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I was sitting around the breakfast table with a bunch of guys this morning and was reminded of an incident that took place at a former job. This was before ministry. I was a city manager–kind of like the CEO of a business. I was responsible for leading an organization with a $20 million budget and 150 employees. I was the man. I wore a suit. Everyday.

One day I was working at my desk, and I heard a woman scream from the other side of the office building. Just a few seconds later, the screaming woman ran into my office. She explained that she needed help. She had found a cockroach in her office. And, for whatever reason, she thought this was a problem for the “CEO.” Remember, I was the guy who wore a suit. Everyday.

I’m not sure why I did it, but I slowly pushed my chair away from the desk. Stood up. Walked down the hall. Entered the screaming woman’s office, and proceeded to kill the cockroach. I was wearing my suit, which, of course, I wore…everyday.

It’s been about eight years since that incident. I don’t wear suits anymore, but there are still days when I come home a little mopey. I guess the frustration is all over my face. Emily will take one look at me and ask, “Did you have to kill cockroaches today?”

I’ve grown wiser though. I’ve learned there are things I can do to avoid getting stuck killing cockroaches. It’s my responsibility to move beyond just reacting to what’s urgent. It includes things like:

  • Blocking time out in my schedule–actually setting appointments with myself–to dream and plan and work on the big-picture projects.
  • Empowering other competent leaders. Giving them significant ministry responsibilities and authority rather than just delegating tasks.
  • Identifying my strengths. Positioning myself so I’m operating out of my strengths. And, finding others who are different than me to manage around my weaknesses.
  • Hiring an assistant who’s not a secretary but a leader and a project manager.
  • Surrounding myself with problem-solvers rather than problem-messengers.

I could go on and on, but the point here is I’m typically the problem when my day is filled with killing cockroaches. It’s easy to blame the screaming person who runs into my office, but often times I’m the one that has allowed and sometimes created those urgent demands.

So, the moral of the story is this: you get to decide where your time goes. You can spend it moving forward. Or, you can spend it putting out fires. You get to decide. If you don’t decide, others will decide for you. Then you, too, will be stuck reacting to the urgent. You may not be wearing a suit, but you’ll be killing cockroaches. Everyday.

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