When I was in graduate school, I worked an hourly job as a barista. I loved it, for so many different reasons. The people, the atmosphere, the camaraderie, and the unlimited supply of coffee. I cannot overstate the beauty of that last truth.
A few years later, as I was finishing up school, I took a role on staff at a church. Instead of hourly, I was salaried. No more punching a clock. No more *required* lunch breaks. No more worrying about hitting my *full time* hour mark. A consistent paycheck was a thing of beauty. I wasn’t paid by the hour anymore. Now I was paid regardless of hours. I was paid the same whether I worked 40 hours or 80 hours. I was now being evaluated not based on the time I put in, but by the work I put out. My “grade” was built on the projects I completed. The leaders I recruited. The deadlines I hit. The goals I surpassed.
Being a “doer” by nature, I loved this. I loved tackling new initiatives, writing new curriculums, and building a team to help accomplish it all.
And now I had the flexibility to work from anywhere I chose: the office, a coffee shop, outside, or even my own house. It was amazing.
Until it wasn’t.
Work continued to creep in to family time. What felt like great momentum and progress began to take over my life. I found myself checking emails at any, and all, hours of the night. On my days “off,” I was cranking through writing projects, meeting with leaders, and planning events. And everywhere I turned, I was met with a, “Wow, you’re doing such a great job!”
Encouragement for a job well done is like crack for a “doer’s” soul. It feeds pride, and affirms all of the extra hours devoted, no matter what they cost in the moment.
“Great job!” doesn’t take into consideration the sacrifice that others had to make. It doesn’t factor in the ripple effect that the extra hours during family dinner had. Or the toll that it took when you scheduled a “working lunch” instead of capitalizing on time with your family. “Great job!” feeds the visible, outward-facing side of a completed project. The place where pride loves to hang out.
What I found was that every time I sent an email during family time, I was telling them that work was more important.* I was putting in all kinds of overtime for my job, and slighting the ones I loved the most.
Being in a salaried role, you may not be tracking your hours. But your family is. [Tweet that]
You and your family
I was tired of putting my family second to my job. Even though my “job” is my calling from God, my priorities were out of whack. My family is my primary calling.
God has placed your family under your care. And if you abdicate your role, you are spurning a gift God has given you. A beautiful, precious, and at times fragile gift. One that’s not easily gained, but in a moment can be lost.
Children are a gift from God. A reward. (Psalm 127:3) And a spouse? “Fathers can give their sons an inheritance of houses and wealth, but only the LORD can give an understanding wife.” (Proverbs 19:14)
My family is my primary calling. And so is yours. It doesn’t matter if you’re a full-time vocational minister or not. If God’s blessed you with a family, that’s your first calling. And it’s your job to guard your time with them, and treat it as the gift it is intended to be in your life.
Here are 5 ways I intentionally guard my time.
Guarding My Family Time
1. No more emails buzzing my phone.
When I feel my phone buzz, like Pavlov’s dog I have to check. Until I do, I twitch. So I turned off the buzz, and do you know what happened? I stopped twitching.
2. Calendar my Sabbath.
I actually block off time on my calendar for my day off every week. But even this hasn’t always worked. I’d block off the time, but still find a way to squeeze in an hour or two here and there. So in addition to calendaring my day off, I had to actually honor that.
Those are two different, but equally important, tasks.
3. Capture ideas, but don’t act on them.
If you’re like me, inspiration never strikes at the perfect moment. I don’t have the grand idea when I have my computer open. I have it when I’m almost asleep at night. Or when I’m in the middle of a meeting. Or…on my day off.
So I started working out this thing with my wife, where I’d tell her exactly what I’m doing: I’m jotting down an idea so I won’t forget it.
Because if I don’t capture that idea, I’ll be haunted by it, not able to think about anything else until I record it.
Quick. Easy. Done. Back to my family.
4. Take pictures, but don’t post them.
This was a big one. Because I’d take my phone out of my pocket to capture a moment, then when I went to post it to Instagram I’d get sucked in to the web of social media. Then I’d remember that email I had to send. Then I’d text a co-worker. By the time I’d blinked, an hour had passed.
So now I just use my camera app, take the picture, then post later.
It’s an easy step, and one that keeps me engaged with my family.
5. Get up early.
When I need to get extra work done, just like you do, I get up extra early. If a sacrifice has to be made, I’m going to be the one to make it, not my family. I’ll work when it’s inconvenient for me. My wife and kids aren’t naturally up at 4 am.
6. Be present.
When I’m with my family, I work hard to be with my family. It sounds simple, but removing distractions so that I can live life in the moment with those I love communicates loads of value.
I’m still not perfect at this. It’s a work in progress. But I’m continuing to take steps in the right direction. Oftentimes, it’s 2 steps forward, then 1 step backwards. But I’m moving in the right direction.
At least, I think I am. You’re probably better off asking my wife, though.
*There are times when emails and phone calls need to be taken on a day off. I get it. Emergencies happen. I’m talking more about patterns of behavior here, not one-offs.