• Faith,  Holiday Season,  Jesus Christ,  SpringHill Experience

    The Gospel Made Known: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus Christ in Our Lives

    “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

    When you read this scripture, do you happen to sing it to yourself?  This, along with many other prophetic verses from Isaiah are beautifully sung to music written by Handel each Christmas season to celebrate the birth, life, atonement, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This music along with so many others capture the reverence, joy and love that stirs within us as we reflect on the life of Jesus Christ.

    It’s a magical time of year that inspires kindness, service, gratitude and love. It’s also a time of year that can cause stress, anxiety and loneliness when we focus too much on the secular traditions of the season. The solution to this is to remember the “reason of the season” – the birth of Jesus Christ and what that event meant for mankind.

    To help keep our priorities, focus, and intentions aligned with the real meaning of Christmas, let me suggest three ideas to integrate within your celebrations this year:

    • Turn to Scripture – Take the time to read the account of Jesus’ birth in the gospel of Luke as well as his life and ministry in the other gospels. Remind yourself of these accounts and discuss them with your family.  Many enjoy reenacting the nativity with their friends and families to make the events of that evening more realistic to little ones. Talk about why His life was important, the principles He taught, and the miracles He performed.
    • Reflect on Your Relationship with Jesus – When we contemplate our blessings and our personal relationship with Christ, it will automatically make the holiday more meaningful as we make it about our gratitude for Him and not solely about the gifts under the Christmas tree. One way my wife, Denise, and I helped our children remember who to be focused on is by reminding them that it is Jesus’ birthday that we celebrate, with a birthday cake and all. It helped them remember what Christmas was all about and to celebrate Him with as much enthusiasm as crafting a wish list for Santa.
    • Do It Unto the Least of These – In Matthew we are taught the importance and significance of service toward one another. In Matthew 25:40, Christ teaches, “Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” When we take the time to serve and love one another, we are, in essence, serving and loving God.  Take the opportunity to serve – even in small ways; you will discover God’s love for you and for those you serve.

    Let us approach this Christmas season with purpose and joy.  Let us truly exclaim “Joy to the World!” and “Hark! The herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King!” as we sing beloved Christmas hymns and songs throughout the holiday.  Let us be inspired to apply His gospel in our lives each and every day!

  • Holiday Season,  Outdoors,  SpringHill Experience,  Unplugging

    The Great Outdoors: How Unplugging and Descreening Can Change Your Life

    For many, the holidays are a time of joy, family time, and festivities; but for others, the holidays can be a source of anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses due to certain holiday stressors. As the holiday season approaches, we can take this opportunity to shed light on my favorite way to relieve stress and be truly present for the holiday season by unplugging and experiencing the great outdoors.

    Mental illness ends up affecting up to 80% of the population at some point in our lifetime according to the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. That’s a pretty staggering number when you consider each of these people as individuals. No doubt every one of us has either experienced or know someone close to us who has suffered from some form of mental illness. With the pressures and expectations many of us and our young people are experiencing, mental health awareness is more important than ever.

    Adding to the normal stressors of the holidays, today’s prevalence of technology and social media hasn’t helped.  Don’t get me wrong, technology can be a good thing – it allows us to connect to others more easily than ever before, it provides access to more information than we could have ever dreamed and helps different areas of our lives progress and develop in positive ways.  However, as with anything – what can offer blessings, can present some curses as well.

    With each of us becoming more and more reliant on technological devices and the applications on them, it’s no wonder behaviors have changed…not all of them for the good.  Any amount of research on social media and the impact on one’s mental health will uncover countless studies that all point to similar findings: too much social media negatively impacts our self-esteem human connection, memory, sleep, attention span, and mental health.

    What’s an Antidote?   

    Everyone’s health and circumstances are uniquely theirs.  However, there is one common antidote that can help: unplugging and spending time in the outdoors.  For over 20 years, I’ve witnessed the transformation of many lives, as people from all kinds of backgrounds and circumstances spend time in God’s creation at SpringHill.  Granted, there are a number of critical factors involved in these transformations – the presence and recognition of God’s love being the most significant.  However, the location and environment of SpringHill Experiences are not an accident.  Being outside, amongst nature and the beauty of the outdoors, is a healing component to our souls.

    In fact, the previously mentioned consequences due to social media can be reversed and improved by increased time spent outside!  Time outdoors connects us with something greater than ourselves.  An A Huffington Post article written several years back cited multiple findings that proved the following seven things about spending time in the outdoors:

    • Getting outside makes exercise easier
    • It can spur weight loss
    • Nature increases brain function
    • It increases our vitamin D intake
    • Helps the aging process
    • Wonderful for stress-reduction
    • Makes us happy

    The health benefits are apparent, and we also know that this is no accident. We were meant for connection with God, and what better way than to spend time in his creation?

    Decreased Screen Time + Increased Outdoor Time = A Healthier, More Joyful You

    The facts are out there: getting out from behind our screens and into nature does wonders for both our physical and spiritual selves.  It’s why cell phones are off limits during our campers’ time at SpringHill. There’s no constant checking of social media to distract them from Christ’s message. Instead, kids find faith in having fun in the outdoors and building friendships. And, it works – they wouldn’t have it any other way.

    By enjoying the beautiful environment around them, without technological distractions, they are encouraged to interact and talk to other kids and their counselors. This helps build interpersonal skills and takes them away from the computer screen and into real, face-to-face interaction with others – not to mention increasing their ability to appreciate God’s creations that are all around them.

    I’ve seen it for myself. The power of unplugging and, instead, exploring, racing, tumbling, connecting with real people, and taking in the beauty all around us.  It is our hope that disconnecting with technology and connecting with nature and loved ones will not only help manage the stress of the holidays—but manage the stress of everyday life.

    Further reading

    To me, there are few more important topics than this, and so I wanted to make a few recommendations for those of you interested in deeper insights regarding technology, its effects, and our innate need to connect with nature.

    • Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, by Sherry Turkle
    • Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, by Richard Lou
    • The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age, by Richard Lou

    Happy Holidays! I know the weather often presents a challenge connecting with nature this time of year, but it’s never too early to start looking ahead to the summer at SpringHill. I’d love to talk to your group about how we create the SpringHill Experience.

  • Leadership

    The Leadership Grand Illusion

    I’m an optimist by nature. I believe the best in people, see the possibilities in any situation regardless of how bad, and love stretch goals. These tangible expressions of optimism have defined and benefited my leadership.

    Yet, there are downsides to such optimism. One in particular which has inflicted my leadership (thus the organizations I’ve led) is the belief that I can effectively manage a large number of priorities at one time. Yes, it’s the overzealous conviction that I am capable of doing many important things, all really well, and all at the same time.

    But here is the reality, to do our best work we must be single minded, we need to focus and do just a few important things at one time. All the research that’s been done over the past few years tells us this much. Sure there appears to be some outliers who can manage lots of priorities, but they are a micro minority (the definition of outlier) or, more likely, just good with smoke and mirrors. Which means most of us (do I dare say – all of us) can’t juggle many priorities at one time.

    It’s the Leadership Grand Illusion – believing, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that we’re a part of the micro group of outliers that effectively management a high number of priorities at one time.

    So, I had to come to grips with this reality and quit buying into the Grand Illusion. I’ve worked to bring discipline to my personal priorities as well as SpringHill’s. It’s been a painful process for an optimist like me, but it’s been necessary (and significantly more effective).

    How have I (and we) done this? There are three simple rules that I’ve applied personally as well as organizationally:

      Have no more than Three Priorities (of the day, week, month, year, etc.) at one time
      Then be crystal clear about the Top One of the Three.
      Finally focus, talk, look at, work and Obsess over Three.

    It’s that simple.

    What’s not simple is the discipline, control of that optimism, and ignoring the Grand Illusion that is required to tackle only three priorities at a time, to pick the first priority of the three, then obsess about those three.

    Now the issue, especially if you’re an optimist with a long list of priorities, is how do you identify the Three and the One of the Three?

    Again, it’s simple but difficult at the same time – you need to ask and answer the following two questions

    • “If I/we can only work on three priorities, which ones should they be?”
    • “Of these three priorities, if I/we could only accomplish one, which one would we choose?”

    So that’s it.

    Really simple, incredibly effective – Commit to these three rules, then rigorously debate and honestly answer these two questions, and finally obsess over the answers until they’re completed. When you take these three steps you’re on your way to being a focused (and really effective) leader.

  • Faith,  SpringHill Experience,  Summer

    Closing Thoughts on a Great Summer and What’s Next?

    Wow, what a summer we had this year. With fall in full swing and new extracurriculars having inevitably taken over, each of us is feeling the pull of competing obligations and priorities.  Have we already forgotten what happened at SpringHill?

    I hope not – I sure haven’t.  From the middle of May, until the final SpringHill Experience is finished in the middle of August, I feel as though I’m shouldering a great weight: the responsibility for the lives of all these people. But at the same time, I’ve also just lived four months off the inspiration and energy that comes from working with such an amazing, embracing, talented, committed, and diverse SpringHill community: professional staff who worked hard the prior eight months to have us ready for summer and then served tirelessly almost every day, all day, for four straight months.

    Last year, when our summer ended, we said goodbye to nearly 27,000 children and teens and 950 young adult leaders in over 130 SpringHill locations throughout nine states. Yes, at SpringHill, we pack 80 percent of our direct missional work into four months.

    Like anything that is hard work and requires much of us, it’s both fulfilling and difficult to have it come to an end…temporarily.  As happens when finishing a long race, or accomplishing a significant goal, or coming off an adrenaline high, finishing a SpringHill summer means coming off the mountain. It means adapting to a new season of planning and steady work, looking ahead to what’s next.

    So, what is next?  Where do we all – campers, leaders, etc. – go from here?

    As we tell kids at SpringHill, you can’t stay on the mountain forever; you have to go back home. For us too, SpringHill summers don’t last forever. We have to go back home (or to the office) and begin hosting retreats and getting ready for another summer. There’s new work to be done, places to go, people to meet.

    My hope is that we will all reflect on the life-changing experiences that occurred this past summer – those that happened to us personally and those that we witnessed.  I hope that we can reflect on two separate groups of questions that have been asked of SpringHill as an organization, but could be asked of ourselves as individuals having had the SpringHill experience:

    1. Why do we exist? What purpose do we fulfill, what difference do we make in the world? If we ceased to exist, what hole would be left? The answer to these questions is, typically, expressed in a purpose or mission statement. At SpringHill, we answer this question with our mission: “To glorify God by creating life-impacting experiences where young people can come to know Jesus Christ and grow in their relationship with Him.”

     

    1. What’s most important to us? What are we most deeply passionate about and willing to sacrifice and suffer for? At SpringHill, we answer this question with an acronym we have for our core values: ARCH, which stands for adventurous faith, relationally focused, contagious joy, and holy discontent. These core values define the kind of organization we are, as well as how we work with each other and all our stakeholder groups: kids, families, allies, donors, and staff.

    Now that it’s Fall, I hope we can each reflect on why we exist and what is most important to us with new perspectives and inspiration.  I hope those quiet – and not so quiet – moments of personal faith-building help answer those questions with clarity that carry all of us through the rest of this year and onto another amazing SpringHill summer.

    If you’re interested in creating similar experiences for your youth group or faith group, check out one of my workshops.

  • Experience,  Faith,  Uncategorized

    Adventurous Faith: How Taking Risks Allows God to Make a Difference in Our Lives

    We are now reflecting on this past life-changing summer with kids of all ages throughout our SpringHill camp programs!  Many people wonder what makes SpringHill so special, so effective.  There are several reasons I could share to answer that question, but undoubtedly one universal explanation amongst all our campers is the sense of adventure that they experience during their time at SpringHill.  Ultimately, these moments connect them to God in a different and significant way.

    Some of the biggest spiritual lessons happen while engaged in some of our high-adventure activities.  One of the stories that comes to mind is of a middle-school girl describing her experience at SpringHill. She had been a regular for years, and I just sort of casually asked her one day what it was that kept her coming back to SpringHill.

    Very seriously, she said, “Every time I come to SpringHill, I encounter God. I have an experience with God and my faith grows.”

    And so I pressed her: “What exactly is it that happens every time?”

    “You know,” she said, “it just happens when we’re doing camp stuff.”

    I smiled as she elaborated. “Like this last summer, I was on our zipline and I had been struggling … should I really trust Jesus? I mean, really trust Him with my life? And then we go on the zipline and the leaders talk about how, for us to go down the zipline, we have to trust the cable that goes across the lake, trust the harness that we’re in. We have to trust the pulleys that will go down the cable. We have to put our trust in them. If we don’t do that and we don’t take the step off the platform, we’ll never get to the end. We’ll never get across the lake. But it requires this trust.”

    “So what happened?” I asked.

    “The leaders said…it’s the same with Jesus. We need to trust Him. We need to be able to step out with Him and know that He has us, holding onto us so that we won’t fall. So I stepped off the platform, went down, and got to the end of the zipline, and I realized, yeah, this is what I need to do with Jesus. I need to trust Him just like I trusted the cable and the harness and everything else that comes down the zipline.”

    That’s SpringHill, in that young girl, in that moment. This experience describes how kids find God more intimately when they stretch themselves, have fun, and find a sense of adventure. Those are experiences that aren’t readily available throughout the rest of the year.  As a result, these experiences and memories create something altogether new and exciting, activities that transform into an extremely impactful, spiritual moment.

    Learn more about the SpringHill experience by visiting www.springhillexperience.com

  • Experience,  Uncategorized

    Five Ways to Create the Best Week of Summer

    Endings are always good times for reflection. As this summer comes to a close, I wanted to think about what made it great and how you can create the SpringHill Experience year-round. We’re still crunching the numbers from this summer, but last year, 27,000 kids experienced the best week of summer at over 135 SpringHill camps throughout eight states. From the middle of May until the final SpringHill Experience, our staff lives for four months off the inspiration and energy that comes from working with such an amazing, embracing, talented, committed, and diverse SpringHill community. It’s this dedication, in addition to the following five ways of creating the best week of summer, that leave our staff and campers feeling rejuvenated, inspired, and transformed each and every year.

    1. Find and Embrace God in Everything – At SpringHill we believe God is found in all things, even—and especially—in the unexpected. Would you ever think in a million years that you could learn some of the biggest spiritual lessons of your life on a zipline? Well, believe it or not it happens all the time at SpringHill. There are lots of different ways to learn something. At SpringHill, we want kids to learn about Jesus, but we also want them to experience the truth of the Gospel through doing something they will remember for the rest of their lives. Kids hear about Jesus throughout their week, they see Jesus through our leaders, and they experience Jesus by doing things that require courage, community, trust, and faith. These are the lessons kids remember—the connection they feel to God experiencing new and challenging things with the help of friends and leaders that truly care about them.

     

    1. Unplug and Experience Even More – The facts are out there: getting out from behind our screens and into nature does wonders for both our physical and spiritual selves. It’s why cell phones are off limits during our campers’ time at SpringHill. There’s no constant checking of social media to distract them from Christ’s message. Instead, the children find faith in having fun in the outdoors and building friendships. And, it works—they wouldn’t have it any other way.

     

    1. Embrace Those Around You and Make Lifelong Friends – Each summer, SpringHill campers have the opportunity to hone their social skills. Perhaps more than other less-personable, other summer options, SpringHill engages kids in conversation with leaders as well as fellow campers. And they do talk, but not about what’s on Instagram or TV. The kids learn to converse articulately while building interpersonal skills through real-time, face-to-face interaction with their peers and counselors, who take on a big sister or big brother role at camp. These kids make friends and build relationships, many of them blossoming into lifelong friends. They build relationships on solid foundations of trust and camaraderie with campmates and counselors through small group time, the vast array of camp activities, around the campfire and meals, and in one-on-one chats with counselors or between campers. These relationships, the kind only built at camp, are a critical component to each child’s “best week of summer.”

     

    1. Integrate Daily Inspiration and Feel More Connected to God – We welcome kids from all backgrounds and denominations to SpringHill experiences. While we are respectful of everyone’s individual beliefs, we don’t water down or wash out the Gospel, the Good News. What we do is focus on the fundamentals, the core of the Gospel. This creates a sense of unity, of embracing all kids and universally accepting all Christian core beliefs. Each day, SpringHill kids will have study or story time, and will participate in small group discussions with their leaders. All children are challenged to think for themselves and, as a result, come home with a greater desire to pray and read the Bible. Integrating the Good News within fun activities makes their experience that much more impactful.

     

    1. Try New Things and Gain Greater Confidence – From the heart-pumping zipline, to wall climbing, rope ladder, giant’s swing, kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle boarding—where campers learn how to navigate their way through the summer camp waters—and The Gusher—a new twist on the waterslide—to our fifty-foot climbing wall, SpringHill summer camp spurs children to grow, mature, and gain independence. Activities are a mix of high and low intensity and are tailored to the needs of all ages. As a result, kids will be challenged to think for themselves and make good decisions. They will be challenged to overcome fears and try new things, thereby building self-esteem and confidence. This confidence is not only felt at camp, it stays with our campers when they return home.

    When kids experience these five things, they have a transformative summer. That’s exactly the experience SpringHill experiences provide. We offer an environment where kids learn, grow, face fears, build confidence, make new friends, and most importantly understand their special relationship with God. To learn more about providing the best week of summer to your child, check out one of our workshops:  https://springhillexperience.com/workshops/

  • SpringHill Experiences,  Summer Camp

    The Big Letdown!

    TetonsIt’s been 5 days since the SpringHill summer ended.  27,000 children and teens, 1100 young adult leaders,  135 SpringHill locations in eight states,  thousands of parents and families, volunteers, miles traveled,  and, most importantly, 10,000’s of transformed lives. Yes, at SpringHill, we pack 80% of our direct missional work into 4 months.

    From the middle of May till the final SpringHill Experience is finished in the middle of August,  I feel as though I’m shouldering a great weight – the responsibility for the lives of all these people.  But at the same time, I’ve also just lived four months off the inspiration and energy that comes from working with such an amazing, embracing, talented, committed and diverse SpringHill community –

    • professional staff who worked hard the prior 8 months to have us ready for summer then served tirelessly almost every day, all day, for 4 straight months.
    • summer leaders, who give up their summer to serve kids unselfishly, with great love, energy and passion.
    • volunteers, ambassadors, and supporters who host, paint, drive trams, serve in our medical centers, provide meals, garden, and work in the offices, helping us create SpringHill Experiences.
    • kids, families and partners we had the privilege to serve this summer.
    • finally, I ran all summer on the energy provided by the Spirit, seeing, hearing and knowing that life changing, everlasting work was being done through that same Spirit in the lives of countless people.

    So, yes there’s a let down.  Like finishing a long race, or accomplishing a significant goal, or coming off any adrenaline high, finishing a SpringHill summer means coming off the mountain.  It means adapting to a new season of planning, steady work, and looking ahead to what’s next.  So what do I do to overcome this let down?

    • I look back over the past 4 months and remember and reflect on the remarkable stories, people, relationships, learnings, and growth that happened.  I allow myself to bask in all of these for a while.  This remembering positively answers the question, the question that so often leaks into my mind this time of the year,  was it all worth it?
    • I also begin to plan, set goals – both personal and professional – for not only the next 8 months but how I want next summer to be.  I’m always looking for ways to make next summer the best yet.  This forward look provides me new energy to tackle this next season with enthusiasm.
    • I simply accept these moments will be part of my yearly rhythm, as long as I’m doing this work.  I embrace it, and take advantage of the opportunities it provides.
    • Finally, I make time to do those things (like read good books , go fishing, hangout with family and friends, or write again – ie. blog post) that I just couldn’t get to these past months.

    So as we tell kids at SpringHill, you can’t stay on the mountain forever – you have to go back home. For us, SpringHill summers don’t last forever either, we have to go back home (or to the office) and get ready for another summer.  There’s new work to be done, places to go, people to meet.  Next summer will be here before we know it when we’ll have another opportunity to experience it all over again.

     

  • Living as a Leader

    Why You Should Meet with Yourself

    img_0191.jpgI know this will sound strange, but one of the best things we can do as leaders is to have a regularly scheduled meeting with ourselves.  Yes, that’s right,  a meeting in our calendar where we’re the only attendee, and in the Subject line of the appointment it reads “Reflection and Planning”.

    We all know we need to do this – we need regular moments of quiet time, with no distractions, where we can reflect, look back, look ahead and plan what the next move or moves need to be.  Yet so often, actually way too often,  we don’t do it?

    Why?

    Because we don’t put it into our calendars.  We don’t create a meeting with ourselves.

    I know this is another strange thought but the reality is when we write down or type something, in this case, into our calendar, we’re saying it’s important.  You see our brains work this way – when we think about something, speak it out loud and then write it down, we’re significantly more likely to remember and then follow through on it.

    Now, at the risk of seeming even more strange, I need to say this as well – when we set meetings with ourselves, we need to create and write down an agenda.  It may be a simple, repeatable agenda but, like all other meetings, a thoughtful, intentional agenda leads to a meaningful, productive meeting, even with ourself.

    So the next question is – how often should we meet with ourselves and what do we talk about? We should meet every day, even if it’s for just a few minutes.  And we should answer questions like those below.   I have a rhythm of meetings I try to stick too – they follow the same pattern as our organizational meeting rhythm –

    Meeting and Agenda (questions to answer):                                                

    Daily (10 min):      

    • What’s the most important thing I can do today?
    • When will I do it?

    Weekly (15 min):

    • What’s the 3 most important priorities I need to accomplish this week?
    •  Do I have time in my calendar blocked out to do them?

    Monthly (30 min):

    • What are my top 3 to 5 priorities for the month?
    • Do I have time in my calendar blocked out to do them?

    Quarterly (30 min):  

    • What are my top 3 to 5 priorities for the quarter?

     Annual (2 hours):  

    • What are my 5 to 7 goals for the year?
    • Is my life aligned with my purpose, values and dreams?
    • What’s my unifying theme for the year?

    So here’s the challenge – starting next week, try meeting daily with yourself.  Put these meetings into your calendar and simply ask the questions above.  See if you don’t become more focused, more effective and less stressed than you’ve ever been.

  • Living as a Leader

    In Favor of New Year’s Resolutions

    2016-11-07-12-43-44New Year’s resolutions have gotten a bad rap lately.  There’s much written about how so many people make resolutions at the beginning of a new year but, in the end, so few actually keep them.  So the advice of many self help writers is simply this – why bother, why put yourself through this process, why set yourself up for failure?

    But this kind of logic isn’t how great organizations or movements are built, world changing action is taken, personal transformation happens, or mountains moved. Whether it’s  a New Year’s resolution or simply a personal goal or new calling, you’re taking a risk by setting them, it’s the reality of goal setting.

    But this reality should never stop us from setting a goal and then working to achieve it.  Just because most people don’t fulfill their New Year’s resolutions certianly isn’t a reason to avoid them. Instead understanding that failure is the accepted risk we take to create change, isn’t a reason to opt out, it’s the reality we embrace to increase our chances of success.

    Now how do we increase our chances of succeeding, in achieving our New Year’s resolutions? By remembering these five principles of goal setting:

    1. Reality – Know that we tend to be overly optimistic with short-term goals and too pessimistic about long-term goals – so we adjust our goals accordingly.
    2. Focused – Have only a few resolutions.  The less, the better the chance of success.
    3. Written – Write them down then review them on a regular basis (click here to learn about meetings with yourself)
    4. Guided – Share them with people who can provide wisdom and encouragement.
    5. Downside -Remember that even if we fall short of achieving our resolutions, we’ll most likely come significantly farther along our journey then we would have if we’d never set the goal in the first place.

    So let’s make 2017 our best year yet.  Best, not because we avoided failure by not setting challenging goals, but because we made a life changing New Year’s resolution, then worked like crazy to make it a reality.

    As Theodore Roosevelt said – “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered with failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat.”

     

  • Leadership,  Living as a Leader

    Whose Filling Up Your Calendar?

    fullsizerender-3Do you take the time to plan your day, your week, your month, your life?  Do you have clearly stated personal core values and purpose statement?  Do you have a map that guides you to the places you want to go and a plan for becoming the person God’s called you to be?

    If you answer to these questions is a “no” or “not to often” – here’s the harsh reality – someone else, by default, will create answers to these questions for you.  They’ll plan your time, set your priorities, fill up your calendar and make sure their priorities and goals are being achieved before yours.  Not because people are manipulative or malicious but simply because they can, because you let them, because you’re not doing it yourself.

    You see our days and weeks, represented by our calendars, have their own magnetic pull. They will draw in the nearest activities, tasks, projects, and appointments into every available time slot of your life.  And trust me, if you’re a leader, there’s always somebody’s priorities close by.  The question is which priorities will be closest and fill up your calendar? Yours or others?

    So what can you do to assure that your life is filled with your plans, goals, priorities, and the people you want and need to see?  It’s simple, with discipline, diligence and tenacity, fill in your calendar before others do so for you.  And this starts by having a planning rhythm for your life. This rhythm should include five separate personal planning sessions, or as my friend Jack McQueeney calls them – meetings with yourself.   These meetings are:

    Annual Planning – where you set you goals  and priorities for the year, then schedule these, along with other major events, into your calendar for the year. I do this in November or December of each year with my wife Denise. Typically it takes an afternoon to accomplish.

    Seasonal or Quarterly Meeting – check your progress on your annual plan, map out in more detail your calendar, and move things around that have unintentionally crept into your life.  This meeting should only be a couple hours at the most.

    Monthly Review – adjust your Seasonal/Quarterly plan and fill in open times with your priorities.  At this step be much more detailed in filling in your calendar. I spend about an hour during the last week of each month planning the next month.

    Weekly Meeting – the most important meeting of your life.  This is where you set weekly goals then build time into your calendar to accomplish them. You do this by doggedly moving the less important things out and making time for the most important work to be done  Though it’s the most important meeting, once you’ve done it a number of times it doesn’t take long – 30 minutes is my typical time needed.  I usually do it on Sunday morning.

    Daily Plan – everyday it’s important to look at your weekly plan and calendar and make sure you’re on track to accomplish your goals and key work. Early every morning I identify my top 1 to 3 priorities for that day.  This takes about 5 or 10 minutes.

    Now if this all seems to require to much time, let me ask you one final question – if you don’t have time to plan,  how do you have time to do everyone’s else’s priorities and yours as well?  So make 2017 your best, most fruitful year yet by filling your calendar up before someone does it for you.

     

     

     

     

     

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