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7 Things There Will Never Be Enough Time For

time carey nieuwhofThere are at least 7 things in leadership there will never be enough time for…unless, of course, you make it.

And smart leaders do.

My guess is that whenever you read this, you’re already feeling pinched for time and a bit overwhelmed.

Welcome to leadership. Welcome to life.

If you study the differences between great leaders and poor leaders (as I outlined here), many of them centre around pro-activity, refusing to make excuses and abundance thinking.

Another key difference is that great leaders refuse to let their days get sucked up by meeting after useless meeting, email and being pulled into other people’s urgent priorities.

If you’ve ever made it Friday and had a hard time answering the question “What did I accomplish this week?”,  it might be because you failed to make time for these 7 things for which great leaders always make time.

Too many leaders make it to Friday and can't answer the question What did I accomplish this week? Click To Tweet

So, if you really want to edge up your leadership and begin accomplishing something significant, start making time for these 7 things.

1. Investing in your best people

Guess who will monopolize your time if you’re not proactive?

Your most problematic people. Problem people will occupy your calendar unless you decide they won’t.

When volunteer X didn’t show up for the 5th time, most leaders will spend incredible time and effort trying to fix that. Or you’ll get yet another meeting request from person Y, who always seems to have some irresolvable crisis going on in his life.

And in the process, your best leaders will be ignored.

Your best people—the ones who show up on time, every time, prepared and ready to do an exceptional job—rarely ask to meet with you. They never call you. They never bother you.

A great leadership practice is to spend the majority of your one-on-one time with your best people.


It makes them better.

It makes you better.

It moves your mission forward faster.

And—let’s be honest—it’s not like the problem people really get better as a result of your meeting with them anyway. They continue to be problematic.

So, cut your losses and spend the bulk of your time with your best people.

Problem people will always occupy your calendar unless you decide they won't. Click To Tweet

2. Planning for the future

There’s never enough time to do an awesome job planning for the future.

But if you study top performers, you realize they do something many other leaders don’t: they spend significant amounts of time working on plans for the future.

Naturally, they execute as well, but having a carefully crafted and shared mission, vision, strategy and even a set of values can guide your organization beautifully into the future.

If you don’t plan for the future, the future will simply happen to you.

If you plan for it, you’ll shape it.

When was the last time you took a full day—or even a full week—to work on the future?

No one will ever ask you do it, they’ll just criticize you if you don’t. So do it.

No one will ever ask you to plan for the future. They'll just criticize you if you don't. Click To Tweet

3. Your Highest Value Projects

If you broke what you do into categories from ‘lowest value’ to ‘highest value’, you’d learn something interesting.

You will naturally spend most of your time doing the things that provide the least value: answering email, going to meetings that went too long, didn’t need to happen or that you shouldn’t have attended, and answering questions that really didn’t move your mission forward.

Think about it this way: if you didn’t engage in any of the above for a week, what would truly be lost (other than having a full inbox to empty?).

But you also do things that provide exceptionally high value. While it will vary from leader to leader, for me, those things would be creating great sermon series, setting objectives for the months and years ahead and ensuring our senior leaders are healthy and on mission. I know when I do those things well, our church does best.

In my personal time, I blog, podcast and write. Recently, I’ve cut back on the number of original blog posts I’m writing so I can focus on launching my new book, Lasting Impact.  The decision was simple. Something had to give, and I believe a well-written book has the potential to help many more leaders over a longer window of time than a 1200 word blog post.

If you consistently spend time on high value projects, you will have a far greater legacy as a leader than leaders who don’t.

So what’s the greatest value you bring to your organization? Budget significant time for that.

Too many leaders spend most of their time on the things that provide the least value. Click To Tweet

4. Exercise

I avoided this for too long in my leadership. For the first decade in my time in leadership, I hardly exercised.

Ironically, I worked more hours and got less done.

While I’m not perfect in my exercise routine, exercise has been a bigger part of my life in the last five years than at any other point. So has proper sleep (see point 5, below).

Perhaps not coincidentally, in the window in which I’ve exercised the most and slept the best, our church has grown to the largest it’s ever been. I’ve also written 3 books, launched this blog and launched a leadership podcast.

This may not be a coincidence.

You’ll make time to go to the doctor if you suffer from obesity, diabetes or heart disease. So why not make time for exercise instead?

People who make no time for exercise will eventually have to make time to see the doctor. Click To Tweet

5. Adequate sleep

In the 80s and 90s leaders used to brag about how little sleep they got.

I bought that line of thinking until it almost killed me.

Chronic lack of sleep was a major factor in the personal burnout I went through almost a decade ago (I outline 7 painful truths about burnout and leadership here).

Today, I don’t cheat sleep anymore. In fact, I believe getting a full night’s sleep and even taking naps is a secret weapon most leaders miss.

You think more clearly and are simply nicer to be around when you’re rested. Everyone is. And those are two key characteristics of effective leaders.

Everyone will ask you to stay up later to get things done.


Go to bed on time. You’ll actually get more done—refreshed and alive in the morning.

Leaders who go to bed on time get more–not less–done, than leaders who cheat sleep. Click To Tweet

6. Family

Everyone wants you to have a great family life as a leader, but then they’ll ask you to please attend their event next Saturday (which happens to be your family day).

What do you do?

Too many leaders cave and say yes to the event.

Every time you say yes to an event on your day off, you’re saying no to your family.

Every time you say yes to an evening out, you’re saying no to your family.

Every time you say yes to a project you can’t adequatly manage, you’re saying no to your family.

Two things can help with this.

First, pre-determine what your family time will be. Then, when people ask you whether you’re free, you can simply say “I’m sorry, I have a commitment”. If all you have is a blank space in your calendar, you’ll end up saying yes. So write “FAMILY” into your calendar as a commitment.

Second, you need to learn how to say no nicely. I outlined the 6 step strategy I use for saying no (nicely) in this post.

One day you will retire from leadership. You will never retire from your family.

One day you will retire from leadership. You will never retire from your family. Click To Tweet

7. Thinking

Every leader needs time to think.

If your life is a series of long meetings, administration and endless texts and emails, you will never take time to truly think.

Innovation never arises from leaders who just want to get it done. Innovation comes from leaders who question what ‘it’ should be.

Again, you can carve white space out on your calendar just to think. Go for a long car ride with the windows down. Find a coffee shop to linger in. Take a walk in the woods. Or lock your office door, shut your laptop and grab and pen and paper.

You can actually develop some strategies to become a better thinker (I outline mine here), but first you need to simply create the space and time to think.!

Free Training on Maximizing Your Productivity

If you want to make 2019 your most productive year yet, I have two free training videos (and one more to be released soon) on how to do just that.

In video one, I also give away a free calendar template that I’ve used for over a decade to help me become the most productive I’ve ever been. In the video, I show you how to use the template to crush your goals.

In video two, I share with you why it’s so critical to say no, and offer tips on how to do it. Seriously, ‘no’ is one of the most important words out of a leader’s mouth.

The videos are short, and the downloads are free:

Watch Video One and download the free High Impact Leader calendar.

Watch Video Two to learn how to say no without losing all your friends. 

Watch Video Three on 5 ways to beat overwhelm, and download the accompanying free PDF

Hope these help!

What Are You Learning?

What do you wish you had more time for in leadership?

Scroll down and leave a comment.



  1. Solomon Rexius on March 18, 2016 at 9:25 am

    I feel like you looked at my ministry schedule and wrote a blog about how to make it better. Thank you.

  2. Sean Chandler on October 16, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    I’ve been a youth pastor for about 7 years now. It’s astounding how having kids and getting older drastically change how you do things. Before we had kids I never even thought about family time, exercise or sleep. My wife did everything with me, and I was young enough to just coast.

    I almost had a break down this past Summer from lack of sleep, lack of energy, and missing my family from going on so many church trips.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 16, 2015 at 7:48 pm

      Thanks Sean. So glad you are catching on to the importance of rest…so crucial!

  3. What we’re reading…10/02/15 | on October 2, 2015 at 11:57 am

    […] really appreciate this article titled, 7 Things There Will Never Be Enough Time For… unless you prioritize […]

  4. Brian Sherwood on September 29, 2015 at 5:41 am

    Great list but the most important item good leader must make time for is prayer. Everything will fall into place or out of place depending on prayer.

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