your time with someone who has nothing better to do with theirs than gossip? (Prov. 20:19)
  • Comparison & Envy.  Shouldn’t we be so busy doing what God told us to do that we don’t have any space to worry about why and how He’s using someone else?  (John 21:22-23)

There are a number of practical strategies to fight each of these distractions.  Most of them involve removing temptations from your situation or removing yourself from a tempting situation.

But what really works is focusing your heart on something greater than these petty little distractions.  You were made by God.  We’ve been given the privilege of knowing Him, relating to Him and being used by Him.  He’s given us work to do and fruit to bear.  Focus on that and all of the sudden distractions seem to matter less.

Your call.  You can spend all of today on your Facebook newsfeed envying people you hardly know who are on vacation or you can plunge yourself into everything God has for you today.  You just can’t do both.

Somewhere Between Work & Rest

Work when you work.  Rest when you rest.  And get rid of everything in between.

As simple as that sounds, I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful in my life as a leader.  So many times I would make it to the end of a day, be absolutely exhausted and completely unsure of what I had accomplished.  Or worse, sometimes I would be completely sure I had accomplished absolutely nothing.

I wasn’t getting anything done because I was resting when I should have been working.  I would take personal phone calls.  I spent a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, reading blogs or surfing the web.  Personal conversations with co-workers that start with a quick hi but somehow turn into a 45 minute review of your entire weekend were another trap.  Or there were the times when I was just too tired to concentrate.  Any of that sound familiar to you?

I’m not saying all of those things need to go.  If you never have personal conversations with co-workers, people are going to assume you aren’t very nice!  But I am suggesting they should be limited.  You’re there to do a job – so, get after it.  Work.

If you do that, you’ll actually be able to rest at the end of the day.  And that’s the other place where I would get myself in trouble.  I wasn’t at the office, I was technically done for the day but I still wasn’t really resting.  I was chronically checking email on my phone.  I was taking calls from the office or texting people from the office with random things I forgot to mention during the day.  I was mentally outlining sermons.  I was thinking through meetings I had coming up even though I was allegedly watching a movie with Laura.  It was a mess – I was doing all of the work I should have been doing during the day at night when I should have been resting.

Ever feel like work and rest are blending together into one giant, chaotic swirl in your life?  Then maybe it’s time to get really focused on working when we work and resting when we rest.  You’ll be amazed the difference it makes.

Running For Time Or For Distance?

There are two different ways to workout on a treadmill.  You can either run for time or run for distance.  In the first case, the goal is to simply keep moving for an allotted time.  It doesn’t matter how fast you go or how far you go – just keep moving until the little countdown clock gets to zero.  In the second case, the goal is to move a set distance.  When you cover the distance, you’re done.  Doesn’t matter if it took you 20 minutes or 2 hours – it wasn’t about filling time, it was about covering distance.

The last thing I’m trying to be is your personal trainer.  But I do want to ask this question: which approach do you take to your work day?

Are you just running for time?  You’ve got to be there from 9-5 so you’re going to be there from 9-5 no matter what.  You’ll put in the time but the results are secondary.  Who cares how much you got done or how much value you added…let the boss worry about that!  Or are you running for distance?  Are you trying to accomplish certain things every day?  Do you give yourself the freedom to leave early if you get everything done you wanted to accomplish?

Are you results oriented or just doing time?

Emailing Your Way To Ineffectiveness

Sometimes you just need to shut your email off and get things done.

Don’t get me wrong – email is a wonderful tool.  I use it almost every day and can’t imagine life without it.  But it’s also a major productivity and creativity killer.  It’s almost impossible to focus on bigger projects if you are constantly distracted by the message that just hit your inbox.  Sometimes the distraction comes from the way we’ve set up our computers – a chime or flashing message every time we get an email.  But a lot of the time my distractions come from my own obsession with checking my inbox.  Ever find yourself working on a project and all of the sudden checking your email like it’s some kind of subconscious decision?  I know I have!

Here’s my suggestion: turn it off.

Your computer actually works without Outlook or Mac Mail open all the time!  The world will be fine if you aren’t on email for a few hours.  Sure, one hyperactive co-worker will probably have a melt down if they don’t get a reply instantly but, let’s be honest, that person’s going to have a daily meltdown no matter what you do!  So, just turn the email program off and watch your productivity increase.

For extra credit, you can turn your work email off on your smartphone when you get home for the evening.  If you think the lack of distraction will make you more productive and creative at work, imagine what it will do for your relationships at home.

Breaking free of email might just be the greatest leadership decision you can make today.