Leaders grossly underestimate the price they pay when they continually hit the snooze button on their alarm clocks.
In fact, I always wince when a Senior Pastor tells me they’re a self-proclaimed “night owl.” To me, that’s always code for a lot of things, and none of them are good.
Historian Nial Ferguson said, “The law of unintended consequences is the only real law of history.” That’s because one can rarely comprehend the consequences of their actions. We’re too close to ourselves to see what is happening. The blurred lines between our actions and consequences keep us from objectively seeing the cost of seemingly insignificant decisions at the time.
What most Senior Pastors fail to realize is that it is the tiny and seemingly minor changes we make that reap the most profound alterations to our effectiveness.
For those in the habit of hitting the snooze button, here are four unintended consequences of sleeping in I would like for you to consider.
Show me someone who sleeps in, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t realize how far off the mark they are from what they could really be doing in the pulpit.
Great preaching, at its core, is about two things: willpower and space. First, we have to have the willpower to sit our butts down at the computer long enough to allow creativity to flow. Second, we have to have the space in our calendars every single day where we can get into the practice of accessing deep thought.
Everything we know about willpower is that it is a diminishing resource. The more it is used, the weaker it becomes. Our willpower lessens the more it is taxed. When a Senior Pastor makes a decision to arise at 5 a.m., and does it, over and over again, it’s a double win. They not only demonstrate mastery over themselves first thing in their day, producing a huge boost of confidence, but they create a 90-minute window of uninterrupted space for deep thought that few of their peers enjoy. Do that five days a week over a six-month stretch and just watch what happens to your preaching.
Senior Pastors who sleep in rarely maintain their goal weight.
If you want to change your weight, forget about the number on the scale, work on processes. Processes produce results, not goals. Your life’s system is perfectly designed to keep you at the weight you currently carry. Change the system, and you’ll drop the weight over time.
Rising early is the single most important factor outside of what we put into our mouths to get us on track and keep us on track. That’s because every study that’s ever been conducted shows that those who are most consistent in exercise are those who do so early in the day.
You need to exercise six days a week. Four days of aerobic activity (which burns off a minimum of 400-600 calories at a shot) and two days of strength training. This cannot be ignored, and only becomes more important over time. Your attempts to lose weight must stem from a wholesale lifestyle change, not a quick fad that is easily discarded. Committing to rise early gives you the best chance of doing so.
Personal disorganization flows from how we feel, not how we think. If we feel disorganized in the first hour of our day, the remaining twenty-three will be affected by that.
I’m a big advocate of Senior Pastors following the Hebrew understanding of how a “day” works. Hebrews (including Jesus and every early leader of the Jesus movement) believed the “day” began at sundown (Genesis 1:13). Their “day” began at dinner together, followed by preparing for the activities that commence at sunrise.
I encourage Senior Pastors to plan their next “day” between 4-5 p.m. in the afternoon before they go home for dinner. When you “close out” one day and make a list of your top 4-5 priorities for the next, it enables you to leave your work at the office and pick it right back up when you re-engage.
After work is “closed out” you begin your new day by going home and eating with the family. Then you do the stuff needed to prepare for what happens at sunrise (for me that’s preparing lunches, ironing clothes, cleaning up the kitchen, etc.). Then you spend time with family, watch a little TV and read. Then you sleep. Then you arise to think, pray, work out, and pick up the work tasks where you left them.
Order begets order. Haphazardly hitting the snooze button interrupts all of that. Not only do we rarely feel rested with haphazard sleeping schedules, but doing so throws everything out of whack at the most important junction of our “day.”
Even Poorer Sleep Quality
There’s a reason people who sleep in drink coffee and energy drinks. Instead of getting more rest, they’re actually getting less.
You need to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on your days off. That’s because those with consistent sleep schedules feel more refreshed than their counterparts. Why? They’ve trained their bodies to access deeper levels of rest. Their heads hit the pillows and they’re out like a light.
Sleep is not something that you can isolate from the rest of your life and “work on.” As a physician friend of mine once told me (in his wonderful Dutch accent), “You must address de WHOLE system, Brian. It’s ALL connected.”
If you want to feel more rested, the solution is quite simple: wake up early at the same time every day.
I know, it sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s an incontrovertible fact.
Those who rise early consistently workout, which affects what they eat, which affects their metabolism, which affects their blood sugar, which disrupts unhealthy binge eating patterns, which helps one’s ability to deal with stress, which makes them feel more centered, which improves overall well-being, which enables one to reach deeper levels of REM sleep, which allows them to feel more rested.
My doctor friend is right – it’s ALL connected.
Taking Action Against Sleeping In
There are lots of things I advocate on this website that some think is a bit extreme:
- Finishing your sermons by noon every Monday.
- Taking two full days off a week – every Friday and Saturday.
- Changing your cell phone number and only giving it to handful of people.
- Talking about money more often, not less.
- And now, getting up at 5 a.m. every day, even on your days off.
Is it extreme?
Not at all.
What’s extreme to me is spending your day off writing a sermon and hating life.
Or never waking up feeling completely refreshed.
Or walking into the pulpit knowing that your sermon sucks.
If you’re wrestling with this idea, all I can say is listen to the advice the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius gave himself at the beginning of the fifth chapter of his Meditations,
“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work—as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for— the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?’”
You were created for much more friends.
Set the alarm.