Recently, I received a kind email inquiring how I maintain my personal schedule, many life commitments, and most faithfully steward all the Lord has entrusted to me. There’s a sense in which I hate answering questions like this because too often it smacks of “Success and how I’ve achieved it.” Yet, I banged out a brief reply to this inquiring pastor, hoping to help him. Here are five principles I shared with him. Perhaps you’ll find them helpful as you navigate the new year.
1. Stewardship. I view my life, family, and calling all through the lens of stewardship. I do not own these things; I am a mere custodian. I will give an account one day for how I stewarded every aspect of my life, and all the Lord has entrusted to me. How I allocate my time, who I intentionally invest in, when and where I devote my energy, how faithfully I minister the gospel and the Word of God, and so much more, all matter. I am just a steward, but I am the steward of these things. I will give an account for how wisely I exercised my stewardship.
2. Intentionality. I intentionally plan, schedule, and track, every meaningful aspect of my life and ministry. For example, I schedule an hour of devotional time early every morning. After that, I schedule an hour of exercise. When at all possible, I keep my mornings for study, sermon preparation, and writing. My afternoons are for meetings and office matters, and my evenings are for my family. Of course, every day has its own wrinkle, but living an intentional life is key.
3. Saying No. Learning to pronounce the word no was a breakthrough for me. Earlier in life, I had trouble saying no. Once I learned to say no, I felt liberated. I could not imagine my life at this stage without the ability to kindly, but firmly, decline opportunities and requests. This is especially important when it comes to calendaring. From a distance, most everything seems manageable. Yet, when in the day-to-day throes of life’s responsibilities, you often find yourself asking, “Why in the world did I agree to this?” A basic principle, which I learned from Greg McKeown in his book Essentialism, is if the answer isn’t “heck yeah,” the answer probably needs to be no.
4. Discipline. Having a routine and sticking to it, whenever possible, is key. I am mindful of how much time I give to social media, web surfing, and other rabbit trails that will distract and move me from the important to the intriguing. John Piper once quipped that Facebook will be used at the judgement seat as evidence that we had enough time for prayer, but we squandered it away. Don’t fritter away your life due to a lack of discipline.
5. Productivity. I enjoy being productive. It gives me a sense of fruitfulness, and of accomplishment. I even find it restful. I track my faithfulness in most every meaningful area of my life. This primarily takes place through goal setting, to-do lists, Evernote planning and review, and journaling. Whether it is one’s personal or professional life, one’s avocations or one’s vocation, the maxim is true: you occasionally get what you expect, you consistently get what you inspect.
As I told the gentleman that emailed me, I’m just a beggar telling another beggar where I’ve found a little bread. I hope he found my email to be helpful, as I hope you’ve found this brief article helpful. May the Lord use these five principles to help to make your 2017 maximally lived for him.