Find yourself busy? A little overwhelmed?

You’re not alone. Especially in leadership.

I made a lot of mistakes in how I handled my workload as a young leader in charge of three small but rapidly growing churches.

Like many people, I assumed that the only way to handle a growing organization was to work more hours. The flawed logic went something like this: the larger our church became, the harder and longer I had to work.

The challenge of course, is that nobody is manufacturing more hours in the day. Whether you lead 2 people or 2000, you have to manage it all in 24 hours a day.

But that logic was lost on me as a young driven leader in my 30s trying to lead a great cause.

It got to the point where, as we grew, I wore my insatiable work ethic as a badge of honour. Was there pride underneath that? Sure. And unhealth. And unsustainability.

It all worked great until, well, it didn’t.

A decade into my leadership, I burned out. Our church had reached about 600 in attendance, and 10 years of running at an unsustainable pace just about killed me.

I’ll write more about that burn out in some upcoming posts, but let me start here.

There are some things I wore as badges of honor as a young leader I no longer wear as a badges of honor today. What breaks my heart is I see many leaders falling into the same patterns I did.

In the 11 years since my summer of burnout, I’ve found new patterns in leadership that are so much healthier.

What’s still so strange to me is that when I adopted healthier patterns, I got more done, not less. I actually worked fewer hours and got so much more done.  I still hustle…but it’s a healthy, sustainable hustle that has proven to be life-giving.

The result? Our church is more than twice the size it was when I burned out and I discovered I could do things like write books, this blog, host podcasts, speak to leaders and still have more time at home with my family. I know, it doesn’t make any sense, until it actually happens to you.

I got asked about my productivity patterns so often that finally I took the time to write them down, process them, and export them into principles that many leaders can adopt. That’s how The High Impact Leader Course was born.

The High Impact Leader Course teaches those principles in a way any leader can adopt, and it’s open now for new participants.

In the meantime, here are 5 things I no longer believe are badges of honor in leadership.

Whether you lead 2 people or 2000, every leader has to manage it in 24 hours a day. Click To Tweet

1. Working ridiculous hours

I’m not sure I’ll ever be a 37.5 hour a week guy (I love what I do too much), but I’ve found that if I work over 55 hours, I get unhealthy fast.

As a young leader, I would push 60, 70, 80 hours.

In my pride, I’d think anyone who worked less was lazy or irresponsible. That’s bad thinking as well as horrible theology. Not to mention arrogant and judgmental on my part.

Any strategy based on working more hours to handle more demands is headed for a fatal crash.

Why? Well, every leader runs out of hours before he or she runs out of demands.  There will always be more demands on your time than there will be time.

There will always be more demands on your time than there will be time. Click To Tweet

Leaders who manage large organizations often work fewer hours than leaders who run small organizations. Think about it.

Ironically, effective leaders work fewer hours than ineffective leaders.

Again, effective has nothing to do with laziness. It has to do with effectiveness. (More on that in a future post.)

Ironically, effective leaders work fewer hours than ineffective leaders. Click To Tweet

2. Being busier than everyone else you know

Ask leaders how they are these days, and most will quickly answer “Busy.”

For way too long I wore busy as a badge of honor.

Here’s a question: why?

I mean do you really want to get to the end of your life and say “Well, at least I was busy.”

Busy with what?

Far too often busy people get to the end of their day and don’t even know what they actually did. Sure, they sat in meetings and answered email and rushed around—but what did they accomplish?

Busy is not a friend of great leadership.

Hang around truly effective leaders for a while and you’ll notice a calm and focus that is too often lacking.

If you’re relying on being busy as a strategy for effective leadership, you need a new strategy.

If you're relying on being busy as a strategy for effective leadership, you need a new strategy. Click To Tweet

3. Getting No Sleep

Guess what I used to do before I burned out? Brag about how little sleep I got.

That is until I spent August 2006 sleeping about 12-13 hours a day. I also did a lot of napping in between those long sleeps.

It’s like my body said You’ve been running up a sleep debt for a long time and now you’re going to pay it off.  My body knew more than my brain did. Because if you don’t pay debt off, you know what happens right? You go bankrupt.

In the last 11 years, the one thing I refuse to cheat is sleep.

Most leaders recharge their phone overnight when they sleep. Fewer recharge themselves.

Most leaders recharge their phone overnight when they sleep. Fewer recharge themselves. Click To Tweet

When you sleep, you don’t just recharge your body, you recharge your mind and your soul.

I realize these days that most of what I do is think: as a preacher, writer, leader and speaker, I think.

A rested brain works. An exhausted brain doesn’t…at least not in any way that helps me write better messages, help people, love people or generate new ideas.

A rested you is a better you. Always.

When you sleep, you don't just recharge your body, you recharge your mind and your soul. Click To Tweet

4. Being Overwhelmed

Leadership can be overwhelming. I get that.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Some leaders seems love being overwhelmed. I did.

I still love a challenge—taking on a little more than I think I can handle. That’s how I’m wired. And occasionally it leads to overwhelm. But these days I follow up with a quick recalibration.

Being overwhelmed means your system is broken. Great solutions include hiring people, dropping some things you’re doing, scheduling new priorities, or moving to your next level of leadership (systematically not doing what you used to do).

Being overwhelmed all the time doesn’t make you a great leader. It make you overwhelmed.

Being overwhelmed all the time doesn't make you a great leader. It make you overwhelmed. Click To Tweet

5. Never using your vacation

For years in leadership, I never used all my vacation.

That was a mistake.

The sad part of that is when my kids were young, we could have done more together.  Sure, we always took an annual vacation, whether it was a simple as a camping trip or as wonderful as a trip to Disney.

But looking back on it, I wish I had taken all of my vacation every year.

I do now. My wife and I spend lots of time together, and we still get to travel with our (now grown) kids. But you can’t get time back.

When I see a leader who doesn’t take their vacation, I no longer see it as a sign of strength. I see it more as an admission of weakness.

God is still challenging me on rest.

What I’m discovering is that a rested me is a more:

Generous me.

Loving me.

Trusting me.

Guess what else? A rested me is a more productive me.

Maybe God knew what he was doing when he said we should spend more than 1/7th of our lives resting.

A rested you is a more productive you. Click To Tweet

Be The Leader You Know You Can Bethe high impact leader

So how has 2018 been for you as a leader so far? You crushing your goals? Have a lot of time left over?

For many leaders, the answer is sadly, no.

But listen to Isaac’s story. He recently completed The High Impact Leader course:

If you asked me earlier this year if I would want a repeat of 2017 I would have said, no way.

After walking through the High Impact Leader though, I would and will repeat what I have been doing in the last few months.

It has allowed me to be more strategic with my time, energy, and priorities like never before. I have held a full schedule for the last few months and unlike ever before, my family did not feel the weight of it, my family was prioritized at the top of it.

Thank you, Carey, for helping the end of 2017 be great and I’m very excited about what 2018 is going to hold!

Pam from Red Rock Church in Colorado Springs calls the High Impact Leader “a gamechanger.”

Dave from Invitation Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a married pastor of a new church plant who has two kids under the age of five says:

“Just wow. Thank you. The course helped me identify my priorities and work to bring clarity in all phases of my life.  I feel SO, SO, SO much more freedom.”

And that’s the goal. I hope that’s what will happen in your life.

The High Impact Leader course has already helped over 3000 leaders accomplish far more.

Registration is open now for a limited time, and for the last time at current pricing. I’ve added some special bonuses for this launch you won’t want to miss.

To enroll and get instant access, click here.

In the meantime…

Where are you when it comes to work and productivity? What are you learning?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

5 Things That Are NOT A Badge of Honor in Leadership


  1. My Cafe Recipes and Stories cheats on May 15, 2020 at 6:00 pm

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  2. Marshall Eizenga on November 11, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    In my twenties someone provide me with an acronym for the word busy. It made an impression on me. It is Being Under Satan’s Yoke!

  3. אדריכלות ועיצוב פנים on June 7, 2018 at 4:07 am

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  4. Harold Burrell on March 4, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    OK…I was doing pretty well, and was actually quite proud of myself…

    until I got to #5.

    Thanks a lot for reminder/challenge/scolding.

  5. […] This article originally appeared here. […]

  6. Joel on May 23, 2017 at 11:24 pm

    These are helpful warnings to this young leader in the midst of a ministry transition. Thank you!

  7. Daniel Burton on May 13, 2017 at 7:04 am

    For years I basically operated in all five of those things. Not that I saw them as a badge of honor, but that I saw it as something that I HAD to do in order to make it. I rarely took time off and worked crazy hours all for the sake of proving, probably to myself, that I could do it. To no surprise, I burned out rather severely.

    The best counsel I got was that it was a matter of faith. If I believe in a God who can do all things and that only He alone can save, then my efforts will not be the thing that saves someone. In trying to do everything and work outside of my ability, I was saying that I had taken the place of God in my mind with regard to saving grace and work.

    There are still honestly times that it is difficult to take vacations, take time off, and spend time resting, but I’m getting better and being intentional about planning the time and having boundaries. Getting better. Still working on it.

    Thanks for this article, it was very encouraging.

    – Daniel C. Burton

  8. Mike on May 8, 2017 at 10:15 am

    Love this post, Carey!

    Most of the managers with my employer are engineers that were promoted to management without any leadership training. The company also encourages pride in long hours and no room for failure.

    It’s pretty much a case study in how to burn out by the time you’re 40.

    Personally, I think one cause of the constant need to be busy could be an discomfort with sitting in silence with one’s own personhood. In the corporate world we are valued solely on our productivity and if you aren’t busy, it feels like you aren’t being productive.

    Have you worked with large corporations to transition managers into leaders?

    • Carl Bowles on March 4, 2018 at 3:45 pm

      Darek prince book becoming a prayer warrior
      8 steps to have your prayers answered

      Than pray for your management

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