Control



It was April of 2008. My wife, Anna, and I were driving to St. Louis from Kansas City.

Somewhere in the middle of nowheresville on I-70, I got a phone call.

There are a few moments in my life that I look back to as being keystone moments. Small events that signified and connected to something big.

This phone call was one of those.

Before I continue, let me give a little bit of context…

Just a few weeks earlier, my boss at the time had informally offered me her job as the Marketing Director for a large Christian ministry. We had met in her office where she told me she was quitting and asked me if I was interested in taking over her job.

The chance to be a leader? The chance to have my own office? The chance to pick my own hours!? You bet I was interested.

However, before I could “officially” be offered the job I had to be vetted and interviewed.

The vetting process took about a week. They had me come to a meeting where they asked me lots of questions. And they had a meeting without me but where they talked about me and the job I was up for.

I had no clue if they would actually offer me the job or not.

I was just a kid. Or at least I felt like one. I was a mere 27 years old. Everyone in those meetings had at least 10 or 20 years on me. Plus, I was a college drop out — I had quit after my freshman year to go play drums instead.

The final interview meeting was at the same time I was driving to St. Louis. They said they’d call me. And that’s the phone call I got.

I was ready. If they offered me the job, I knew I wanted to accept.

Though the job would mean more work, more hours, more responsibility, and more unknowns, I knew it would be a ton of fun. I knew it would be a huge opportunity to learn.

Well, they did offer me the job.

For the next three years I served in that role as the marketing director.

It was a trial by fire, and I loved it. The job, the team I was privileged to work with, the work we did — I’m so proud of it all.

I learned so much during those three years. I learned about management, team dynamics, budgeting, leadership, communication, marketing, audience building, and more.

But what I learned about most was time management and decision making.

I had to learn the hard way how to get good at spending my time.

I discovered very quickly that I alone had to be the one to take ownership of my time and attention.

I’d spent the previous 27 years of my life being told how to spend my time. From childhood, going to school, having a job — everywhere I went there was someone telling me when to show up, what to do, when to take lunch, when to go home, when to go to bed, etc.

But suddenly, in my new job as the marketing director, I had complete autonomy of my schedule.

I quickly learned that I had to set the priorities, the boundaries, and choose how my time needed to be spent. If I didn’t then I would literally fail at my job.

I’ll say that again:

If I hadn’t been proactive about taking control of my time, then I would have failed at my job.

This meant I did crazy things to protect my time.

And now that I work for myself, I have to be even more proactive with my time (though not quite as crazy).

I’ll share more about all of that tomorrow.

For now, think about this: Being in control of our time is a lot like keeping a clean house. A few hours of hard work over the weekend can transform a cluttered home into a peaceful space. The challenge is in keeping the home tidy on a daily basis (especially if you’ve got kids).

So too with how we spend our time. Once we get that initial grasp of control, the challenge becomes how to stay in control (again, especially if you’ve got kids). Staying ahead of the whirlwind. Keeping the time to do meaningful work even though our entire office culture seems to thrive on incessant meetings.

Next, I want to share some of the tricks I used as the marketing director to thrive in the midst of that wild and crazy job position.