How to Make the Most of Your Morning

If you have kids (even if you don’t), the morning can be crazy. You stayed up too late watching that last episode on Netflix or the game, you hit the snooze button too much, and now you are racing out the door. Throwing lunches together, stuffing breakfast into your mouth.

There is a lot at stake in what we do with our mornings. In fact, the most productive people maximize their mornings.

Here’s the reality, though: If you don’t make the most of your morning, you will feel behind all day.

If your day is determined by your morning, how do you make the most of it?

Here are six ideas:

1. Get up before everyone. If you want to make the most of your morning, whether you are single, married or have kids, you have to get up before everyone else. You must be up before people start sending you texts and emails.

There is something that happens in the quietness of a morning, when it is still dark out.

I know, you are exhausted and not a morning person. I get it.

When we started our church I would work late into the night because I hated the mornings, but the reality is that most people do their best work and best thinking in the morning.

There is a definite difference to my day when I am up before everyone else and when I am not.

Parents know this truth because they feel behind if they wake up when their kids do.

2. Pick a spot. Place is important to many people, but particularly when it comes to focus for your heart. Choosing a spot that you return to each morning to recharge, focus and pray is incredibly important.

This might be a porch, a spot in your room or a favorite chair.

Wherever it is, don’t simply make this haphazard. Choose a spot that will help to quiet you and focus your heart.

The consistency of a spot and place will also start to create in your mind a signal that it is time to relax, think, and connect with Jesus. This becomes a very powerful part of maximizing your time.

3. Read/Journal. Focusing for your day will often come through feeding your soul first.

For me, it is spending time reading my Bible. Being able to have space to read, process, write down what God is doing in your heart and mind is incredibly important.

What things stand out to you while reading your Bible? Write them down.

Many people find a lot of relief from getting their thoughts and feelings out of their minds and onto paper. This is often a great stress reliever but also a place to leave something behind. You can also keep track of things you are praying for and when those prayers are answered.

4. Pray/Think. In the busyness of life, especially with kids, if you want to have time to pray and think in silence, you will have to carve it out. This is why you need to get up before everyone else. If you want quiet, you have to make it happen. Quiet does not magically find you.

If you are a leader, this is very important.

Part of your job as a leader is thinking and praying through what is next for your organization, your church and your family. As a parent, you must spend time thinking and praying about what is next for your marriage and your kids.

Recently, an older leader challenged me on this and said, “Josh, if you don’t spend time thinking and praying about what is next for your church, who do you think is?”

5. Tackle your hardest task first. If you’ve noticed, you haven’t done any work yet. For many people, you might be wondering when you start being productive.

But I would say that all of the above will bring greater levels of productivity and success.

As you think through your day, do what takes the most mental energy, the hardest task, the thing that will move the ball the furthest in your life and career, first.

For me and many pastors, this is sermon prep, not a meeting or a counseling session. Tackle the tasks that are not only hard but move the ball furthest in your life or work.

6. Turn on electronics. Notice, this is last and depending on how long everything else took you, it might be until lunch time before you check email, Facebook or Instagram. That isn’t a bad thing (unless your boss would be mad at you about checking your email that late, which is a different topic). Side note, if your boss doesn’t like that, have a conversation about how you can be more productive if you don’t check your email first thing in the morning.

Why does that help?

Email has a way of hijacking your day and brain. It sidetracks you. On sermon prep mornings, I don’t check my email until I am done. It keeps my head clear.

The reality is, no one else is responsible to make you successful, effective or productive. You are. If you aren’t, as much as we don’t want to admit it, that is often on us.

Take control of what you can control.

Leaders Made Here: Building a Leadership Culture

The church that I lead is working on building a stronger leadership culture. In some parts of our church, like most, this is hitting on all cylinders. In other parts, it is lagging behind.

Recently, I read Leaders Made Here: Building a Leadership Culture by Mark Miller where he lays out a five step process for building a leadership culture in your church or organization that I thought was helpful:

1. Define it. Forge a consensus regarding your church’s working definition of leadership. How do you define leadership in your church? Many people have a definition of leadership or what makes a leader, but few teams have a consistent definition of leadership.

You’ll want to be able to answer these questions: What makes someone a leader in general? What makes someone a leader at your church? What are the attributes of a leader versus a doer or a follower?

2. Teach it. Ensure everyone knows your leadership point of view and leaders have the skills required to succeed.

There are so many ideas and resources out there to train leaders. What will you use? How will you help your volunteers and staff members grow as leaders?

Each staff member or team lead must think through how they will teach leadership to their teams on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly basis. This doesn’t have to a big event, but it can be. Simple nuggets, simple teachings and reminders often go the furthest over time, if shared consistently.

3. Practice it. Create opportunities for leaders and emerging leaders to lead; stretch assignments prove and improve leaders.

Pastors hate giving things away. I have guesses as to why, but that’s for another post. The reality is that people become leaders by leading. By hHaving a chance to risk something, to succeed or fall flat on their faces. Young preachers need to stand in front of groups and preach (this doesn’t have to be, and probably shouldn’t be, the main worship service at the beginning).

4. Measure it. Track the progress for our leadership development efforts, adjusting strategies and tactics accordingly.

Pastors are notorious (and I do this more than I like to admit) for starting something and not creating any way to measure and track it.

How will you know if you are developing more leaders this month, this year than last? It needs to be more than, “we have more volunteers than last year.” That isn’t always a sign that you have built leaders or a leadership culture.

5. Model it. Walk the talk and lead by example – people always watch the leader.

Sadly in most churches and organizations, the higher you go up the ladder, the less likely those leaders are to create and develop leaders. For some it is an inability to do it, not being sure how to do it, but for many, it is a fear of being replaced by someone younger or better. If you don’t develop leaders though, your church stops when you do.

For me, discipleship and leadership development are two sides of the same coin. Thinking about it this way has been incredibly helpful when it comes to developing leaders. People want to follow people who are growing. If you are building spiritually mature leaders in your church, you will be helping them to grow as disciples and leaders.

7 Quotes on Change from Carey Nieuwhof

If you are leading change in your church, here are some great quotes from Carey Nieuwhof in his book Leading Change Without Losing It: Five Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition:

The loudest people affected by a proposed change are those who are most opposed. The more opposed people are, the louder they tend to become.

When you focus on complaints, you lose sight of the plan.

Will you focus on the people you want to reach, or the people you want to keep?

There is no way I know to engineer significant change and keep everyone you’ve currently got.

Everyone in your church likes your church the way it is; otherwise, they wouldn’t be there. It’s just that the rest of your community may not. Otherwise, they might be there.

When you consider the 10 or 100 who might leave your church if you change, just pause to remember the almost 10,000 who aren’t coming because, so far, you have failed to change. Maybe as leaders we need to start fearing that.

Here are 5 questions designed to help you discern whether a person is indeed the kind of person you can build the future of the church on:
  1. Is their vision primarily based on the past or on the future?
  2. Do they have a spirit of humility? Are they open or closed to the counsel of other people?
  3. Who is following them, and is this the kind of group that you would want around your senior leadership table?
  4. Are they focused on themselves or the people you are trying to reach?
  5. Do they offer positive alternatives that will help build a better future than your current vision for change?

12 Quotes from “The Pastor: A Memoir”

Over the summer, one of the books I worked through was The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene Peterson. I’m not normally a memoir fan, but this one grabbed me and I got so much out of it. It was like sitting across from him and gleaning so many nuggets of wisdom.

Here are some things that stood out to me:

The pervasive element in our two-thousand-year pastoral tradition is not someone who “get things done” but rather the person placed in the community to pay attention and call attention to “what is going on right now” between men and women, with one another and with God – this kingdom of God that is primarily local, relentlessly personal, and prayerful “without ceasing.”

Congregation is composed of people, who, upon entering a church, leave behind what people on the street name or call them. A church can never be reduced to a place where goods and services are exchanged. It must never be a place where a person is labeled. It can never be a place where gossip is perpetuated. Before anything else, it is a place where a person is named and greeted, whether implicitly or explicitly, in Jesus’ name. A place where dignity is conferred.

My “work” assignment was to pay more attention to what God does than what I do, and then to find, and guide others to find, the daily, weekly, yearly rhythms that would get this awareness into our bones.

Preaching is proclamation, God’s word revealed in Jesus, but only what it gets embedded in conversation, in a listening ear and responding tongue, does it become gospel.

We get serious about the Christian life, we eventually end up in a place and among people decidedly uncongenial to what we expected.

The Holy Spirit forms church to be a colony of heaven in the country of death.

Congregation is a company of people who are defined by their creation in the image of God, living souls, whether they know it or not. They are not problems to be fixed, but mysteries to be honored and revered.

My work is not to fix people. It is to lead people in the worship of God and to lead them in living a holy life.

The only way the Christian life is brought to maturity is through intimacy, renunciation, and personal deepening.

You are at your pastoral best when you are not noticed. To keep this vocation healthy requires constant self-negation, getting out of the way. A certain blessed anonymity is inherent in pastoral work. For pastors, being noticed easily develops into wanting to be noticed. Many years earlier a pastor friend told me that the pastoral ego ‘has the reek of disease about it, the relentless smell of the self.’

A clamoring ego needs to be purged from the pastor’s soul.

We had simplified our defining of Sabbath-keeping to three words: pray and play. On Sabbath we would do nothing that was necessary, obligatory, “useful.” We would set the day apart for the unfettered, the free, the unearned. Pray and play.

There were so many more, but you get the idea. Such a helpful book for me.

My Notes from Sam Adeyemi on “Redefining Success” @ the Leadership Summit

I’m at the leadership summit with the team from Revolution Church. This is by far the best leadership conference of the year. This is my 14th summit and every year, God stretches me and challenges me. So much wisdom and inspiration wrapped up into two days. I always blog my notes, so if you can’t attend or missed something, I’ve got you covered.

Here are some takeaways from session 6 with Sam Adeyemi:

  • You don’t attract who you want, you attract who you are.
  • There needs to be alignment between the identity of the leader and the followers.
  • We can make champions out of ordinary people.
  • The transformation that happens in people’s lives is the ability of your leadership.
  • Real and sustainable change in people’s lives begins with a change in their sense of identity.
  • We must help people see a new identity.
  • What we believe is what we become.
  • Changing how people see themselves is the hard work of leadership.

4 steps to change what people see and hear:

  • Describe your vision over and over. 
  • There is power in vision.
  • The people you lead should be able to see themselves in your vision.
  • A vision is not just a present self, but a future self.
  • People don’t follow you because you are special, you lead because they are special.
  • Great leaders change what people think about themselves.
  • Set up a structured training system. 
  • Is your training capable of producing the ideal staff and members of your vision?
  • You must model the transformation you are talking about. 
  • Those you lead need to see you transformed.
  • Reinvent yourself over and over. 
  • Constantly ask what the next level of success looks like.
  • To grow, you must let go of who you have been.
  • Many leaders are stuck because they no longer take risks because of fear of losing their success.

My Notes from Marcus Buckingham on “Building Great Teams” @ the Leadership Summit

I’m at the leadership summit with the team from Revolution Church. This is by far the best leadership conference of the year. This is my 14th summit and every year, God stretches me and challenges me. So much wisdom and inspiration wrapped up into two days. I always blog my notes, so if you can’t attend or missed something, I’ve got you covered.

Here are some takeaways from session 5 with Marcus Buckingham:

  • You have to study excellence to learn excellence.
  • Most work happens in informal team.
  • The job of a leader is to build great teams.
  • You can’t learn how to build a great team by looking at dysfunctional teams.

8 conditions of high performing teams:

  • I am really enthusiastic about the mission of my company.
  • At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me.
  • I have a chance to use my strengths everyday at work.
  • In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values.
  • I know I will be recognized for excellent work.
  • My teammates have my back.
  • In my work, I am always challenged to grow.
  • I have great confidence in my company’s future.
  • Great teams have a purpose, pursue excellence, support each other and have a clear picture of the future.
  • People want to feel part of something bigger than them and make them feel special.
  • The way we rate people reflects us, not the people we rate.
  • 61-62% of how we rate people is a reflection of ourselves.
  • We do not rate other people very well.
  • Ask yourself these questions about each team member: Do I turn to my team when I want extraordinary results? Do I choose to work with you as much as I can?
  • The most important way to get great work is to make sure people know what is expected of them and if they use their strengths.
  • Check in frequently about strength-based about near-term future work.
  • Ask: What are your priorities this week? Next week? How can I help?
  • We don’t want feedback, we want attention.

My Notes from Juliet Funt “How to Create Whitespace at Work” @ the Leadership Summit

I’m at the leadership summit with the team from Revolution Church. This is by far the best leadership conference of the year. This is my 14th summit and every year, God stretches me and challenges me. So much wisdom and inspiration wrapped up into two days. I always blog my notes, so if you can’t attend or missed something, I’ve got you covered.

Here are some takeaways from session 5 with Juliet Funt, CEO of Whitespace at Work:

  • All of us are getting less and less comfortable with silence and the pause. The moments that are not filled.
  • This loss of time without assignment has a great cost to our businesses and lives.
  • If we work in insane ways and busywork, we see the waste in our companies.
  • Our companies waste $1 million per 50 people.
  • Whitespace is a strategic pause taken between activities.
  • Whitespace is to be recuperative to recharge your mind and body.
  • A pause brings insight, introspection and creativity to your brains.
  • Great leaders naturally use whitespace.
  • Don’t rush the cooking of a great idea.
  • Whitespace is not meditation.
  • Whitespace is not mindfulness.
  • Whitespace has no rules, no goals. It is a boundary-less freedom where your mind can play and improvise.
  • In whitespace, we think the unthought though.
  • A diabolical aspect of busyness is that it feels like our fault.
  • 4 main drivers of overload: drive, excellence, information and activity.
  • To have whitespace, you must determine how you will use drive, excellence, information and activity.
  • Any space you have, it will be filled. You must install filters to take control of the whitespace.

Whitespace questions:

  • Is there anything I can let go of?
  • Where is “good enough”, good enough?
  • What do I truly need to know?
  • What deserves my attention?

My Notes from Lazlo Bock on “How to Lead and Manage People” @ the Leadership Summit

I’m at the leadership summit with the team from Revolution Church. This is by far the best leadership conference of the year. This is my 14th summit and every year, God stretches me and challenges me. So much wisdom and inspiration wrapped up into two days. I always blog my notes, so if you can’t attend or missed something, I’ve got you covered.

Here are some takeaways from session 5 with Lazlo Bock, Senior Advisor at Google:

  • For too many leaders, there is a gap between what they believe and how they act.
  • A leaders job is to find the best people, grow them as fast as possible, and then keep them at the company.
  • The experience of work should be meaningful.
  • We all want to be valued and have a voice in what we do. A leader needs to give that to their people.
  • Treat your employees right and they will great things for you.
  • The most important thing is to give your work meaning.
  • If you are a leader, you need to give the work that your people do meaning.
  • What meaning do people find from working at your church or company? What meaning are you giving to your people?
  • A leader needs to remind people about the mission and meaning of your work.
  • There are some people who remember the duty but forget the joy of the work we do.
  • Only a 1/3 of workers feel a connection between their job and meaning.
  • To create meaning: Figure out why you are doing the work you are doing. Remind yourself, this is why I’m here.
  • A big mistake most companies make is to not trust their people enough.
  • The only thing that drives performance in organizations is having a goal and make sure other people know that goal.
  • If you are a leader, give your people more freedom than you are comfortable with.
  • Ask what your people think.
  • When people ask a question, ask them what they think.
  • More freedom makes people happier and they stay longer.
  • Recruiting and hiring is so important because that is how you transform an organization.
  • Simple rules for hiring: Don’t let the interviewers make the hiring decision. Always hire someone who is better than me in some way.

My Notes from Andy Stanley on “Finding & Creating a Uniquely Better Product” @ the Leadership Summit

I’m at the leadership summit with the team from Revolution Church. This is by far the best leadership conference of the year. This is my 14th summit and every year, God stretches me and challenges me. So much wisdom and inspiration wrapped up into two days. I always blog my notes, so if you can’t attend or missed something, I’ve got you covered.

Here are some takeaways from the last session of day 1 with Andy Stanley:

  • If we had to do it all over again, what would we do all over again? What really worked in our church?
  • It’s important to answer the question, why is this working.
  • Part of being successful as a church is having a uniquely better product.
  • Unique isn’t enough. You can be uniquely bad. Unique doesn’t create momentum.
  • There are shared assumptions in every industry that cause us to do the same things, the same way.
  • Uniquely better is often the byproduct of circumstances that successful organizations are trying to avoid.
  • Uniquely better is often a solution to a problem.
  • Uniquely better is often so unique that successful organizations cannot imagine that it is better.
  • The more successful you are, the more likely that when what’s better comes along, the more likely that you’ll miss it.
  • Our job is to create a culture to find what is uniquely better instead of resisting it.

How do you create a culture that looks for uniquely better:

  • Be a student, not a critic. 
  • Don’t criticize something you don’t understand.
  • We naturally resist things we don’t understand or can’t control.
  • The moment you start criticizing, you stop learning.
  • “The next generation product and idea almost never comes from the previous generation.” -Al Ries
  • Keep your eyes and your mind wide open. 
  • Listen to people who aren’t in our industry, who don’t know how to do what we do.
  • Outsiders aren’t bound by our assumptions.
  • Closed minded leaders close minds. 
  • How do discern if you’re closed minded: How do you respond to suggestions about other organizations? When was the last time your organization embraced a big idea that wasn’t your idea? When was the last time you weren’t sure of an initiative but you gave the go ahead anyway?
  • Replace how with wow.
  • All ideas die at the word ‘how.’
  • You lose nothing by saying wow.
  • Wow ideas to life, don’t how them to death.
  • We fuel innovation or kill them by our response to new, untried, expensive ideas.
  • Nothing is gained by not knowing what your people are dreaming about.
  • The world will put enough ‘how’s’ in front of your kids, let’s be ‘wow’ parents.
  • Ask the uniquely better questions. 
    • Is this unique?
    • What would make this unique?
    • Is it better?
    • Is it better…really?

My Notes on Bryan Stevenson’s talk on “Being a Brave & Hopeful Leader” @ the Leadership Summit

I’m at the leadership summit with the team from Revolution Church. This is by far the best leadership conference of the year. This is my 14th summit and every year, God stretches me and challenges me. So much wisdom and inspiration wrapped up into two days. I always blog my notes, so if you can’t attend or missed something, I’ve got you covered.

Here are some takeaways from the third session with Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of Equal Justice Initiative:

  • You can’t be effective leader from a distance.
  • Leadership requires that the people we are serving know that we are with them.
  • The goal of leadership and life is to do something that brings you life and passion.
  • Don’t simply settle.
  • Problems can’t be solved from a distance.
  • There is power in proximity. The answer comes in proximity.
  • If you lead by fear and anger, you will allow yourself to be led to dangerous places.
  • We need to understand the narratives that we believe.
  • True narrative change can liberate us.
  • Leaders can never give up hope.
  • Hopelessness is the enemy of justice. It is the enemy of leadership.
  • Hope is about talking about what we’ll do, not what we’ve already done.
  • To be an effective leader means we must be willing to do uncomfortable things.
  • What is it about us that resists and run from the people that are broken?