Don’t Sprint the Marathon – Part 2

I hear the text notification go off, roll over and grab my phone. It’s 4:55 a.m– who could be texting me? Of course, it’s my friend Brad, just saying hi on his way to work. No, he doesn’t work some crazy graveyard shift. He’s in sales and works in an organization that embraces an “early bird gets the worm” mindset. In fact, it’s not uncommon for him to work from 5:00 a.m. to 5 p.m., then take a short break and work an evening shift– a 16+ hour day! These crazy hours are applauded at his work, with upper management giving him “atta-boys” when they see him there before the sun or late into the night. While Brad tells me that these insane hours are just for a short season while he’s building his client base, there are many organizations where this kind of “more is more” work culture is the norm.


I’ve known churches and ministries that believe that every staff member should contribute 5-10 additional “volunteer” hours each week on top of their usual 40-50 hours of “work.” I’ve also been part of faith-based ministries where we were told to “do more with less,” trusting God to multiply results in the face of deep staff and budget cuts.


I get that ministry positions are often more than 40 hours. Hard work, going the extra mile, and trusting God to do the miraculous are all worthy tasks. But spiritualizing unhealthy expectations, pace and workload in an organization is wrong. Ultimately, it is up to each of us to control our own lives and work/life balance. Last week in “Part 1,” I gave you healthy practices to consider:

  • Maintain your self-respect
  • Stay organized
  • Say “no”


This week, I’m going to give you 3 more tips for work/life self-management that can increase your personal empowerment, joy and overall productivity:


1. Honor your time

One of the best rewards for hard work is finishing. Mel Robbins, motivational coach and author of the best-selling book, “The 5-Second Rule,” shares the importance of having a set quitting time. Mel writes, “Each day, in the mornings, I plan my quitting time — and I stick to it. When my quitting time rolls around, my work goes away, and I’m fully present with my family. This also forces me to work even more efficiently, because work often expands to fit the deadline that you give it.”

If you are in the habit of pushing past 5pm each day or leaving work, only to put in another 3 or 4 hours after the kids go to bed, you may be guilty of “expanding work syndrome.” But here’s the good news! Time off actually increases productivity. In a recent study quoted in the Harvard Business Review, when one company forced employees to use their vacation time, creativity went up 33%, happiness levels rose 25%, and productivity increased 13%.


2. Make the trade off

On the short list of things my kids would tell you “mom always said,” is the phrase “life is full of little trade-offs.” As powerful as saying “no” to something is the willingness to make a compromise. This is especially hard for perfectionists, because a trade-off is generally something you have to deal with yourself. For example, people probably wouldn’t complain about a 2-point sermon, a canceled meeting, or simplified music arrangement – even though they may make you squirm. Yet, these little trade-offs are certainly worth your sanity and the smile on your kid’s face when you make his game. Keep the big picture in mind, guard against perfectionism, and be your own gatekeeper.


3. Flex Capacity

One of the principles I apply in life and business is to staff to about 85% of the total need, and build in what I call “flex capacity.” Flex capacity may include skilled volunteers, interns or contractors who can be pulled in during crunch times. It can also include budget for overtime or outsourcing. Look at your overall needs and see if building in a little flex capacity could help the overall pace of your organization and support your team.


As I mentioned in the last article, short periods of “sprinting” can be exciting, challenging, and even build the camaraderie of your team. We look back on those periods when we survived a crunch and high-five each other. But if you’re seeing the sunrise and sunset from your office daily, perhaps it’s time for some self-evaluation. Life, work and ministry are a marathon. Maintaining a healthy pace is the key to remarkable work, teams and results!


Which of these factors could positively impact your life and work? Do you have other ideas that have helped you? Please share them!

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