The season of fall is a big focus for all churches. It sets the tone for the rest of the year. It’s a time to set vision, make clear goals, find a rhythm, and invigorate the community. It is often one of the busiest times of the year, and without careful planning it can lead to burnout. 

Burnout affects almost everyone in a leadership position at some point, often at multiple times during their ministry career. Many hard workers tend to shrug it off and attempt to push through periods of high stress, anxiety, and little rest. However, burnout can have serious ramifications. Prolonged stress and exhaustion can take a toll on your body, mind, and emotions. You are more prone to mistakes in your work and may judge yourself (and others) harshly. You can drive yourself to serious illness. Burnout will also eventually trickle into your personal life, affecting your relationships, sometimes even causing lasting damage. 

What you can do to prevent burnout:

In Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he suggests prioritizing what is important and unimportant, urgent and not urgent using four quadrants. 

  • Quadrant I. Urgent and important: Important deadlines and crises (Must do immediately)
  • Quadrant II. Not urgent but important – Long-term goals and plans (Prioritize next)
  • Quadrant III. Urgent but not important – Distractions with deadlines (Delegate or push back)
  • Quadrant IV. Not urgent and not important – Distractions (Eliminate from to-do list) 

While Quadrant I is full of deadlines and crises that must be dealt with immediately, most of our time should be focused on Quadrant II. This is the quadrant that looks to the future, prevents crises, and organizes what must be done. If enough attention is paid to Quadrant II, then crises (such as burnout) will become less common. As the old idiom reminds us, “The best defense is a good offense.”

Here are some tips for keeping your focus in Quadrant II:

  • Keep clear boundaries 
  • Have clear communication between staff
  • Take a weekly sabbath to rest and make time for activities that bring joy
  • Take care of physical health (eat well, sleep as needed, exercise)
  • Take care of emotional/mental health (check in on relationships and check in with self)
  • Prioritize urgent and important activities and let go what can be let go
  • Ask for help instead of taking on too much

Reflection questions to help you avoid burnout:

  1. Which Quadrant(s) are you in right now?  
  2. What triggers do you need to be aware of that suggest you are reaching your limit? 
  3. What practices do you need to maintain to stay in a healthy space? 
  4. What new practices do you need to adopt? 
  5. What habits do you need to break?
  6. How will you free up time and energy to focus on new initiatives?
  7. Who are the key people to remind you to keep healthy margins? 

See our Time Management Resources to leverage your most precious resource – time.  See below:

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash


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