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Carey Nieuwhof is a Canadian pastor, author and pod-caster and he is #christianfamous for being a profoundly insightful leader. Carey’s weekly podcast is extremely popular and his guests are basically a line-up of the most influential Christian leaders in the USA and from around the world. He is clever, fun, humble and asks great questions. It seems that very, very busy people are happy to travel to Canada and be interviewed by Carey in his basement. I think this speaks to the effectiveness and reach that Carey has.

When I saw that Nieuwhof was coming to Riverview Church to share leadership insights, I knew I had to be there.

And at the end of the evening session, I went and spoke to Carey and his wife. I shook his hand and I told them that I am going to mark this day on my calendar as the day I stop being embarrassed about the way I live my life.

Here’s why…

In one of the sessions, Carey spoke to the group about ‘balance’. Many people will tell you that striving for work/life balance is essential to happiness. Carey said that was a load of crap. (He might not have said crap because he was in a church.) He said the most passionate people work hard at what they love because they are passionate about it. He listed some of the most amazing, influential people in the world who were driven by passion, and it was clear that these were people who weren’t worried about working 9-5 and making sure they took an hour for lunch.

Nieuwhof wasn’t advocating a life of stress and unhealthy work patterns- a lot of his work focuses on avoiding the unhealthy patterns that lead to burn out. He told us that he frequently takes afternoon naps and he showed us his weekly timetable, which included date nights, rest days, regular exercise and lots of scheduled breaks.

The advice that Carey gave was to maximise the 24 hours you have every day by “doing the things you’re best at when you’re at your best.” He talked about figuring out what your best time/s are by tracking your mood and energy levels and then doing the things that you are best at during those times.

So basically, give your best energy to the things you are best at, at the time you are at your best.

He encouraged us to develop a fixed calendar that blocked out our very best time so that we could work on the things that mattered most.

After listening to Carey, I went to a cafe and thought through what I’d heard. I realised that I had already been doing what Carey had suggested, but I mapped out my calendar and looked at ways I could tweak it.

I am definitely at my best early in the morning. I usually wake up in a good mood and find that I can think very clearly first thing. I discovered this when I went back to study when the girls were small. The only options for study were when they were asleep- either early in the morning or after they went to bed at night. If I had an essay due, I found that I could write only one paragraph per hour at night, compared to one page per hour in the morning.

As the day goes on, my brain gets significantly slower. If I try to read anything serious at night, I find that my eyes skim the words but my mind wanders to other places. The same book, read in the morning, can be deeply impacting.

I am passionate about communicating life, hope and truth in various formats (the Church, writing, speaking, blogging, preaching etc) and I am committed to getting better at this (reading books that help with good content, using my blog to practise writing and shaping ideas, listening podcasts, my Vose study etc). I am going to use my best time for writing and sermon/talk prep, and for learning that makes me better at both.

Because I have small children, and because I am sharpest in the morning, the very best time of day for me is 5am- 7am.

I am making some changes to my day so that I can do the things I am best at when I am at my best. I’m getting up early, taking the odd afternoon nap, and going to bed early whenever I can.

When I shook hands with Carey Nieuwhof, he reminded me that I am in a season of life where I can’t always do what I am best at, when I am at my best. His wife warned me that it’s also only going to get tougher when the girls hit the teen years. I do know this, but I also believe that if I put these time management strategies into place now, then I’m going to be smashin’ it when the kids are old.

What are you best at? What were you uniquely created to do?

When is your best time of the day?

Does the type of work you do, and the life you lead, allow for you to do what you are best at when you are at your best?