Picture this: You’re in-between-seasons. Maybe you’re starting a new year and you sit down to review your family planner and workflow calendar. It’s an opportunity to dream about what you want to accomplish in the coming months… And what you’d like to quit.

Or maybe it’s the start of summer and you have that one sweet day to take a good look at the family plan and work schedule. Summer trips and graduation parties. The normal rhythm of your kids’ weeks is changing. Longer days and shorter nights. The end-of-school-year / beginning-of-summer events, camps, VBSs, and more. In doing so you’re reminded of all you’re hosting or helping with, and you start wondering…

When will you have time?

The rare moments of sit-back-and-see-what’s-next don’t occur in a bubble. In our fight to control our calendar (vs. letting it control us), we find a double threat. Not only do we have the big things we can’t quit, we also have the tough-to-ignore things. You know the ones: The always present text exchanges. The emails demanding a response. The one-on-one connections we don’t want to cancel. The pressing team recruitment needs. And the seemingly never ending prep for the next seasons, that will be here all too quickly. 

Transitions from one season to the next are familiar and often promise respite. Typically, however, they find us walking into our next thing still tired. Still with packed schedules, and pining for the gift of that fresh start we thought was going to be ours. It seems, more often than not, all we want is a chance to catch our breath and resolve to not let ourselves get to this point again.

Does any of this sound familiar?

If you are anything like me (proud millennial, Enneagram 3 here), you oftentimes overcommit to things that matter to you (and, sometimes more often, that matter to others) and inadvertently become overwhelmed with the very unrealistic set of expectations that begin urgently competing for your time. It doesn’t matter the season. You’ve done it again and again. And while you might find that being “all-things-to-all-people” is possible for a few months, trust me when I say, it won’t last.

At some point, you (we) just have to quit.

But how?!?!
What if I let someone down?
What if I fail??? 

Those are three questions that I did not fully realize my mind was processing incessantly – until I did. The pressure of feeling that countless others depend on you is a challenging reality to navigate. But it is crucial in our long-term leadership development to intentionally, and regularly, re-evaluate where we need to be. 

So how do I start quitting?

If you’re just beginning to incorporate re-evaluation into your seasonal rhythms, it might feel impossible to eliminate some responsibilities. This is particularly true if you think through each item as a forced-choice process of “keep or trash”. There’s too much that exists in the gray and that ruthless elimination may be unrealistic. 

There are, of course, many methods to accomplish the same goal of resizing your time commitments and energy investments. So, here’s one more for your consideration. This is the process that worked for me and helped me further fine-tune my rhythmic week. (The rhythmic week is our go-to guide for mapping out a personal plan for a sustainable day-to-day pace of life.)

One day, I was sitting at my dining room table, overwhelmed enough to grab the nearest writing utensil and two-ply paper (read: sharpie and napkin). I made a list of all my obligations and divided them into three categories: mastery, mingle, and monetization.

Step One: Identify Obligations

To me, something is an “obligation” if it needs my ongoing attention. Or, maybe to start, these are the people, places, and purposes that I commit to giving my attention (whether they’ve actually expressed needing it or not.) When all was said and done, that napkin was full and every obligation in my life had a place in one or more of my categories.

Mastery: What’s just for you?

These are our hobbies: the creative outlets, the rooting for our favorite sports teams, the learning to bake a loaf of artisan bread, or anything else that we enjoy singularly.  We sacrifice these sorts of activities that help us “unplug” from the world for meetings or our more “mission-aligned” invitations. Too often we sacrifice our hobbies because we feel guilty for doing them and saying “no” to other things others see as more important. (We think they’re important, too, but…)  And, yet, of all I accomplish, these are the ones I often enjoy mastering most. What or who do you enjoy most?

Mingling: What’s for you and others?

The hustle of life prevents most people, but especially leaders of others, from engaging in social interests. If you hear nothing else hear this: it isn’t selfish to have friends or have a social life! As we’ve written about before, this epidemic of loneliness is damaging our health. We can blame 2020 on reorienting our personal priorities but we can’t be stuck there any longer. Let us see these years as a time when we can learn to mingle again. Where and when do you simply enjoy just being with others?

Monetize: What needs to be done to do everything else?

Lastly, I had to write down all the endeavors that benefit my loved ones and I financially. These commitments hold a different place of prioritization for our livelihood and need special care when being considered in the sacrifices of your reevaluation of work/life priorities. I have even found ways to monetize some of my passions and social engagements (bonus points if you can, too). What do you do because you have to, in order to do what you want to?

Step Two: Eliminate Drains and QUIT

When you write down all of the things that require time each week / month in your life (I’m talking include grocery store trips, attending the new restaurant grand opening, visiting your aunt in assisted living, checking the batteries in the smoke detector… everything that requires time), the final step is to quit doing anything that has the least-return-on-investment

For leaders, this means eliminating anything that drains your energy and consumes your time to the point that showing up in those spaces hinders your ability to show up in the spaces that you can’t and won’t and just don’t want to eliminate.

The goal is not only more control of your own schedule, but to be more in more life-giving spaces, as often as you can.

Will you let someone down once you start saying no or stepping back? Yes. 

But, would you rather quit something that is hoarding your time and hurting your energy for the sake of being able to invest yourself in far more fruitful spaces in a sustainable way? Also – yes!

You can do this!

So, friends, treat this note as your permission slip to quit! You’re allowed to stop the unsustainable pace and saying yes to time-filling tasks. You’re allowed to take your life back right now! All of the external pressures and a past approach don’t have to dictate the decisions you make for your cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. We have your back, we are cheering you on, and we are here to help you make this the season you begin to thrive and not just survive. 

Man, Adam Johnson, Search Consultant at Ministry Architects, standing outside, smiling.

Adam Johnson


Adam is a senior ministry executive, spiritual leader, strategic pioneer, and Director of Ministries at the historic First United Methodist Church in Jackson, TN. He brings over two decades of experience in diverse church settings and is dedicated to empowering local churches and developing leaders for future growth. Adam resides in Jackson with his wife and daughter, enjoying downtime by supporting the Tennessee Titans and exploring local eateries and antique shops.