One of the most common reasons leaders cite as a source of their anxiety is their schedule. They often feel crippled by the weight of their busyness and fearful that they’ll eventually be exposed for their inability to hold it all together. Leaders juggle their full-time position and the needs of the team they lead. At home, they’re called to invest deeply in their families while also spending hours chauffeuring their kids to various activities. On top of work and home, they’re responsible for taking care of themselves, including their personal development and mental and physical health. Considering all of those things, it should be no surprise that many leaders feel that they don’t have a lot of margin in their lives.

However, we’ll all live in tension as new opportunities, events, initiatives, and goals are always being presented to us. The desire to innovate and stay fresh at work can lead us to overextend our teams and resources. Our families will weigh the tension of whether or not another full night or weekend on the calendar is the best move. Personally, side hustles and new disciplines (even healthy ones) can tap out our limited capacity.

To prevent burnout and breakdown, it’s essential to focus on giving the right “yes” and knowing when it’s best to give a “no.” New opportunities aren’t the issue here because they can mean exciting and healthy things for us personally, vocationally, and in our families. But, if we continue to say “yes” to everything, we will ultimately find ourselves in a spot where everything we’re trying to balance comes crashing down.

Here are three questions to ask when considering a new opportunity that can help you prioritize the health of your family, your team, and yourself:

What does it truly gain?

We’ve all experienced a time when we’ve completed a project or initiative and only then realized that, in the big picture, we really didn’t move the ball down the field at all. Regardless of how successful we were at what we did, it can be deflating to realize that we didn’t net any long-term gains through investing our time, energy, and resources.

As the leaders of organizations, families, and ourselves, it’s important to be goal-oriented and to have a plan of how to achieve those goals. If we don’t manage our time and resources well, our time and resources will ultimately manage us, our capacity, and our health. Because of that, we must be diligent in asking ourselves whether or not adding something new to the plate is on-mission or sideways energy.

If there is no clear and compelling “why” behind a new idea, it’s best to either move on or give more time for the idea to be fully fleshed out.

How will this impact others?

Indeed, we can’t start something new without spending resources like time, energy, or money. However, the most valuable resource available to a leader is people. So, as we evaluate adding something to our plates, whether at work or home, we must consider how that decision will affect those we’ve been entrusted to lead. Here are some things to consider as we weigh the possibility of a new opportunity:

At Work:

  • Does this new opportunity have a clear “why” that will reinforce the mission and values of the organization to your team?
  • Are the workload, timeline, and necessary resources realistic and healthy?
  • Do your teammates have the margin to add something to their lists?

At Home:

  • Does this new opportunity align with the values and goals of your marriage and parenting?
  • Will this enhance or diminish the opportunity to deepen the relationships in your home?

Personally:

  • Will you have the capacity to be the person, spouse, parent, boss, and friend you want to be if you were to add a specific thing to your already busy schedule?
  • Will you still be able to take steps toward achieving your personal goals with something new to balance?
  • Do you have the physical and emotional capacity to manage something else?

What must end so that we can start something new?

Even though the old coaching adage of giving “110%” might be inspiring, it’s not reality. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, we all have a limited capacity. When we add something new into the fold, the necessary resources have to come from somewhere. In our current context, the reality a lot of churches are facing is that they are doing more than they were doing pre-pandemic, specifically in terms of online engagement. The challenge is that they are now operating with fewer resources, including funds, staff, and volunteers. That pinch is being felt and is evidenced by the number of pastors and churches that are struggling.

The quest for new and more must come at the expense of intentionally shifting resources from something that currently exists. To healthily say “yes,” we must take the time to plan for necessary endings. In that process, we need to do our due diligence in evaluating what other areas have reached stagnation, are sideways energy, or could have their purpose achieved in greater ways through different means.

One thing to note- if you are already nearing your breaking point, the best “yes” you can give at this moment is to prioritize self-care. You’ll be infinitely better for seeking help, as will your teams and family. Even if this means you have to redistribute some responsibilities to others for a time, there’s so much wisdom in willingly making a choice to slow down versus breaking down.