Every leader wants to be highly productive and fruitful. It is in our DNA. We want to know we used our time and energy for the maximum results. Yet most of us do not end our day or our week feeling we achieved those goals. That is probably why you are reading this article.
Have you ever wondered how some leaders are so accomplished? There are folks who lead churches or ministries, disciple young leaders, write books, speak at conferences, and on the list goes. Then you consider your own situation and you struggle to find time each week to prepare a sermon for the weekend.
The million dollar question is: How do high impact leaders get so much done?
Are they better than us? No. Have they discovered a secret sauce for accomplishing lots of work? There is no secret sauce. Their strategy is simple. But it is rare.
Most leaders – I count myself among the number – are slaves to the urgent. We jump from problem to problem trying to find solutions. So we are busy. But if we are honest, we often let others dictate what is important for us. That must change if we want to be extremely productive and fruitful.
Every leader can maximize their time, influence, and gifts to be highly productive and fruitful. Here are four ways:
1. Identify your high impact priorities.
Every leader must learn to prioritize. Everyone has the same time. Nobody gets extra time. What matters for a leader is to recognize the 3 – 5 most important things they can do to help the organization they lead and serve.
Those 3 – 5 things are not identical for every leader across different organizations. I pastor a church with over 1,000+ people in it. My priorities look different today than what they did when we were 200 people. They are not better or worse priorities; they are different. It is crucial to choose the right ones.
Ask yourself this question: what focuses would help my organization succeed that aligns with my position, gifts, and passions?
Do not list 8 – 12 things. You cannot do everything well. Find the work that demands your attention. Identify what things push the organization forward. Focus on those.
The most important leadership tasks I can do each week for my church are:
ii. Cast vision/direction for the church and keep us aligned with where we are going
iii. Solve problems and foresee barriers that may lie ahead for us
iv. Meet with essential leaders (elders, key staff)
v. Donor Development
2. Build your schedule to reflect priorities.
Once you have identified your top priorities make your schedule reflect it. Build your work week to accomplish your priorities. When I consider my top priorities I have to know when and how I am planning to achieve them.
Casting vision and direction is one thing on my list. Does that mean I am preaching a vision sermon once per year? No. I built in time on my schedule (Tuesday afternoons) where I consider where we are as a church and think about the next three to four chess moves on the board. What are the next hires? What is missing? How is our culture? Are there ministries we lack? Does something need to die? These are a sampling of questions. It is crucial for me to reflect on the church’s direction and consider the barriers that await on the path ahead.
Why is that on my priority list? Because if I am not doing it, who am I expecting to do it? Who will answer those questions? Who else is asking those questions if not me? This is why I build it into my workweek. It is one of the most important things I do in my leadership.
3. Execute relentlessly.
Once you have built your weekly rhythms to reflect your priorities, it is time to execute. Writing it down is good, but it is what you do that breeds change. Dreams and plans are great, but execution gets things done.
Peter Drucker said, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”
We must show the courage to funnel our time, influence, and gifts towards those things that matter most.
4. Minimize distractions.
In a perfect world, you could focus only on your top priorities. But that is not the real world. Leaders don’t have that option. There will be many things that fall on to your plate that fall outside the 3 – 5 priorities you identified. You will also land opportunities you desire to do that will be outside those priorities.
So what do you do?
i. make sure you execute your priorities first (hence, PRIORITIES)
ii. add desirable opportunities to your schedule as you are able (i.e. speaking invitations, writing projects or requests, coaching and mentoring possibilities, etc.)
iii. filter less desirous tasks according to urgency (how critical is this?) and relevance (do YOU need to do this or could someone else?)
Every leader can stay productive and be fruitful. Use your energy to do the right tasks. If you will follow the steps outlined above, you will finish your work day and work week with a greater sense of accomplishment because you maximized your time, influence, and gifts. That is what high impact leaders do.