I promise I'm not trying to get a Taylor Swift song stuck in your head by titling this article: Blank Space. However, when talking about time management, including some blank spaces on your calendar can be beneficial. While I have written a past article about scheduling my to-do list, I also leave about three blank spaces a day (three hours total) on my calendar for three reasons.
1. Conversation - Yes, I am an introvert and I am refreshed after time alone, but I also understand the importance of conversation. So I leave blank spaces on my calendar to allow for conversation. Whether it is conversing with members of my team, or calling a key volunteer or a co-worker dropping into my office, I have some blank spaces on my calendar for moments of conversation.
2. Get Ahead - As I finish one task I look ahead to the next item on the calendar. When I approach a blank space on my calendar, I often look ahead and try to finish one item from the next day's agenda. This will free up space on the next day for items on my 'important/non-urgent' list (like personal development, prayer, lesson planning, etc.).
3. Interruptions - Finally, every leader will have interruptions. For my calendar, having blank spaces scheduled each day allow for interruptions. Whether it's a work emergency, helping a co-worker or a surprise visit from a key volunteer, I am not worried about being off schedule as I know I can adjust my blank spaces and arrange accordingly.
When I first began my current time management system, I had every minute of the day blocked off and something was scheduled during those blocks of time. However, I noticed I was not intentional with conversation and when an interruption happened, I was stressed. However, now that I am allowing up to three hours worth of 'blank space', I am allowing some flexibility into the daily calendar.
How do you arrange your daily calendar? Do you have any flexibility in your schedule?
The more leadership books and articles I read, I become more aware of self-awareness. True, I am learning more about myself as I read, but I am also learning more about this concept of 'self-awareness'.
Apparently, leadership guru's like to talk about self-awareness. John Maxwell states, "If you want to change and grow, then you must know yourself and accept who you are before you can start building." -- John Maxwell. However, one Bible verse alone let's me know about who I am - "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it." Jeremiah 17:9. How then can we lead a people if we are deceitful, sick and full of sin?
Proverbs 1:7 is a great place to begin. To lead well, I argue that instead of leading from a foundation of self-awareness, leaders should begin by becoming a "Proverbs 1:7 Leader". Let's explore it together:
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction."
First, a Proverbs 1:7 Leader will lead from an understanding of who God is. The Majestic King of the Universe created all things for His glory, yet mankind sinned (Genesis 1-3). Because of mankind's sin, death entered into the world. Now, we have all sinned and deserve eternal punishment and eternal death. But God's plan was to send His perfect Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sin. Jesus was our substitute when He died. So now, when we place our faith in the work of Jesus, we can be saved from eternal death and punishment.
Once a Proverbs 1:7 Leader recognizes his or her own need for a Savior, he or she will 'fear' the Lord. Fear in this passage means to be in awe or reverence. The more a Proverbs 1:7 Leader knows and understands about God, the more he/she will grow as a leader.
Secondly, fools despise this type of knowledge. If someone is not in awe of God, then who would they be in awe of? Self, money, fame, and possessions. We have already noted above that the human heart is sick and and deceitful. So when someone is not in awe of God, they are in awe of their own sick heart and they place their trust in the deceitfulness of their own heart.
Since we are deceitful and sick, the Proverbs 1:7 Leader must follow someone before they can lead others. So in order to be a Proverbs 1:7 Leader, you must:
1. Be in awe of God.
2. Revere God.
3. Recognize your own sinfulness (self-awareness)
4. Rely on God's wisdom and strength as a leader.
Are you a Proverbs 1:7 Leader? What is the foundation of your leadership?
In May of 2016, I suffered a concussion from a simple bump on the head. Since that time, I have been dealing with Post Concussion Syndrome. Psychological issues, emotional changes, headaches, memory loss, an absence of visual memory, and more has caused some changes in my life that I had to learn to deal with over the past year. With all that my family and I have dealt with regarding PCS, one positive outcome has been my desire to read books.
Over the course of my life, I have never had a desire to read books. It's true, because of my undergraduate and graduate school work, I had to read numerous books during my days in school. However, aside from my assigned reading I have read ZERO books...until 2017. As I ponder this new routine and the 20+ Leadership Books I've read this year, a few things come mind about reading.
Focus - I've found that reading a book enables me to focus on one idea at a time, rather than jumping from one idea to the next. Multitasking and jumping from one idea to the next takes more brainpower than we truly realize. So focusing on one idea/concept has been a big part of the healing process for my instance of Post Concussion Syndrome. I also do not move on to another book until I finish the one I'm in the middle of reading. Not only does it keep me focused on one concept, but it also motivates me to finish and move on to the next book.
Memory - I understand many other people who suffer from PCS may have different experiences than what I faced, but my experience has greatly affected my memory. Granted I didn't have the world's best memory before my accident, but my short term memory and especially my visual memories have suffered since May 2016. While I don't remember much of what I read this year, I have learned to take notes and use postcards to capture thoughts I have about a page or chapter I finished. And I even use my phone at times to take a picture of a quote or certain page I wanted to remember. I now have a folder in the photo section of my phone for all of the John Maxwell pages I've enjoyed reading this year.
Rest - I am aware that for some people, reading a book and trying to focus while reading can be stressful on the brain. However, after my concussion, I find reading a book to be restful and relaxing for my brain. I have found that reading a chapter from a book before I go home at the end of the work day can be beneficial in helping the brain rest after a long day in the office. If you do find reading a book more stressful than relaxing, try reading until you find a book/genre you enjoy. Start with a small book as well. You can also download a book and listen to it while driving or running.
These are a few of the benefits I have found from reading this year. There are many other benefits I have found along the way in my new routine. But these have been more beneficial considering the change my body has gone through since May of 2016. What benefits do you receive from reading?
As a minister in a local church, I am often planning and implementing programs and events. Once one event or program is over, I need to at least be two to three programs ahead in my planning so that I can begin promoting for the next event coming up.
A couple of weeks ago, I put together a Program/Event Planning Guide for someone within the ministry I oversee. I've attached the document below. The outline of the guide is a 5 step check-list that anyone can use and begin planning for an event.
Step 1 - Prayer
Step 2 - Pre-planning
Step 3 - Planning (and a sample promotion plan)
Step 4 - Implementing
Step 5 - Evaluation
You are free to download the document below. May God bless you as you pray, plan and implement your event.
As 2017 comes to a close, many leaders are thinking of ways to 'finish strong'. One way I personally want to finish strong is by thanking those who serve alongside me in ministry. I certainly have a lot of improvement regarding appreciating the volunteers who serve faithfully each week, but here are three ways I seek to appreciate those who volunteer throughout the year.
Write a Handwritten Note
For many people, receiving a handwritten note is very meaningful. I usually keep the note 3-4 sentences in length, thanking the volunteer for something specific I've seen them do. I then ask my Administrative Assistant to place it in the mail to be delivered to their home address. I typically spend Monday mornings writing my thank you notes for the week. Handwritten notes take a little more time than sending an email or a text, but it is worth taking the extra time and effort.
Saying thank you in person
Each week, I try to find two-three additional volunteers that I can shake their hand, look them in the eye and say 'Thank you'. I don't mention anything specific or elaborate (unless I'm asked). I want them to know that I recognize them and that I'm not too busy to stop and appreciate the work they are doing. Since I am very task driven and not people focused, I have to be intentional about this each week.
Send an email or text message
Finally, toward the end of the week, I will send a few thank you emails to two-three different volunteers in my ministry area. I typically add this to my Google calendar to do every Thursday in the afternoon. Often when I send a message, the recipient will respond saying how much they appreciate the message. Sometimes a volunteer will respond with appreciation and a question they were meaning to ask. This opens up some communication between myself and the volunteer and lets them know I am available.
These are three simple ways that I show appreciation to those who volunteer in my ministry area. What are some ways you show appreciation to your volunteers?
I'm a big fan of Flipboard. Flipboard is a website that allows users to organize articles/stories from the internet into magazines so that all of my interests are found in one place. So I've created a leadership magazine and when I read an interesting leadership article, I flip the article to my magazine. Here are a few articles I've read and 'flipped' over the past few weeks:
You're Only Leading 75 Percent of the Time - This article talks about getting out of the office and interacting with the team you're leading.
6 Mistakes Leaders Make In Their First 90 Days - I enjoy Eric's insight on leadership and here's an article that talks about mistakes new leaders can avoid in their first 90 days.
10 Daily Habits of the Most Productive Leaders - I can always learn from others and in this article, we get a look into some of the habits of productive leaders.
How to Get Organized At Work - I read the book The One Thing this year and now realize the value of focusing on one task at a time rather than multitasking. This article is more about organization than leadership, but still has some useful tips that we can all use.
My Prepared Notes for The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast - Carey recently interviewed Dave Ferguson and his upcoming book Hero Maker: Five Essential Practices for Leaders to Multiply Leaders. Dave posted his prepared notes for the show and gives readers insight into how to prep for an interview and insight into his method of preparing leaders.
What are some leadership articles or books you've recently read?
The American holiday "Thanksgiving" 2017 is over. The retail stores are currently focused on driving sales and ending the year on a positive note. Churches will now focus teaching efforts on the Christmas season and the birth of Christ. And don't forget year end giving, too. Speaking of the end of the year, leadership growth experts will now begin driving home the discipline of reflection on the year 2017 and brainstorming ways to make 2018 even better.
While the above topics aren't necessarily bad, the idea of giving thanks can swiftly be forgotten. Moses began Psalm 92:1 by saying, "It is good to give thanks to the LORD." For the Christian, giving thanks is not limited to a few days in November. Giving God thanks can happen every day. Here are a few ways from Psalm 92 that we can give God thanks.
Singing - Moses continued in Psalm 92:1, "And to sing praises to Your Name, O Most High." I am not against Christmas music, so please don't misunderstand. But it is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to His Name. Think through the lyrics you are singing. Who are you praising as you sing? Is the song about you or about God?
A favorite song of thanks is titled 'Praise to the Lord the Almighty by Joachim Neander. Here are a few of the lines from the song:
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear,
now to His temple draw near;
praise Him in glad adoration.
Declaration - Moses tells us in Psalm 92:2, "To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night." Again, for Moses, giving thanks to God was not limited to once a year. Every morning and night, Moses was declaring the goodness of the Lord.
One way you can declare the goodness of God in 2017 (and beyond) is through social media. Continue to give thanks beyond November for the works of God. A sermon on social media isn't necessary every morning and night, but declaring the blessings of God to those who scroll through the pages of social media can be a blessing to others as well.
Reflection - Moses writes in Psalm 92:5, "How great are Your works, O LORD!" Personal growth experts will tell you to take time to reflect on the past year, on your successes and mistakes. Successful people take time to reflect every morning. For the Christian, taking time to reflect not on personal successes but on the works of God will most certainly lead to thanksgiving.
Ask yourself these questions:
In what ways has God protected you in 2017?
How have you grown in your spiritual journey this year?
How has God comforted you in 2017?
How has the Spirit convicted you of sin this year?
These are a few questions you can ask as you reflect on God's mighty work in your life in 2017. Even if you don't feel like God has worked in your life in 2017, Paul reminds us in Philippians 1:6, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."
Circumstances in our life change, people change, but God never changes. So no matter what has come into your life in 2017, because of the faithfulness and lovingkindness of our God, it is good to give Him thanks.
Share below what you are thankful for.
I was raised in local churches that practiced quarterly 'washing of the saints feet' services. At these services, the men would sit in rows facing each other while the women would do the same, each away from each other out of respect. The deacons of the church would supply towels and a pan of water. One individual would "gird" himself with a towel, bend down and begin washing the feet of the person sitting in front of him. Once finished, the person would conclude by drying their feet. The pan was then passed down to the next two members. This service was seeking to model the passage found in John 13:1-20 where Jesus washed the feet of His disciples.
I'm not seeking to debate whether John 13:1-20 is speaking of literally washing the feet of another or was simply an illustration given by Jesus. However, one aspect of John 13:1-20 that is difficult to deny is the issue of 'Servant-Leadership' found in this passage. What can we learn from this passage:
1. Jesus knew the end was near. John writes in John 13:1, "Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world..." Jesus knew in the coming days He would die on the cross, come back to life again and then return to the Father. He knew His time with His disciples was coming to a close, so He wanted to give them an example.
Jesus knew He was going to die on the cross, come back to life again, then return back to God. Yet, He gave the disciples a lasting example: Serve One Another. Christ came to earth to serve others for the glory of God. As leaders, you can follow His example by leaving a legacy of serving others for the glory of God.
2. Jesus had all power given to Him, yet He continued to serve others. John tells us in 13:3, "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands..." At this time in history, this act performed by Jesus was usually given to the lowest of servants. Yet the One who was in the beginning and through Him all things were made, served those He was leading.
As leaders, there must not be a task you are not willing to do if you want to lead others. Even in the midst of your busy schedule this week, think of one way you can serve those you are leading. As you serve, remember Peter's instruction in First Peter 4:11, "Whoever serves is to do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ."
Servant-Leadership is understanding that Christ served by 'humbling Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).' Even though leaders face difficult decisions, demanding schedules and burdensome days, they do so knowing Christ is their Strength and that if 'He, the Lord and the Teacher, washed feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet (John 13:14).'
So what are some ways you can serve those you lead?
First Peter 5:2 reads, "shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness..."
Over the past few months, I've been studying the letters by Peter. Here's a wonderful passage that I would like to take the next few weeks and walk through the passage and explore each word and/or phrase.
Here's the outline that will be used as we explore:
2. Dig Deeper
Where are we heading?
As any growing leader is aware, having a vision (where you believe God is leading the ministry) for your ministry is essential to the growth of the ministry. But simply having a vision isn't going to spark growth. The vision must be communicated to those you are leading.
However, once you have communicated the vision to those you lead, the task isn't completed. You must then begin to develop a plan to recast the vision in order to keep the vision in front of those you are leading.
Below, are three ways a leader can recast the vision:
With over 3 billion email users worldwide, email is still an important form of communication in 2017. Take time at least once a month to communicate the vision and the direction you believe God is leading the ministry. Mailchimp is an email service you can utilize to send your monthly vision recast.
Social Media Usage
Images are dominating social media in 2017. One way to take advantage of the use of images in recasting your vision is with the app 'Over'. With Over, you can place text over an image and then post it to social media. Make sure you don't over communicate on the image. Simply place a few words on the image, then be more descriptive once you post the image to social media.
Promotional materials to physically distribute and to have available on location is another method to use in communicating the vision. Brochures, magnets, bookmarks, banners and posters are all tools that can communicate the vision and have it before them each week. While there are other companies available, Vistaprint is an online company that can be inexpensive on most products.
What are the different methods you have used to recast the vision?