Every leader faces tough decisions.
Some will have to decide whether or not to fire someone today.
Others will struggle with figuring out how to find and hire the right person.
Leadership is not always an easy or glamorous road to travel. It can, at times, be lonely. You are called upon to make the hard decisions. You are called upon to do some of the jobs no one else wants to do.
I think one of the toughest decisions leaders absolutely must make is based on priority. What will get that precious time on your calendar today?
There are certain things that SHOULD get on that calendar, but there are often many different people and tasks making pleas for a piece of your time. The unfortunate truth is that at times (sometimes too often) the things that SHOULD get on the calendar don’t because we didn’t say yes to the right things up front.
How can we say yes to the right things first?
This question is applied to how we use our time, what principles or disciplines we will or will not compromise, and what we will be known for.
We need to know how to say yes to our priorities and no to things that are not beneficial. A leader will know what he or she should actually be doing, but in the pace of life we live things come up so quickly it can be difficult to differentiate between what should get a yes and what should get a no.
I want to offer three practical steps to saying yes to the right things first.
1. Discover and write down your priorities
You must take the time, whether it means taking vacation time or getting away on a weekend, to figure out what the priorities are in your life.
You have a job that you are paid to do, and you are probably pretty good at it. But, you are not your job. It is not your identity. The priorities and values in your life should drive what you do and what you say yes to.
If you say family is an important thing, how often are you fully present with your spouse and/or children? How often are you calling and keeping in touch with your parents or siblings?
If you say God is an important thing, do you spend time at church learning and serving? Do you spend time during the week building that relationship on your own?
Take some time to discover what the priorities are in your life and write them out. It can be a wonderful exercise just to see those priorities down on paper. It begins to shape more of who you are and what you do when you see it written down.
2. Schedule your priorities
The previous point asks about the most important things in your life. It’s easy to say certain things are most important, but it can reveal a very different picture when we look at our calendar.
Your calendar reveals your priorities.
Not everything asked of you can receive a “yes.” You don’t have enough time, capacity, or expertise to say yes to everything that is required. Some things you will have to delegate to others. Some things you will have to defer to someone more qualified.
If you want to be able to say the right yes, you have to put it on the calendar first.
I value writing and creating content to share with others, so I have prioritized it on my calendar. I value spending uninterrupted time with my wife and daughter, so I have prioritized it on my calendar. I value reading and growing as a leader, so I have prioritized it on my calendar. This has truly made a significant difference in my life.
After you figure out your priorities they must be scheduled. Make the time for them so your actions reflect your intentions.
3. Respond with kindness
This last point will actually move into a different blog post, but we have to respond with grace. Putting your priorities in the calendar automatically means there will be times when someone or something comes up that wants to take over that time.
I think it is okay to push back or remove certain things from the calendar, even things we scheduled as a priority in that time block, to adapt to situations. Constantly changing and adapting your calendared priorities should not be the norm, but there should be some flexibility and room in the calendar to make time for surprises.
When something comes up that is not an emergency or something that requires you to be there immediately, stick with your calendar. In doing so, you will need to respond to that individual with kindness. Saying no is not easy to do well. When we respond in kindness that our calendar is already booked at that time but we will be able to do something about it at a different time, we can respond with a kind “no.”
Make it a practice of responding to interruptions and surprises with kindness. It’s certainly not always natural to do. I’m still struggling to live this one out. But things tend to go better when we respond with kindness 🙂
I hope this post helps you today to say yes to the right things. If you have feedback, things that you would add, or a story of how this might have worked for you, I would love to hear it. Leave a comment below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.