Thriving when life goes from 0 to 100 km/h for a season
September seems to be that season in ministry, in families, in workplaces and in schools when life very quickly ramps up.I feel it. Talk to Youth and Children’s Pastors - they feel it, as programs ramp back up, big events start coming at them fast and furious and everyone wants to meet with them again. Talk to Senior and Solo pastors - they feel it, as everyone is asking about plans for the year, the phone calls and emails increase tenfold, programs ramp up, Sundays come at them with amazing regularity and vacation now seems like a distant memory. Talk to Parents - they feel it, their kids activities start to fill in all the blank spaces in the calendar, they start feel like a taxi driver again and the kids always seem to need more food and more money. Talk to Students – they feel it, the syllabi overwhelm them and assignments, tests and exams start to fill their calendar. When is your 0 to 100 km/h season?
I’ve come to expect it now. I know every September it is going to get a little crazy, a little too full for a while. There are other seasons when this happens too. Seasons when things very quickly seem to go from 0 to 100 km/hr.
Here are the things I remind myself of in a 0 to 100 km/h season, so that I continue to lead well and my life and character continues to display Christ, even in the busy seasons.
1. Write down your top 1 to 3 priorities for the next 3 months – focus on those things. This helps me remember what God, my team and myself really are expecting me to accomplish in the next stretch. When I know my top 3 priorities it is much easier to decide what can wait, what I can say ‘no’ to and what really needs my attention each day. Seriously, write the 1 to 3 things down somewhere where you’ll see them. I’ve found for this short season 5 priorities is too many and can feel overwhelming. This is for a season, 3 priorities or even just 1 is enough.
2. One step at a time – The old saying is true, “how do you climb a mountain? One step at a time.” In a busy season it can seem impossible to get anything done. It can seem your email, phone, meetings or the urgent dictates your schedule/day. In busy seasons especially I remind myself “one step at a time”, “what’s one step?” Break down tasks or projects into steps. Ask, “What is one step I can take today to move the ball further down the field for my top priorities?” I’m famous for making charts and lists. I tell you, there is just something about seeing things broken down in a chart or list, where you can clearly see how things will be tackled and then can start checking things off step by step.
3. Lean into the things that restore your soul – in a busy season it can be tempting to skimp on doing the things that restore your soul, even things like spending time alone with God in His Word. I’ve learned (often the hard way) that during busy season I need to be even more protective of my soul care activities and fight to not let them go. Quite simply, I actually need them more in a busy season. I especially need to be protective of my alone time with God so I’m hearing from Him about priorities and receiving everything I need from Him to bring Him glory in this season. When I skimp on these things a 100 km/h season can easily go off track at high speed. That is a sad sight to see.
4. Rest – This one always seems counter intuitive to me. In a 100 km/h season my reaction always is to work harder, work longer, stay up later and get up earlier. I’m learning I get way further ahead if I quit at a reasonable time and get a good night’s sleep. When I sleep well I am better able to handle the stresses of the day and I’m simply a nicer person in the process. Yup, there are some stretches where sleep just gets shorter (long meetings, new parents etc.), but if I go into the season knowing it is temporary and I will seek to get good sleep when I can, I do much better.
5. Ask for help - Trust others, invite them in to help in this season. Ask yourself, “what can I give away in this season?” Entrust things to volunteer, give your kids more chores, tell the team & family what kind of season it is for you and how they can help, invite others to pitch in.
6. Tell God – Tell God how you are feeling in this season and what you need in this season. Ask God to guide your steps, your lists and your priorities. Ask God to give His perspective on this season. I have found it completely perspective changing when I have balcony time with God and I can walk away with a fresh view on what He’s doing in a season. Receive what God wants to give you to thrive in this season. For some leaders receiving is the hardest part.
7. Tell those closet to you, especially those you live around - Make a plan to get through this busy season and still like each other at the end. Plan short pockets of time together. Plan a vacation together at the end of the busy season. Plan a mini celebration when you get through the season or a priority is accomplished.
8. What’s your cruising altitude? – Know yourself and your seasons. 100 km/h seasons are sustainable for a little while, but not forever. We are not created to maintain them season after season. Make sure this season does not last forever. To keep the analogy going, I’m learning I function best at about 75 km/h, I’m focused, handling the load, leading well and able to have good rhythms of rest and play. I also have some margin, in case something unexpected comes up. If it’s a 50 km/h season I get antsy and want to see things get moving. If it’s 20 km/h season I get bored and start day dreaming and get unfocused. If it’s a 100 km/h season I know I cannot maintain it for longer than a season. What’s your prime speed? What’s your cruising altitude?
Hope this helps. What helps you come through busy seasons thriving? Please add your thoughts in the comments. It’s great learning from each other. -Renée @r_embree