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 to 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

7 Things There’s Never Enough Time For

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.

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.

Every time you say yes to an event on your day off, you're saying no to your family. Click To Tweet

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.!


the high impact leader

Ok, so maybe your Calendar is killing you. What should you do about it?

Years ago, when I burned out, I completely restructured how I approach my calendar, and it has resulted in the most productive years of my life.

Since moving to this new calendar system, I have

  • Spent more quality time with my wife and kids
  • Written 5 bestselling books
  • Produced and launched 4 (almost 5) online courses that thousands of leaders have taken
  • Started a highly successful leadership podcast
  • Started a top leadership blog that releases content 6 days a week
  • Led our church to over 1000+ weekly attenders
  • Started my own company

How was I able to do all of that?

It’s all in how I structured my calendar.

I would love to share that calendar template with you for free—you can customize it to fit your needs and tasks. And once you download it, there’s a free video explaining how I use it.

Download your FREE calendar template here.

What Are You Learning?

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

Scroll down and leave a comment.


7 Things There Will Never Be Enough Time For


  1. Emily Nelson on April 8, 2021 at 1:39 pm

    So helpful. Love the emphasis on time for best people, and on exercise, family and sleep. I am reading a book by the former head usher for the White House, and it’s been amazing to me to get a glimpse into the personal, daily schedules of some of our past presidents. Several of them took a nap every day! I’ve seen how much I benefit in the long-run with productivity when I rest and get exercise more days of the week than not. It’s so reassuring to me to see “permission” here. That’s one thing I still struggle with; feeling “permission” to do those things.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 8, 2021 at 2:38 pm

      That’s so cool! Keep it up!

  2. Robert Lancaster on April 8, 2021 at 9:50 am

    Thank you for the nap comment. If I am able to I will take a short nap about 1 in the afternoon. But, I have always felt guilty for doing it even though I feel better and think better after I wake up. It always felt like a selfish thing to do.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 8, 2021 at 2:39 pm

      Hey Robert,

      I hear you. Will permission from me, some random guy on the internet, help? You will seriously do better work!

  3. Nigel Mohammed on April 8, 2021 at 8:22 am

    Living with health issues, espeically long term and permanent health issues affects our perception of time and time management. For me, it is a moment by moment mentality, especially moment by moment in terms of connecting with God. People can be exhausting even if you have great health and a balanced lifestyle. I wanted to just put this out there for all of us who live with chronic pain and long term health issues. Believe me, you have to break your life down to manageable bite size chunks. I think it was Donald Miller a Writer who succintly put simplicity into three things in life.
    1. Have 2-3 close soul friends
    2. Expand the quality of what you do
    3. I can’t remember! But i found it helpful. Of course having a thankful heart to God is the healthiest disposition i believe.

  4. ed on April 8, 2021 at 7:45 am

    I expected time alone with God to be #1

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 8, 2021 at 2:40 pm

      Absolutely. That’s assumed for Christians if I don’t explicitly list it in a post. It’s always my #1 thing in the morning.

  5. Chris Robertson on June 1, 2020 at 7:50 am

    Thanks, Carey for another great post. I’m challenged with needing to calendar better and create time to think.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 1, 2020 at 4:04 pm

      You aren’t alone Chris,

      It’s a never-ending fight.

  6. Juan on May 31, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    Carey! Would be great to have the option to share by WhatsApp, wouldn’t?

  7. Rjhall on May 31, 2020 at 9:22 am


    You hit the nail on the head with this post.

    Thank you for giving us a positive affirmative for taking the time
    To reload (as it were), without guilt.

    My best days have been when I was able to take time to freewheel mentally and spiritually. Without rest, prayer, physical strength and support. As well as staff that believes in their job. None of this is especially effective. As has been said. “A leader without followers. . . Is just taking a walk. & a walk without a goal is merely effort with no outcome!”

  8. Brandon Sweet on May 31, 2020 at 8:59 am

    This morning as I was getting up early to head into the church, I thought to myself, “I’m going to take a moment to get my head straight before I rush into the office.” Then I read this post. Thank you. In this crazy season we all find ourselves in, this was the perfect medicine for my life.
    Downloaded the template and am ready to share it with my pastoral team this week, in our productive meeting!

  9. Wayne Keller on May 31, 2020 at 7:26 am

    As I read item 1 Carey I’m left feeling like you just showed me the difference e between leader and pastor. Really, your BEST people and CUT YOUR LOSSES. Lord have mercy man. This sounds SO arrogant.

    • Catherine Kennelly on April 8, 2021 at 9:43 am

      It’s not really when you consider that the Biblical function of leadership is to prepare your people to do the works of ministry, not to do it yourself. It’s not about ignoring the broken and needy, but about training your leaders to care for them. There are always more broken people in any community that one person can adequately care for. They always need more of your time and energy than you are able give, even with the best intent in the world.

      It is generally impossible for a leader to care for all the broken and hurting people in their church/community AND develop leaders. This killed our ministry for many years and in the end we were further behind because no one had matured. Sure the broken had been given our time, but we were the only people they could come to, since we hadn’t really discipled our leaders to the point where we could delegate. The broken hadn’t gown up and neither had our leaders.

      The body of Christ is not the pastor.

      • Sean on April 9, 2021 at 12:44 pm

        Fantastic reply, Catherine.

  10. Bud reedy on May 31, 2020 at 7:03 am

    Helpful….as usual.

  11. Darlyne Jarrett on May 8, 2020 at 12:57 am

    I agree with everything except ignoring the trouble makers. These people are often living under terrible circumstances and they need help. A little kindness just may turn things around.

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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 […]

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  15. 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.

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

      Prayer is foundational for sure.

      • Leah on April 8, 2021 at 5:43 pm

        I think something I am challenged with is, whenever you try to set boundaries as a leader, in terms of who you are meeting with, people will accuse you of things if you don’t make time to meet with them. Or you find out they were hurt that you didn’t make time for them when they reached out even if you were kind. Meanwhile not knowing that you also have a number of other responsibilities & people to meet with & care for while also taking care of your mental health, marriage family & etc.
        How do you handle that guilt? And how can we politely respond in those situations?
        It seems unrealistic expectations get placed on pastors, & senior staff.

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