Schedules Communicate Priorities

On Sunday morning about 7 AM, I was in the middle of a run. It was a quiet, beautiful fall morning until I looped back around and through the sports and water park complex near my house.  Cars started driving by and turning into the parking lot by the tennis center. I could hear an abundance of tennis balls popping off rackets as ,what seemed to be, many people warming up.

I’ve run by on other Sunday mornings about this time to see what couldn’t be older than five and six year olds warming up for soccer matches. The mini vans and SUVS of their parents had to have filled the parking lots with license plates from other counties and even other states before the sun even woke up.

On a Sunday.

Call me old fashioned, but this early morning quest for getting more travel soccer, or travel tennis, or travel whatever sport in for young kids just blows my mind, even if it is driving in tons of revenue for my hometown as people come and put heads in beds with their entire family for an elementary school kid to play sports all weekend.

What is the reasoning behind what has seemed to largely be held by society as a day or rest a day to get in more sports, Sunday after Sunday? Maybe it is the mindset of practice makes perfect as I wrote about last week, but whatever it is, it’s communicating that the sport, whatever it may be, is the priority.   Our schedule communicates our priorities. On the weekend, family time isn’t the priority, or church or even time for a kid to rest a little and enjoy a free day to just be a kid.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had several discussions revolving around this idea of how priorities are being communicated to kids. One mom whose little girl isn’t even six months old mentioned her concern with her family growing “overscheduled” as kids activities develop. Another expressed concern over an hour worth of homework for her daughter on a night when she had church and dance.   My own mother even expressed her observation about how kids don’t have time to just be kids anymore.

Even the Today Show had a segmentaddressing the increase in homework kids have to complete these days, with one teacher expressing it is not the amount of homework but the amount of extracurricular things on kids’ calendars today that results in what should take 15 minutes of homework “double and triple” that amount of time because by the time the student actually sits down to do the homework, they have already had so much packed into their day that they are just DONE (fast forward to 2:15 of the clip to hear this comment).

Traveling and playing soccer all day every weekend for a season to me, brings on the sense of DONE before the week even starts.  Especially for a six year old.

But if I’m honest with myself, I worry that I’ll be sucked into the travel soccer or tennis or baseball or dance craze with my own son and daughter (who will arrive in March) and they are only two and not even born yet.   When everyone is doing it, aren’t you just supposed to follow suite?


What does this have to do with leadership?

Whether we are the leader of our households or the leader of a team or company, or even the leader of our own lives, realizing that we are communicating priorities to our people and ourselves by how we prioritize time is important.

Do you occupy your own time or your team’s with multiple meetings? I had one professional in leadership class tell me most of his weeks are composed of 30 hours on average of meetings.   By the time he was able to get to the work that he was supposed to do as a result of all these meetings, he was just DONE, not being able to contribute meaningfully to his purpose, and therefore his ability to produce value, for the organization.

Maybe as a parent we do want sports or other extra curricular activities or homework to be the priority for our children. But my challenge would be, if one thing takes the priority, by the time they get to everything else are they just DONE? And is it even what they want? Is what we schedule helping them express who they are and how they can contribute to family and to society in a meaningful way or is the schedule communicating something else entirely?

As a leader, help people define how they contribute meaningfully and then avoid overschedule them with things that don’t help them see this through.  

Where are you, your team, or your family overscheduled with things that don’t truly matter?

Mary Ila Ward

Comments : ( 1 )

  1. So well stated! Think about the school day for both students and teachers. Every single moment must be accounted for with zero down time. Each class is expected to have 100% student engagement and teachers are evaluated by ‘time on task’ observations. Students and teachers have 3 -5 minutes between class and 25 minutes of lunch, outside that every single second is managed. Society does not allow for reflection and contemplation. Who can sustain that?

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