We shouldn’t only worry about optimizing the hours in the day. Sometimes we need to slow down and be more attentive to who we are and who and what is around us.
Although I rarely have time to weed my flower gardens, I never feel like I have more time than when I’m weeding.
I was reminded of this a few Saturdays ago, in this brief season of spring, when the air was free of humidity, but the sun was warm and the earth was damp. I found the sun and air to be a compelling duo and, gloves and bucket in hand, soon lost myself in two hours of blissful weeding, old-friend perennial shoots and fuzzy caterpillars.
Strangely enough, it felt like the longest (in a good way) afternoon I’d had in a long time. I was amazed at all the time that had passed when I stood up to stretch, and I felt the fullness of time. Something I never have time to do gave me the gift of unhurried time.
We all think about time, and most of us think we don’t have enough of it. A recent Harvard Business Review article offered new ways in which business leaders can make more of time. An organization’s time goes mostly unmanaged, the authors argued. While most companies have elaborate and well-regulated plans for managing money and budget, company time goes largely unmanaged. Company executives have no real idea of how their employees are spending or misspending their time.
Organizations that are now managing time the way they manage money are bringing discipline to their calendars and lowering overhead expenses, the article said. They have “liberated countless hours of previously unproductive time for executives and employees, fueling innovation and accelerating profitable growth.” The authors recommend eight strategies for taming and harnessing an organization’s time.
Most of these strategies, such as making meeting agendas clear and selective, simplifying the organization or standardizing the decision-making processes, are good and helpful strategies. I get it. Time is scarce. We can’t get up much earlier in the morning or stay much later in the evening and still live the other parts of our lives, like cooking and eating, cleaning up after ourselves, or more important, tending to vital relationships. So we need to be productive with our time at work.
But I found myself wondering, as I read the article, what this all means for a Christian leader and for Christian leadership. Christian leaders -- while we need to be disciplined and budgeted and at the end of the day need to answer to balance sheets, church councils or grant officers -- are sometimes called to waste a little time.
That may mean being kind to someone who stops by our desk in need of comfort, making a decision that values people over productivity or, in my case, spending some time celebrating God’s good creation by pulling a few weeds. When I take time to weed, I’m drawn into seeing what is actually there in my world. When we “take time” the world opens up to us in a way it does not when we rush through our day.
Time is not just about duration for a Christian leader; it is about being more attentive to who we are and who and what we are leading. The Sabbath is one time when we try to stop the pace of our day- to-day life so that we can enjoy the gifts God has given us.