I am leading the pastors at Mariners Church through the classic book Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders. A few weeks ago, as we discussed his chapter entitled “The Leader and Time,” I shared some of the lessons I have learned about stewarding time and fielded some wise and insightful questions from our pastors. One of the questions: How do you work hard in your role AND care for your family at the same time? It is a wise question because we must do both. We must offer our best to the One we ultimately work for and serve people with diligence and fervor. And we must love our families well and invest time in them. But how do we practically do both at the same time? My answer: When it comes to working hard and also investing time in my family, I have learned it is more about when I work than how much I work. Let me explain with two different scenarios:
What if I only worked 15 hours a week but those 15 hours were 5pm-8pm Monday through Friday? I could brag that I only worked 15 hours but I would be missing the hours in the day that are most important for connecting with my daughters – the hours after school, the time of family dinner, the activities or moments of conversation after dinner and before bed. It would likely not matter to my family that I was not working other times because the hours I was working would be misaligned to the times when they benefit from my presence the most.
What if I worked 50 hours a week but protected key times to be with my family? What if I was willing to pick up email, preparation, and strategic planning and “do work” after I put the kids to bed or before they wake up? What if instead of 5 nights of Netflix I cranked out some work in the evenings or early mornings so that I can invest in my family at critical times during the day? They likely would not notice or even know how many hours I worked because they would receive my attention and affection at the times they need it.
When I say “it is not how much I work but when I work,” I am referring to scenario two – which has been my practice for more than a decade (not perfectly, but that is the overarching principle I have lived by). Someone who works fewer hours yet works at the “wrong times” can be less engaged with their family than someone who works more hours but guards key times.