There is an incredibly simple time-management principle that has guided my decisions and how I manage my time.
While it is simple, it has far-reaching implications. Here it is:
Every time you say yes to something, say no to something else.
If you run a company or a church, you can’t do everything. In your family, you can’t afford everything; you can’t sign your kid up for every activity (although lots of parents try).
It’s very simple. If you say yes to something, you will have to say no to something else. I was talking with a couple recently and they were wrestling with whether or not the wife should go back to work. They have small kids, money is tight, and they said, “It would help us financially.” I told them this idea and said, “If you say yes to working, you will make money. But you are now spending less time with your kids and someone else is raising them, you are bringing stress into your life that isn’t there now because you will be home less, because of working.” I kept going but you get the idea.
THE CHOICE IS YOURS
Every weekend, every weekday we make choices about how to spend our time. When a man chooses between spending time on the golf course or at the lake with his buddies, versus with his children, he is saying yes and no to something. We might say yes to what we want to do, but at the same time, say no to investing in our kids or an important relationship.
At the end of the work day, when we decide to take work home, stay just a little bit longer as opposed to getting home, getting to the gym to get some exercise, spend time with friends. We say yes to something and no to something. By saying yes to working late and yes to more stress, we are saying no to a sustainable pace, no to spending time with friends that would relax us or help us to unwind, no to exercising so that we can be healthier.
You can’t say yes to every kind of music, dress, style, and service time. Pick one.
Pastors try to fight against this in their churches. “If we have a program for everybody, we will reach everybody,” they say. But if you shoot to reach everybody, simply you will reach nobody. You can’t say yes to every kind of music, dress, style, and service time. Pick one.
When I planted Revolution Church, I struggled with this every day. As a pastor, there are so many people to meet with. You don’t want to say no to anyone because they might leave, and you need everyone you can get, all the givers you can muster. This often leads you to running ragged, not resting well, not spending time with your family or time with Jesus. We rationalize that we’re serving people, helping them, and that next month we’ll take that Sabbath, that date night.
As a parent, it is easy to do this as we run our kids from one activity to the next in an effort to give them a well-rounded life. By doing that—by saying yes to running their kids everywhere—we are saying no to family dinners, family devotions (often), but we are saying yes to more stress in their life as a family. Many couples sacrifice their marriages for their kids, pouring their time and energy into their kids instead of their marriage as the most important relationship in the family. This is one reason why more divorces happen in year 25 than any other year of marriage now. Empty nesters don’t know each other without their kids.
HOW TO SAY YES AND NO
We say yes and no in our family. We say yes to exercising and a healthy lifestyle. I’ve shared in other places about my journey of losing 130 pounds and keeping it off. Every time we go to the gym or make a meal plan to eat a healthy diet, we are saying yes to health and longevity in life. We have to say no to sleeping in later (as I get to the gym by 6 a.m.), to late night snacks, to too many chicken wings, and to swearing off my beloved Frappuccino.
When we got married, we decided I would work and Katie would stay home. We said yes to her staying home and no to a lot of other things. Other families have nicer things or go on nicer vacations than we do because of this choice. That’s OK. When we made this choice, we knew what we were saying yes and no to.
You need to know the implications.
We say yes to spend time with certain people and no to others. Pastors feel the strain of wanting to be with people, spending time with as many people as possible. But it is simply impossible. For our family, we seek to spend time with the pastors and their wives at Revolution Church, the MC leaders I coach and those in our MC and those our MC is seeking to reach. That is what we as a family we have said yes to. This means we have said no to other things and other people.
You need to know the implications. When you say yes to something, you say no to something else, maybe multiple things, but it happens every time.
IT’S OKAY TO SAY NO
This at the end of the day is what drives many of us to say yes. We have this desire to appease people, to be comfortable, to make others like us. This is what drives so many of us to not say no and to say yes too much.
When someone asks if they can meet with me, I want to help them, I want to say yes. Often I’m able to, but many times if I say yes to that opportunity, I will say no to something else. It might be a date night with Katie, time with my kids, a nap that I need, and my sermon prep time. When we say yes to the wrong things, it is often because we want to make someone like us, approve of us, and be comfortable in a relationship.
This is really a question of focus. When we say yes and strategically, we live more strategically. One helpful thing for me has been to lay out my ideal week and identify what the most important things for me to accomplish each week are. This helps me to see the time I actually have available for things that pop up at the last minute, it helps me to gauge if I can say yes to those opportunities without hurting the most important things.