The Best Tool For Accomplishing Important Things

Leaders know that big things happen only when important things get done. Sadly, important things are often overshadowed by urgent things. How can a leader begin to prioritize what’s important over what’s merely urgent? The best tool I’ve found for accomplishing important things is 6×6 Execution.

6x6 execution

It comes from Bill Hybels and he explains the idea in his excellent leadership book, Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs. Hybels explains the genesis of the idea:

I was sitting in an airplane one time coming back from an international trip, and the closer we got to Chicago, the more my mind swirled with the long list of to-dos awaiting my return. I took out my calendar and counted six weeks left until year-end. Only six weeks’ time to tackle what seemed like a hundred critical challenges.

I grabbed a pen, took out an index card, and wrote one question at the top: “What is the greatest contribution I can make to Willow Creek Community Church in the next six weeks?”

It took me the better part of the remaining two hours of that trip to sort it all out, but the net result of that exercise was a list of six items that, if achieved, would have me singing the Hallelujah Chorus come December thirty-first…by God’s grace, over the next six weeks I got every one of those initiatives done. Candidly, I don’t know that I have ever made a more significant contribution to Willow than I did those six weeks. But then again, I’m not sure I had ever been quite so focused in my attempts.

Hybels found that while there’s nothing magical or spiritual about six weeks, it seemed to be a good length of time for keeping urgency high. Additionally, six priorities seems like a reasonable number of priorities to legitimately focus on.

Some Benefits

We have been using the 6×6 Execution tool with our staff team for the better part of this year. About every six weeks we spend a staff meeting sharing our various 6×6 lists with each other. It’s had the following positive effects:

1. We prioritize what’s important but doesn’t feel urgent. For example, my 6×6 list usually includes the goal of reading 5 books. This is important for me as a pastor because books provide a constant source of encouragement, ideas, illustrations, and models that I need as I lead and preach. But reading is never urgent. Using 6×6 has allowed me to do much more reading this year.

2. We appreciate one another’s work. Every six weeks, we’re hearing about crucial things our teammates are working on. This allows us to esteem and encourage one another rather than suspiciously think, “What do they do anyway?”

3. We keep a focus on people. It’s easy for the 6×6 to become purely administrative. But we often use the tool as a way to examine whether we’re spending time with people and to prioritize equipping.

4. We experience healthy accountability. We write our 6×6 priorities on the white board in our office. It’s there every day when we come in and it’s there when others stop by. If you don’t accomplish one of your six priorities, it will get noticed. Therefore, there’s a fun and healthy kind of competition to get your stuff done.

An Example

So, as an example, let me share with you my current 6×6, beginning September 25th and ending November 6th:

1. Preach 5 well prepared sermons — “well prepared” means I’ve worked through my entire set of Sermon Prep Questions and read two commentaries on the text I’m preaching. It’s 5 sermons because that’s how many times I’m scheduled during this 6 weeks.

2. Read 5 books — so far I’ve finished Note to Self and The Hole in Our Holiness. Now working on The Meaning of Marriage, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, and Made to Crave.

3. Oversee Staff Evaluations — we’ve never had a formal staff evaluation process, so I’m creating one and implementing it.

4. Recruit a Women’s Discipleship Team — one of the key, new ministries at our church in 2013 will be Women’s Discipleship. I’m working on putting together the team to help lead it.

5. Find or Create Starting Point Material — we need a simple curriculum that we can use to establish new Christians in the faith. I’m writing, finding and assembling it.

6. Create Christmas Offering Plan — we’re taking a special, over-and-above Christmas Offering. I’m working on the plan to execute this. Who we’re giving to, communication rollout, etc.

As you can tell, I have a lot to do. So I’ll end the post here and get back to work.


If you could accomplish one important thing over the next 6 weeks, what would it be?

(HT: Image Credit)

10 Commandments of Staff Engagement

Every team has “rules of engagement” or a “code” to live by. If you’re leading a church staff, you’ve got to have some kind of direction you expect everyone to run in. Here’s ours at Redemption Church Gateway.

Leading Staff

Everything in your life and ministry flows out of your relationship with Jesus. This is your top priority, and we must help each other grow as disciples of Jesus.

Develop leaders and prepare the saints to do ministry. When possible, bring people along with whatever you’re doing. Don’t get stuck doing ministry. Equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. If a volunteer can do it, help empower them to win.

The focus of our ministry is helping people grow as disciples. Our systems and tasks should enhance, not distract from, the priority of investing in people.

Always be reading and listening to things that sharpen you. “A woodcutter never wasted time by sharpening his ax.” Additionally, be teachable and learn from other people, even through criticism.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Col 3:23)

Jesus died for the church, you don’t have to. He promises to build his church and commands you to shepherd your wife and kids.

Help create a culture of punctuality and respect.

Know the vision and purpose of any ministry environment or event, and cast the vision in a clear and compelling way.

The unchurched never have a voice in the church. Be that voice. We will focus on who we are trying to reach, not who we are trying to keep.

We will develop a culture of trust, built on these six commitments:

  1. I will believe the best about my fellow staff.
  2. When other people assume the worst about you, I will come to your defense.
  3. If what I experience begins to erode my trust, I will come directly to you to talk about it.
  4. When I am convinced I will not be able to deliver on a promise, I will come to you ahead of time.
  5. When you confront me about the gaps I’ve created, I will tell you the truth.
  6. I will openly share warnings or disagreements when a decision is being considered, but I will champion and defend the decision after it is made.


Which of these stands out to you? If you lead others, what are some of the “rules of engagement” you emphasize?

The Obvious Secret to Christian Leadership

Here it is: Without a vibrant relationship with Jesus, you can’t lead others to Jesus.

It’s so obvious that it feels stupid to even write. But it’s something I have to remind myself and our team of constantly.


It’s so easy to do ministry for Jesus without doing it with Jesus.
It’s common for leaders to talk a lot about Jesus without feeling connected to Jesus.
It takes very little for the activity of ministry to overshadow the purpose and power of ministry.

I’m personally prone to drift from my relationship with Jesus. This has always been true of me as a sinner who is “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” But vocational ministry made it worse. Ministry gave me the illusion of being connected to God because I was studying his word and talking about him to people.

Though I still wander at times, these things have helped me prioritize my relationship with Jesus.

1. Embracing the truth about joy and God’s presence. The verse that has helped me the most:

Psalm 16:11 / You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

I want maximum joy. It’s found in God’s presence. Anything else (even good things like ministry) will ultimately be unsatisfying.

2. Routines. Though I love change in almost every area of life, irregularities of schedule — especially in the morning — wreck my time with God and, thus, chills my vibrancy with him. Having a consistent schedule and plan helps greatly. And for me, if it doesn’t happen before breakfast, it doesn’t typically happen.

3. Reading about leaders who blew it. I have a folder on my computer where I’ve saved a number of resignation letters of leaders who have failed morally. I re-read this a few times a year and it always reminds me that the failure began long before it became public, always with a drifting from a vibrant relationship with Jesus.

4. A wife and friends who can see through me. I think formal accountability is mostly overrated, but few things have helped me spiritually as much as a wife and friends who know me and can tell how I’m really doing. They have both the permission and the courage to push on me and exhort me.

5. Kicks in the pants from the Holy Spirit. God disciplines those he loves (Heb 12:6) and there are two memorable times in my life when God dramatically got my attention that I was drifting from my relationship with him.

One of these was earlier this year when I attended a Redemption Groups Immersion with some other leaders from our church. I went to learn how to help others. Turned out I needed help. God used the men in my small group there to help me see that I needed to return to my first love. Additionally, each of us was encouraged to write a psalm — something that expressed where we were with God. Here’s mine:

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge
I have no good apart from you
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup
In your presence there is fullness of joy
(Psalm 16:1-2,5,11)

Apart from you. I once walked apart from you.
On my throne. For myself. Utmost in my own affections.
Able to please others, but never satisfied myself.

Around you. I often walk around you.
Mentioning you. Perking up when others say your name. Like you were down the street.
Talking about you, but rarely to you.

About you. I know lots about you.
Your attributes. Your actions in history. Answers to difficult questions about you.
Doing your work, even when you’re not working in me.

With you. Your offer, your promise is for me to be with you.
As you died and rose. As you reign in Heaven. As I sit, rise, walk, and stand.
Falling into you, trusting you are better than life.

About you. Now everything can be about you.
About your fame. About your pleasure. About knowing your heart.
Working for you, knowing you are with me.

Around you. Now my heart revolves around you.
Drawing near. Leaning in. Resting on.
Talking with you, everywhere I go.

Apart from you. Now I will never be apart from you.
Always loved. Always accepted. Always close.
Trusting your promise, I need not walk alone.

Everything in your life and ministry flows out of your relationship with Jesus. This is your top priority, and you must do whatever it takes to grow as a disciple of Jesus.


What other things do you find particularly helpful in prioritizing your relationship with Jesus?