7 Secrets to Being a High Achiever

Green extra mile sign

I get asked frequently:

Pastor, how do you get so much done and still take care of yourself and your family?

Honestly, I never feel I’ve accomplished as much as I would like, but after receiving the question so many times, perhaps I should attempt to answer.

I do have a lot of responsibility. I pastor a large church…undergoing transition and change. I have an active (some would say over-active) online presence. I blog regularly to a growing audience and daily interact with my readers. I maintain a separate non-profit ministry I’ve managed for over 10 years where I provide consulting and teaching to pastors and churches. I frequently take on extra writing projects and speaking opportunities, which usually keeps me doing something different every week. And, I strive to be the person, husband and father my congregation could seek to follow.

Okay, typing that paragraph reminds me. I’m busy. Productive would be subject to interpretation, but certainly I have activity in my life.

As I’ve reflected of what helps me accomplish much, here are 7 thoughts:

My 7 secrets to being a high achiever:

I’m intentional – That’s probably number one. I strive to live my life for a purpose and that carries over into everything that I do. (Notice there are even 7 steps in this answer. That was intentional.) If you could name one word that describes who I am as a pastor, leader, husband, father, friend and child of God, it would be intentional. (By the way, I’m intentional about resting too.) I even put that last sentence about rest in here intentionally, because I knew someone would wonder. :)

I don’t sit still long – Being still is a discipline for me. Some seasons I’m better at it than others. I realize some people have no trouble with this, but I do. As I said about being intentional, I have to make myself rest. My mind is constantly in motion. If I’m watching a television program, which isn’t often, I’m doing attempting to do something productive while I watch…otherwise I feel I “wasted” time. I wish I could say I’m always doing the “best” things, but certainly more activity leads to the potential for more productivity. Doesn’t always work that way, which is why some of the other points I’m listing are far more valuable than this one.

I exercise – I’d also love to say I watch what I eat, and I do to a certain extent, but mostly I exercise to stay fit. I’ve learned that the more out of shape I am the less effective I am in all that I attempt to do. It impacts me physically, emotionally and spiritually when I skip my time exercising.

I work from a plan – Whether it’s long-term or short-term planning, I try to have one. I begin most every Monday morning (or sometimes Sunday nights) planning the week ahead. I find I’m more successful in my week if I’ve put some plans on paper prior to beginning any activity. Daily I begin by reviewing my plans for the day. At the beginning of a year, I plan the year. I periodically look over larger time spans of my life and plan or review where I’m going. Now, the further I get from the date, the more difficult it is to solidify my plans…life disrupts…but without a plan I find I’m spinning my wheels more than making progress.

I take advantage of opportunities – Did you catch that? It is not complicated, but it is a powerful principle. Networking. Delegation. Time-management. Learning something new. Cultivating dead times. I am intentional (there’s that word again) at looking for opportunities as they present themselves. If I’m waiting at the doctor’s office, I’m probably writing a blog post or replying to emails. Small opportunities lead to huge opportunities. I seek those moments. (By the way, that’s why I always have something with me where I can make notes. When ideas come…I want to be ready. Intentionally ready.)

I try to stay ahead – This is hard. I’m a procrastinator by nature too, but the more I can, I try to stay one step ahead of the snowballs in my schedule. They happen to all of us. If I’m prepared when those times arrive I can better keep them from being a disruption in my productivity.

I prioritize – I say no often. It may not seem like it to an outside observation, but I do. I say no a lot. I have come to the realization that I can’t do everything or be everywhere. I’ve tried to figure out what’s most important in my life, my work, and my walk with God and I put those things first. I even schedule some of them to make sure nothing gets in the way. I ask myself consistently questions such as, “Am I the right one to be doing this?”, “Is this the best use of my time?” Again, intentional.

It should finally be noted that I’m in a different season of life these days. I’m an empty-nester. When my boys were home life was different. I was intentional then too, but in different ways.

Which of these would help you the most? Any you would add to help others (and me)?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Add video comment

Have you Subscribed via RSS yet? Don't miss a post!

15 thoughts on “7 Secrets to Being a High Achiever

  1. I would like to hear how the season of life with very young children affected your productivity differently. I have 2 little ones (2 years, 3 months and then a 10 month old). Grasping hold of life and time can be such a struggle. Did you face something similar? How did you handle that season of your life?

    • That's a great question. And, I did. I'm actually speaking on that at a conference this week. When my two boys were young, I owned a fairly large small business (35-50 employees), served as an elected official, taught Sunday school and was an active deacon, and never missed a ballgame. My boys are today adults and my best friends — aside from my wife. It's hard work, takes intentionality, and every moment of your day must be scheduled. You do what's important and not what's not. You can do it! Praying for you.

  2. I would only add one thing, but this is something that probably weaves through all seven. And that is accountabilty. For most of us, it takes a while to develop the discipline required to put these things into practice. Until then, we need help. Also, publisizing these 'secrets' (like on a blog) helps us to keep them better. Great post!

  3. Ron, this may be straying off-topic slightly, but I think it's related. In your opinion, where does personality or gifting (DISC, Myers Briggs, etc.) fit with leadership and high achievement? Do you think some are more naturally prone to be the leaders and achievers?

    • Yes, I do. Absolutely. I do believe, however, that we have to discipline ourselves outside of our personalities to be as productive and effective as possible. For example, I'm highly introverted, but I wouldn't do well in my job on Sundays if I performed that way. On Sunday, I'm the most extroverted person in the building, usually.

  4. I can adapt these really well for my piano students regarding their attitude about practicing – at the piano AND in their lives!

  5. My friend plans a New's Year's Party each year and we write out resolutions. This year mine was "One new resolution each month. I haven't set April's, yet. Thanks for your help!

    April: Stop sitting so much.