I love time management seminars, books, and blogs. I have used tons of different day planners in the last decade. In the pursuit of getting ever more things done, I have tried every trick, employed every method and adhered for at least a time to every new system out there. I am pretty good at being productive but until I learned to pursue excellence, all that productivity was getting me nowhere – I was getting there quickly and being quite organized about it, though!
We might define efficiency as “getting everything done”. Yet at the end of the day, does it really matter if I got the papers graded, the clothes folded, the dishes washed, the website updated, cooked a home-made meal, and spoke at an on-line seminar, all in one day? Yes I can do that, but is it the best use of my time? I got it all done, but was it done with excellence? Nope.
I can collapse into bed at the end of the day, having checked everything off my to-do list, but am I satisfied? Am I sure I put those precious hours to the best possible use? Nope again.
Author Michael LeBoef puts it this way: “Devoting a little of yourself to everything means committing a great deal of yourself to nothing.”
How do we commit ourselves to excellence? How do we make the best use of our precious hours? The best outcome of our time should be to have fulfilled that which we were called to do, using the distinctive gifts we were given, to the utmost of our ability.
To do that requires 2 things:
Identify our unique purpose
Delegate the rest to others
Identifying our unique purpose is not some mystical “finding ourselves” process. It is usually right in front of you and has been a part of your life from the beginning. You can identify it by looking at what you’ve been gifted to do. Are you good at encouraging and uplifting others? Do you have a natural affinity for organizing? Is leading and administrating easy for you? Do you know your Bible inside and out and take great pleasure in helping others see Truth? Maybe you enjoy nothing more than being able to help and serve wherever you are needed.
Guess what? Those are all gifts, given by God for us to use. They are the purpose for which we were created. Maybe you have a natural gift for teaching, as I do. We may share the same gift, but the way in which we express that gift will be different.
There is no great mystery or secret here. Taking the time to understand your natural gifts, exploring the strengths and weaknesses of your personality, and looking at the opportunities right in front of you today will reveal your purpose.
Every great entrepreneur, athlete or TV personality has identified what they are great at, the thing they have been gifted to do, and built their career around that thing. Even Martha Stewart, who has several businesses, anchors them all around her organized home making skills.
Once you know your purpose, and have indentified what you are great at doing, the next step is to delegate the rest. There are bound to be many things you can do, but you may not enjoy them or struggle with them. There are people in your life who are gifted to do the very things you can’t do well. It is their gift and part of their purpose. Trying to do everything ourselves means depriving someone else of their chance to shine!
We all need one another. No one achieves success alone. Leadership author John Maxwell says: “We tend to revere rugged individualists, but there are no real-life Rambos or Lone Rangers who do things of great achievement on their own. Most of life’s great moments – the ones that resonate in our hearts and minds – involve other people.”
If you are in business, outsourcing your hardest tasks to a virtual assistant or webmaster is not an expense, it is the best way to free up your time for the things that make you money – the things you are gifted to do.
If you are a stay at home mom, training your children to help with chores around the house will not only prepare them for responsible adult-hood, eventually it will free up more time to spend together as a family and give YOU time to do what only YOU can do.
Pursuing excellence is a process of refining our gifts and letting go of the things we are not called to do. It is the secret to living a purposeful, meaningful life that we can look back on without regret. The greatest tragedy in life is to reach its end with your potential untapped, your purpose unfulfilled.