7 Important Things Every Way-Too-Busy Leader Forfeits

So let me guess. You’ve got too much to do today.

Welcome to leadership.

One of the most challenging aspects of leadership for any leader is time management.

You can read time management books and posts (I’ll give you some resources at the end of this post), but if you don’t care about why something matters, you’ll rarely change your ways.

So this post is about why being way-too-busy is a problem. It’s about what you’re missing when every day is slammed.

In the first ten years of my leadership, everything I did seemed hurried. I hated sitting still. I think I was afraid of becoming lazy (although that’s the last thing anyone might ever call me).

But there’s a difference between laziness and stillness. Laziness produces nothing. Stillness produces meaning, thought and even confession.

There’s also a difference between hurry and urgency. Urgency, most days, is your friend in leadership.

Decisions need to be made. The mission must advance. And, as Seth Godin and Steve Jobs remind us, real artists ship.

But almost nothing good happens in a hurry.

I’m still committed to high output, but not at the cost of these 7 things.

In fact, if you get rid of the ‘way too’ in ‘way-too-busy,’ you’ll lead a far more significant life.

way too busy1. Creativity

You can’t be creative in a hurry.

As Craig Groeschel helpfully points out in his new leadership podcast (you should subscribe by the way), creativity happens in the margins.

Every notice your best thinking happens when you’re doing something else? Like taking a shower? Or going for a walk? Or cutting your grass?

I cycle for a number of reasons, but one of them is because when I’m out on a 60-90 minute ride and my mind is relaxed, I come up with my best insights and ideas.

This isn’t just anecdotal, it’s apparently also scientific.

Running from meeting to meeting and event to event kills creativity.

2. Intimacy

Ever try to rush a date with your spouse?

Big mistake.

There’s a difference between a 10 minute meal at Burger King and a three hour evening at your favourite restaurant.

They’re both food (well, one is, sort of).

Intimacy can’t be rushed. That’s true of time with your spouse. And it’s true of your time with God.

Intimacy and time are inherently linked.

Which is why way-too-busy people rarely have close relationships with anyone, including God.

3. Meaning

The crisis of our day isn’t a lack of information; it’s a lack of meaning.

We have access to more information than we’ve ever had, and yet our depth is lacking.

One of the greatest contributions you can make as a leader is to bring insight—to offer meaning in a world of information.

That can only be done if you set aside time for prayer, reflection, reading and digesting what you know.

4. Peace

One of the reasons I hated slowing down when I was younger is because every time I did, there was an uneasiness that would surface.

I realized later that there were some things God wanted to deal with in me.

Through counselling, prayer and the help of friends, I dealt with the unhealth that was impacting my leadership, my marriage and even my parenting.

After I dealt with that, I began to crave time alone. I began to love silence.

What I discovered in the silence was peace.

Peace isn’t the absence of conflict. It’s the presence of God.

5. Self-awareness

The best leaders are self-aware leaders.

Self-awareness takes time. It takes time to ask others what their experience of you has been. It takes time to reflect, to pray and to think about why you’ve ended up where you’ve ended up.

It takes time to banish the excuses and take responsibility.

If you’re always busy, you’ll never become self-aware.

If you want more on self-awareness in leadership, here are four things self-aware leaders know that others don’t.

6. Kindness

The first thing to go when I’m rushed is my kindness.

Busyness has a way of making you both impatient and ungracious.

You are rarely kind when you’re in a hurry.

In the same way lack of money impacts generosity, lack of time impacts kindness.

If you want to be more kind, be less rushed. There’s a direct correlation.

7. Purpose

Busy leaders mostly think about ‘what’ and ‘how’. They rarely think about ‘why,’  largely because they don’t take the time to do that.

And yet, as we’ve seen, meaning is one of the greatest contributions you can make as a leader.

The more unhurried time you take in leadership, the more you will be able to clarify and direct purpose.

You’ll even eventually discover why you do what you do.

And when you see that clearly, you’ll clarify meaning and purpose for everyone in the organization.

The ‘what’ and ‘how’ of any organization grow old quickly. ‘Why’—especially in the church—never gets old.

If you want to inspire a team over the long haul, purpose is far more motivating than strategy.

A Question Every Leader Should Ask

So how are you doing…really?

It’s hard to know, isn’t it?

Here’s a question I’ve come to ask myself over the last few years: Am I living in a way today that will help me thrive tomorrow?

If not, adjust.

Want To Get Better?

So what are some practical ways to readjust your time and priorities?

I wrote about burnout and creating a healthy leadership culture in my latest book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow.

Believe it or not, your emotional, spiritual and relational health as a leader are actually factors that can keep your church from growing.

And even more than that, your health will determine the health of your team. As I write about in Lasting Impact, healthy leaders produce healthy churches.

Here are some other resources that can help too:

It’s About Time (Parts 1 and 2): The Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast

Time Management and Other Tech Hacks, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast (also below)

How Perry Noble Hit Rock Bottom, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast (also below)

7 Secrets to Becoming Far More Productive With Your Time

Top 10 Ways Leaders Waste Time

How Managing Your Energy Can Make You a Much Better Leader

Margin, by Richard Swenson

What About You?

What have you forfeited in leadership when you’ve been too busy?

What’s helped you get better?

Scroll down and leave a comment!


  1. Reiko Wright on March 4, 2016 at 9:59 am

    I’m curious how you differentiate meaning and purpose.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 4, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      Meaning to me is what it’s about. Purpose is what you do because of what it’s about.

  2. Steve Fogg on February 11, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    Great points Carey! I would add margin to this list. When you have no margin you doesn’t allow you to be the best that you can be. It’s like inhaling for the soul. Inhale allows you to exhale and create amazing stuff/lead.

    You kinda alluded to this throughout I think. When we get so busy we have no margin. Counterintuitive I know, but sometimes it is actually productive to do nothing!

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