“The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” ~ Lin Yutang
“Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin?” “Are you often busy but not productive?” Business writer and consultant Greg McKeown poses these questions in his landmark book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. According to McKeown, “If you answered yes to any of these
He explains: “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done,” McKeown explains…It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”
McKeown offers a three-step, systematic process for determining what is essential and what is not. It contains a wealth of wisdom for Christian coaches.
A 3-Step Systematic Process for Coaches:
Step 1 — Explore: Discerning the Trivial Many from the Vital Few
As a professional coach, you certainly have no shortage of things to do. As my coach once said to me, “You’ll always have more ideas and opportunities than you have the time or energy to pursue.” For example, you could spend your time and energy in multiple ways, including marketing, networking, or creating products, to name just a few. But should you?
To answer that question, you need to create space to think, to explore your options, and to discern God’s will. In other words, you need to make time for the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude. Historically, the great innovators, thinkers, and pioneers in every field have taken time away from the daily routines of life to focus on life’s essentials.
In fact, former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates used to take a full week off from his daily duties at Microsoft twice a year to read and think. During the busiest times in the company’s history, Gates secluded himself for a week with nothing to do but read, study technology, and think. Today, he continues his practice while running his foundation.
As a coach, how much time do you take away from the busyness of life to seek the Lord about your coaching business?
If you can’t remember the last time you stepped away from your desk, consider scheduling a 24 or 48-hour retreat sometime soon to seek the Lord about your life, relationships, and coaching business. When you do, you’ll gain greater clarity and a deeper sense of purpose.
Step 2 — Eliminate: Cutting out the Trivial Many
Let’s start this process with a question: What kind of coach are you?
The spectrum of Christian coaching professionals includes a broad range of interests and levels of engagement. Some individuals feel called to full-time Christian coaching, and it becomes their primary means of fulfilling God’s call on their life and providing for their families.
Other people are called to coach part-time, investing the majority of their time and energy in another vocation altogether. For example, pastors and church staff often feel their primary call is to full-time ministry but as part of their ministries, they coach their staff and church members.
Where on the spectrum do you fall? What has God revealed to you about your place in the Christian coaching world?
If these questions don’t help cut the clutter, consider the author’s question, “If we could be truly excellent at only one thing, what would it be?”
Step 3 — Execution: Removing Obstacles and Making Execution Effortless
You’ve probably heard the Yiddish proverb, “Man makes plans and God laughs.” But we sometimes forget how true it is.
“The one thing we can expect (with any degree of certainty) is the unexpected,” McKeown writes. “Therefore, we can either wait for the moment and react to it, or we can prepare. We can create a buffer.”
The author defines a buffer as a barrier, something that prevents two things from coming into contact and harming each other. It is about providing “extra space,” in our lives and schedules by eliminating the barriers. McKeown goes so far as to suggest adding 50 percent to your time estimate for any given task or project to create the time and space you need.
Identifying and removing obstacles is another essential component of the execution phase. As you consider the task or project before you, ask yourself, “What are the obstacles standing between me and getting this gone?” Then make a list. Your list might include: not having the resources you need, your procrastination, or even your energy level.
Often there are multiple obstacles to face and overcome. For the best outcome, try to identify your primary obstacle and eliminate. Once that is done, everything else usually falls into place.
For example, imagine you are invited to write an article for a well-known blog that would increase your exposure and bring in new clients. You know writing is not your strength, so you procrastinate until the night before the article is due. You spend all night at your desk only to realize the following morning that the article is not publishable. Opportunity lost.
An Essentialist would realize writing is not one of her strengths. Because writing is hard for her, she would start researching and writing her draft shortly after receiving the assignment. A week before the article is due she would acknowledge to herself that she lacks the skills she needs to communicate clearly. So, she hires a ghostwriter to organize the content, which she provides, and write the article.
Removing obstacles doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you don’t see an obvious solution, reach out to some colleagues for some help and brainstorming.
Much of what we do as Christian coaches is driven by what the experts tell us we need to do to grow our business and to attract and retain clients. While much of what they say is good business sense, it falls woefully short when weighed against God’s wisdom, the wisdom that comes only by lingering in his presence.
In its simplest form, essentialism is about understanding the one thing, in God’s perspective, that is necessary—in life, in relationships, in business.
Pick up a copy of Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less at your local bookseller. It just might change your life and your business–for good.
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