The 8020 of Leading in Crisis

I want to take a look at the 8020 of disruptive, crisis leadership. Or maybe it’s better stated “the 8020 of leading in disruption and crisis”. 8020 Pastors and Priority Pastor are about crafting a focused, sustainable life and ministry. 

When it comes to disruption and crisis, if you’re a leader and you want to maintain this focus, stability, and sustainability, the 8020, is very clearly in my mind, self leadership. It’s about taking care of yourself and putting on your own oxygen mask first, as the flight attendant says before take-off. This can be a little bit counter to our pastoral bias towards self-sacrifice, rightly or wrongly. 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately in this context about Robert Murray McCheyne, who was a phenomenal minister and preacher, but he died at the age of 29 primarily due to overwork. It was reported that he said when he was dying, “The Lord gave me a horse to ride and a message to deliver. Alas, I have killed the horse and cannot deliver the message.” And so self-care is important all the time. 

But I think in crisis we really need to pay attention. In fact, I would say that if we’ve been cheating on self-care in the normal flow of life in ministry, then when there’s a crisis, it can come up and bite us on the back. It can really surprise us because we don’t know the patterns of self-care. We don’t have a bias towards self-care. 

The reason we need self-care so dramatically in these seasons is broken routine, the addition of stress and the fact that stuff just takes longer. I feel some days right now that even though I’m getting a lot done, it feels like I’m walking in molasses. Things like meetings seemed to take longer and preparing for the weekend seems to take longer, which it does, because of the video side of things. 

So here are some little 8020 points for self-care in a time of crisis and disruption. Some things I’m doing that I’ve picked up from other places or I’ve just implemented some that seem to be working really, really well for us. 

The first one is no news before 5 p.m. My wife and I do not look at the news before 5 p.m. and we’re trying not to look at it after 7 p.m., so there’s just a little window in there. I tell you, it changes your day, rather than taking a look or listening to the news at breakfast and getting everything flooding in. Not going to the news during a time of disruption and crises actually helps a lot. 

I’ve got an alarm set on my phone at 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and when it goes off, I go do a light workout. So the second point here is get some exercise. I’ve got a TRX, which is essentially a couple of straps hanging in the basement here. I do some stretching, a few suspended training exercises, push ups, pull ups, those kind of things. We do one or two walks a day. Nothing heavy, but we do that. And that just keeps the blood pumping. 

Another thing we’ve done, which isn’t new to my routine, is to not set an alarm clock except when I need to get up earlier than usual. We don’t have the alarm clock in our room, and we keep our phones outside our room. We don’t set the alarm so that if our bodies need to sleep, we’re sleeping. We try to get to bed at a consistent time, so we tend to get up at a consistent time. But every now and then, it’s like your body can just use that extra hour of sleep. So in this season, we allow it because the extra rest need is not a function of physical exercise, but of the stress and the mental duress that we are under. 

Something else I’m doing, is setting a single significant weekly goal in all the different moving parts in my life and ministries. At the start of the week I look at the one thing I hope to accomplish. I’ve already set them for the next four weeks. I know there are 20 things I probably need to accomplish each week, but there’s one thing that is the priority or the primary project. This helps prevent me from trying to do too much, but trying to make sure I’m doing something productive along the way. 

Then another thing we’re doing is something we usually do once a year. We’re right now in the middle of our annual metabolism reset, which is a liver cleanse. It’s a bit of a recovery time between cross-country skiing season, which we do in the winter, and canoeing season in the summer. Right now we can’t do either, so it’s a perfect time. 

The cleanse involves a smoothie of a certain kind of concoction, which my wife makes for breakfast, another for lunch, and then a little more wide open dinner with measured amounts of protein, carbs, and lots of vegetables. In fact it’s all you can eat vegetables all day, any day, all the salad you want. “Yum.” Tthat’s the reset. 

It’s a little bit like a fast, but it’s not quite a fast. The intent is not to lose weight, but I do lose weight, and the last time I did it, I lost somewhere north of 15 pounds. Some of that came back, as was intended, but it does lean you up and it does help your body, your soul, your spirit, your thinking. 

Another point here is to have some thinking time carved out every day where you think about where you’re at and where you’re “going analog” as Perry Marshall likes to say, where you’re not on your phone, you’re on a computer. Instead, you’re sitting down with a notebook or a paper book. Taking time for writing, reflecting, thinking, praying and you’re just allowing some time to not just de-stress, but in an unrushed way, thinking through the challenges of the day or the week. 

This is all tied to a phraseology that Alex Charfen uses, the idea of “reducing pressure and noise”. What are the things you can do in your day to reduce pressure and noise? Those are some of the things that I’m doing. We continue to, again this is a Charfen-ism, hyper-hydrate. I start my day with about 20 ounces of water right out of bed. 

One other point that’s kind of come up is to make sure you’re sharing with someone you can be transparent with, maybe even vulnerable, sharing what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, what you’re worried about, what your stresses are, and make sure you don’t get into isolation. Some of us who lean towards the introvert or energized sides of things, we don’t mind a bit of isolation and a bit of a lockdown. But we need to remember there are others who really do mind the isolation and that we ourselves do need human interaction as well. 

So that’s the 8020 of leadership in crisis and disruption, and the 8020 is…self-care, self leadership, taking care of yourself, putting on your own oxygen mask first. 

Wisdom to you as you navigate the season of life in ministry. God bless. Press on. 

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