At a funeral several years ago, I heard a pastor describe himself as a workaholic. But he quickly followed it up by saying that there are worse things one could be.
It is true – there are worse things than workaholism, but that doesn’t take away from the problems with being addicted to work.
Workaholics frequently disregard other important relationships and priorities to pursue satisfaction in their drug of choice – more work.
As a person who values hard work, I have been asked how I manage a robust schedule while prioritizing family relationships and other interests. My approach is far from perfect – and may not be the right one for others who are in a different season of life. But here it is.
1. Schedule your daily personal time. For me, that means I get up by 4:30 most mornings and set aside the first two hours of the day for my personal time. During that time, I walk my dog and listen to an audio book, read my Bible, review memory verses, pray and journal, and usually read a chapter or portion of a chapter of a book. This is the most important part of my day in terms of getting off to a good start and setting the tone for the remainder of my waking hours.
2. Schedule your relational priorities. For me, that means breakfast with Connie, my wife, each morning, and dinner together most evenings. I seldom schedule breakfast meetings because that is a time for Connie and me to talk through things that are important to us. We also set aside Thursday evenings for our daughters to come over for family dinner or meet us out for a meal together.
3. Schedule your professional development time. To stay fresh in ministry to others, I need to work on self-awareness and leadership development. That means 30-60 minutes each day for professional development as well as listening to audiobooks while I drive. Since I drive 30,000-40,000 miles each year – 500-600 hours annually in a car – I spend a good amount of time learning from others.
4. Schedule your vacation and time off. Vacations are a priority for my family. We work hard and enjoy our time away from work. I preach most Sundays, but also schedule several Sundays off each year to attend worship at my home church with Connie. Saturday is my weekly day off. I have tried to take a second day off during the week, but given my meeting demands that has proven difficult. I sometimes schedule an afternoon off once or twice during the week.
5. Schedule your conference attendance. There are two meetings each year that are a priority for me. These are times when I meet with other men who do what I do, and we enjoy healthy fellowship and ministry discussions. These are life-giving times for me and I schedule them far in advance.
6. Schedule your important recreation. For me that’s riding a bike. I started cycling when I was a kid living on Highway 93 in rural Lyon County and became more active at it while in college. I try to take an extended ride once a week for exercise and pure pleasure.
7. Schedule your work or ministry priorities and work hard while you’re at work. One of my biggest challenges each week is trying to figure out where my life can make the biggest Gospel-advancing difference – and then go do those things. I schedule these priorities far enough in advance that other more pressing issues do not push them off my calendar. There are always other emerging concerns and necessary meetings that come up each week, but if I do not get these Gospel-advancing ministry priorities on the calendar, they will never get done.
I realize that my schedule is not a good model for everyone. Many ministry leaders are co-vocational, working a second job, while trying to balance a growing family along with the demands of a church or ministry position.
While my schedule will not work for everyone, the priorities that guide my use of time may be worth your consideration as you strive to work hard and keep your most important relationships on track.