Overcoming Stress (Part II)

Where the Rubber Meets the Road is where friction between the vehicle (you the leader) and the pathway (kingdom living) occurs. When we embark on the journey of kingdom service we will experience friction or what has come to be known as “stress”. And so it is at this point of friction that my thoughts on leadership are focused.

Time management as a stressor
Let me begin this section by declaring that we as leaders can find ourselves experiencing stress when we embraced “modern management tools” without measuring them against Kingdom living principles.

I think that time management can produce such stress. Time management is about prioritising tasks and allotting time to those tasks of greatest importance. This might be useful for those to whom God has given a preference for resolute structure but God has bestowed a preference upon many other for less formal structures. They find the “method” or “management tool” called time management to be “stressful” because it restricts spontaneity and creative freedom.

In other words, for some time is for getting things done, while others see time as an opportunity to experience life. In the world of management, the former is right and the later is wrong. However, in God’s world time is for both accomplishing and experiencing.

People with a preference for experiencing life seldom keep to daily or weekly planners. People with a preference for accomplishment rather than demonstrating balance experience “drivenness” and can be controlled by that schedule. The first are stressed by feelings of guilt and failure to maintain a “structured” life-style and the later miss opportunities to value people.

Personal Management
Personal management is a process suited to both personality types. Biggs, the writer of the article says, “Before deciding how the hours of each day will be allotted (time management), you should decide where you want to spend your days over a lifetime (personal management). In other words, managing yourself is more important than managing your time.”

Self-management begins with identifying your life priorities and then endeavouring to establish and maintain a balanced life style. For me those life priorities are as follows:

1. God – including his will and his kingdom
2. Others – spouse, children, spiritual family, natural family
3. Self

This personal management priority list comes directly from scripture. Jesus encompasses ALL of God’s commandments and all the necessary Kingdom living guidelines in this one statement.

Matt 22:37-39  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (NIV)

Notice the personal life priorities? God, others and self. In Philippians 2:1-11 we have a more detailed explanation of how to do this with the divine example. Do not simply think of yourself but think of others. Jesus demonstrated this in his death burial and resurrection. Jesus loved the Father so much that he was willing to lay down his life for others.

Seasons versus hours and days
When we have identified our life priorities, we can begin to balance our lives more effectively. In Scripture we notice that time is usually allotted in “seasons” rather than hours or days (cf Gen 1:14; Ecc 3:1-11; Jer 8:7; Dan 2:21; 2Tim 4:2; Tit 1:3). The nature of “seasons” identifies times allocated for tasks rather than hours or minutes.

It is important to realise that balance comes in seasons. There are times when we are heavily focused on one aspect over another. We should not worry that we are out of balance because we have spent a week on one thing and “neglected” another. Seasons require different priorities. At harvest time, the farmer is completely obsessed with that task. Everything is about harvesting the produce before it spoils. The farmer is not going to take the family for a shopping trip or out to dinner during harvest. That will come when the harvesting is finished.

There are seasons in life that will seem unbalanced; do not become stressed out or worked up about it. Set the seasons in your heart and mind because then you can bring balance in season.

When I am involved with a special project, I may work long and hard to accomplish the task. I will not spend a lot of time with my family then. However, they know that once the project is completed I will give them quality time and quantity time before I embark on the next “adventure”. For us as a family balance comes in seasons not minutes or days.

What does all this mean? I do not try to fit all of my life priorities into one day or even one week. I will pray constantly in my mind during the day but I will have seasons of prayer and waiting on God. If I do not spend one hour praying every day, for me that’s OK because I have seasons of prayer. If I have a “high activity” week or month or even months, I will follow it with a “low activity” week in which I spend time with my family.

Personal management is identifying life-priorities and living according to the seasons of life that God has ordained.

To be continued…
In the next edition of “Thoughts on Leadership”

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