When a dad pleads “my crazy schedule” for why he’s ghosting his kid’s event, or family time in general, if he’ll hear me, I have a pretty practical response.
Ninety-nine percent of the men we work with are textbook type A’s, shrink-wrapped into their calendars with no margin in the day. Zero. Most of them are cell-phone dependent, doing life by the quarter hour. When we tell them, almost first thing, to open their calendars and clear out hours—plural—it’s like waving scissors at a patient’s morphine drip.
Turns out, speed through the day is its own narcotic, and getting back to our souls, our families, our friendships, can be a cold downshift. A man serious about restoring his relationships, though, does well to start with the chart: a spreadsheet anyone can knock out in five minutes because it amounts to six columns with six headings: Activity, Heart, Impact, Growth, Obligation, and Total.
In the far-left column, under Activity, he lists everything he does, morning to night, week to week, month by month and through the year. It’s a list, not a judgment. Include shower, breakfast/donut shop, drive to work, meetings, sports section…everything. To the right of each activity, under each column heading—Heart, Impact, Growth and Obligation—he ranks that activity 1 to 5, low priority to high.
Brutal honesty is optimum. Under Obligation, for example, Krispy Krème probably gets a 1. Wedding anniversary? Five. A professional course may get a 3 for Growth and a 1 for Obligation.
When list and rankings are complete, at the far right, tally the totals, survey the results, and ask two questions:
- What low-value activities can I eliminate?
- Of the remaining high-value activities, where can I double up?
The first time I worked the chart, my small Beech Bonanza V-Tail airplane scored low. My kids were growing inches by the day, and flying swallowed family time whole. My golf dates, by the time I dressed, played 18 holes, and debriefed at the clubhouse, likewise devoured prime hours. Since I was serious about opening my time, those two questions threw on a spotlight. My plane went on the market. Golf could wait until the kids were in college. On my daily train downtown, I began to work the Bible study I’d previously done at home.
Years in finance had taught me that a given activity should either generate revenue or build profit. In those decades, if I wasn’t recruiting for new brokers to raise income, I was looking for ways to cut expenses. Now, unless a phone call, even a cup of coffee, advances my priorities, it gets a polite no. It has to—because the difference between proactive and reactive is the difference between my agenda and someone else’s.
Each person determines what activities to cut or where to double up. I can only testify to that moment when you look up and yesterday’s toddler wanting to teeth on your keys is asking now to take the car. It’s that fast. This is the short version of a caffeinated exercise that woke me to my own priority slippage. It brought home that when I fail to master my schedule, my schedule masters me.
If your schedule is crazy, the person able to restore sanity is you. Start with the chart. On the other side of blurring speed is real life.
Dean Niewolny is CEO of The Halftime Institute, an organization that teaches, coaches, and connects marketplace leaders to discover God’s calling on their lives and engage in the issues Jesus cares about. Dean is the author of the new book Trade Up. For more information, please visit https://halftimeinstitute.org.