Never have I heard a leader say, “I’m enjoying my personal life so much, it’s hard to find time for my work.” In fact, I’m sure I’ve never said it either. As leaders we feel passionately obligated to work or serve in our calling, and we hope our families and friends will understand, accept, even share our enthusiasm for it. Whether we overwork out of a sense of obligation or fulfillment doesn’t matter to those who miss us. They both create a void when we are absent, and frankly, they can both cause us regret and guilt when we are absent from those whom we most cherish.
As leaders, most of us struggle to keep our heads above water during busy seasons…and honestly, sometimes we even allow those seasons to become lifestyles. It is easier to get out of balance when we love our work or ministry, than it is to leave the work undone. If you recognize any of these symptoms, you may be out of balance:
- You feel overwhelmed at the sight or thought of your task list.
- Your passion has been replaced with guilt or regret.
- Your child often says s/he misses you.
- Your spouse tells you that they feel they ‘never’ see you anymore.
- You feel like ‘things will fall apart’ or ‘fall through the cracks’ if you are not personally handling them.
- You feel resentment towards your church for imposing on your family time or your family for not understanding your ministry responsibilities.
- You feel disconnected from your family or friends.
With so many people and projects vying for your attention, there is really no way to balance it all. And really, you shouldn’t feel pressured to give each equal time or attention. Instead, disregard the lie that the world has told us about finding balance. Strive for harmony, not balance. When you focus on harmony, you begin to see how things can work together to bring fulfillment for you and those you serve.
The answer to finding harmony is simple: Establish boundaries – for yourself and for others. Knowing the answer is easy; implementing the answer is challenging. You must set limits for yourself, which may mean limiting your work time to no more than 50 hours a week, or maybe enjoying at least one meal with your family daily. You must decide where you need balance and what it looks like in your life. When you begin to set limits and boundaries, you will most likely have to shift your schedule and responsibilities to accommodate the change. These five strategies can help you begin freeing yourself to bring harmony into your life and work.
Be a resource, not a source.
Most servant-leaders know how to say ‘no’; they just don’t like to say it. But you cannot be the answer to every question nor the solution to every problem. Being the ‘go-to’ person or having all the answers positions you as a source…that also places a demand on your time and attention. Becoming a resource allows you to reframe your ‘no’ into a referral to someone else. When you are asked to help someone with a task or project, you have a great opportunity to build the experience of volunteer or leverage the influence of a colleague. The bonus result is that you have more time in your day and feel less burdened by the expectation of others.
Delegate and delete.
If a stovetop has four burners, you can only cook four items at a time. If you try to add the oven, microwave, slow-cooker, indoor grill, and electric skillet, all at the same time, you are liable to blow a fuse. Know how many burners you have and don’t try to cook more that your burners or fuses allow. Determine what you must do yourself and pace yourself with a plan. Decide what you can delegate to others and deploy them to do it, even if they can only do it 80% as well as you could. Don’t be afraid to simply delete tasks and processes that really have no eternal purpose or temporal value.
Discern your ebb and flow.
We all function and flow in a certain rhythm. In both your personal time and in your workday, finding your rhythm will bring ease to you. If your energy peaks in the afternoon, reserve that time for things that need your undivided attention and block it from interruptions. Protect that time by muting your email alerts, silencing your phone, and closing your door. Let’s face it, unless you work in medical emergency fields, others can probably survive without you for an hour or two during your workday. Your productivity will increase exponentially when you laser-focus on your work. Getting more done in less time is pivotal to finding fulfillment and feeling balanced.
Rest and replenish.
Sometimes you just need to let go. You have to release unimportant projects, unfinished chores, and unrealistic expectations that you’ve had on yourself. But real release means that you rest from that which you let go. Rest involves mind, body and soul. If you take your work home with you, it doesn’t count. If you check your smart phone or text incessantly, it won’t work. You have to stop. Just stop. Enjoy solitude. Engage with the people you love. Rest. You also have to replenish with the basics: hydration, nutrition, meditation. A lifestyle of wellness is not a sprint, it’s a marathon – so make it a daily habit to care for yourself.
Plug-in to recharge.
Imagine your spiritual and emotional well being as a cell phone. You expend energy all day, and it depletes you. You have to plug-in to a source to recharge. But here’s the caveat – if you continue to expend energy during the recharging cycle, you will not retain the charge. When you connect to your spiritual source, it is for the purpose of regenerating your faith and fortitude. Don’t push God out of your day. “Roll your works upon the Lord commit and trust them wholly to him; he will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to his will, and so shall your plans be established and succeed. (Proverbs 16:3 amp) In other words, you can trust Him with your day. Don’t allow anyone or anything to distract you from connecting to God everyday – your faith is your non-negotiable, must-do, can’t compromise priority on which all other relationships and responsibilities will suffer or succeed.