I don’t know about you, but over the years I have really struggled at being consistent with having times of quiet thought, reflection, reading, learning, listening or just BEING. The sad thing is that it doesn’t matter if it is in prayer, meditation over scripture or life, or reading about bettering and improving myself as a person or as a leader… It has always been a struggle… IF I AM NOT INTENTIONAL.
I am not a natural reader or journal-er. Those things don’t come easy to me. I was never an “Academic” person, and I’m pretty sure that I have some form of ADD/ADHD that has not been diagnosed. (And I don’t say that lightly or as a self-deprecating joke… I have a child who has ADHD… and I relate to him on an hourly basis… so I am pretty sure it is a real thing.) I am also NOT a morning person, so even finding minutes in my day that are focused, quiet and distraction free are almost never there. So all of this is naturally fighting against any kind of “easy” rhythm in my day to spend some time leading myself. But just because it isn’t “natural” doesn’t mean it isn’t NECESSARY.
LEADERS ARE LEARNERS.
It is that plain and that simple. Leaders have to be learners because the more you learn.. the easier it is to lead those around you to that new learning. If I am not learning… I am not leading. It’s more like coasting. If I am going to be a learner, and if the best moments of learning are done in those quiet moments, and if those moments are not NATURAL to me… I need to learn how to INTENTIONALLY figure out how to make it a valuable part of the rhythm of my day.
So how did I do this? Well…
1) I Recognized that WHERE I spent that time was VERY IMPORTANT.
I can’t do this in my office at Hopevale. It just won’t happen there. My office reeks of meetings and activity and sermon prep and strategic moments and thinking about work. There are too many screens to look at and too many people that pull at my attention. So I have to be somewhere else. I decided that the best place for me to spend that time is in my recliner in the corner of my living room. It is a relaxing place that faces the window and doesn’t have too many distractions around it. It has become a significant place for me.
2) I Recognized that WHEN I spent that time was VERY IMPORTANT.
Like I already said, my day is pretty chaotic and filled with one thing after another. So I made a very difficult decision… I turned myself into a morning person. I have to wake up my kids at 6:30am to get them to school on time anyway… so I decided to make an extra sacrifice and wake up at 5:30am to spend an hour before the day really gets going on self leadership. This was BRUTAL at first… because 1) I hate mornings, 2) I value my sleeping in, & 3) I go to bed at an insanely late time most nights. The more I forced myself to do it, however, the easier it has become. I made a best friend also… Me and COFFEE are TIGHT now.
3) I Recognized that WHAT I spent that time DOING was VERY IMPORTANT.
Can I just be candid for a second… the right content to read and meditate on is difficult to figure out. I have started so many “Bible reading plans” over the course of my life that end up getting 1/4 of the way done and then forgotten. I think it is because (and here is why I said “candid” earlier) most of these plans were not written for “normal” people… they were written for people with an amazing attention span. (anyone want to raise their hand? Not me!) But for spiritual content lately… the Bible App on my smartphone has been GOLD. If you don’t have it yet… download it ASAP! There are so many valuable PLANS on there to keep you devotionally connected. And the best part? It walks you through setting up reminders on your phone so that you can’t “FORGET” about it. You have to purposefully ignore it to not do it. This has been AWESOME for my spiritual growth and accountability.
I also decided on a formula for how I would go about learning on the leadership side of my life as well. I picked 4 books for personal spiritual growth, 4 books for personal leadership growth, and 4 books for ministry growth back in January. My goal is to read them all on a rotation by category throughout this year. I am not being militant with it, however, because I realize that some books will take longer to digest than others. So if I get through all 12… GREAT! If I make it through 3 or 4… GREAT! I am still taking the time to learn in an undistracted way.
I also decided to spend the last 10-20 minutes or so journaling and praying. (I wrote that line like it was a throw away… but it is not!)
So that was what I did and why I did it. And I have to tell you, I have grown a lot in the past 5 months and have been MORE CONSISTENT with this in my life than I EVER have been. Intentionality is an amazing thing.
So what would I tell someone who asked me, “Sam, how can I be intentional about creating a self leadership rhythm in my day?” I would tell them this:
1) Get a PLACE
2) Get a TIME
3) Get a PLAN
…and STICK TO IT. If you don’t intentionally create GOOD HABITS as a rhythm of your day… you’ll fall into BAD HABITS… and those are really hard to break (from experience).
I think what did it for me was to imagine what I wanted my preferred future to look like when it comes to this area of my life… and then work my way backward from that vision to reality and ask “What is it going to take to get there?”
So, “Where do you want your life to go in this area… and what will it take for you to get there?”