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Personal Growth

Back to Basics: Intentional Stewardship

Stewardship is about more than money. Time and relationships also require stewardship. Stewardship doesn’t happen accidentally. It has to be intentional.

Stewardship is about more than money. Time, relationships, energy, and talents also require stewardship. Last week I wrote about self care. Specifically, I wrote about optimizing your sleep, diet, exercise, and spirituality; I also confessed some of the things I need to do to improve in those areas.

Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Matthew 25:23

If you’re maximizing your self care, then you are maximally controlling the few things in life that you have the best chance of controlling at all. You are also maximizing your stewardship of your energy.

It’s obvious that your relationships are points of overlap with other people’s lives, but so are your money and your time. Stewardship is not an issue of being stingy or high spending, it’s an issue of relationships. You can’t control other people, but you can control your investments in other people through stewardship.

Stewardship of Money

I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Make Over. The basic principles are to work hard, stay out of debt, and be generous. His approach includes 7 “baby steps” to financial peace.

  1. Save $1,000 in a small emergency fund.
  2. Pay off all debt but your house by using a debt snowball (see the video below).
  3. Save 3 to 6 months of expenses in a full emergency fund.
  4. Invest 15% of your gross income into IRAs and pre-tax retirement accounts.
  5. Save for your kid’s college.
  6. Pay off your home.
  7. Enjoy and share your wealth.

I have to admit, Skylar and I have fluctuated between steps 1 and 2 for several years. This is largely because we haven’t been intentional about it. That lack of intentionality is also why I’m writing less on this topic than on time or relationships.

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Stewardship does not happen by accident, it only happens intentionally. In order to help me be more intentional about financial stewardship, I am using a tool called Mint (made by the same people who make QuickBooks and TurboTax).

Stewardship of Time

I’m a pretty busy guy. I have my family and home, I am a full time graduate student, and I work 30-45 hours between 3 major projects. Part of my discussion last week was being honest that while juggling all of that, I have done a piss poor job of watching out for my own health.

Stewardship of time involves the basic things like using a calendar, to-do list, and a good appointment booking tool (I use Google Calendar, Evernote, and Assistant.to). But there is more to it than that. Whether you’re hyper organized or more free spirited about your time, there are some basic skills that help you to prioritize what gets on your calendar or to do-list in the first place.

I recently heard a podcast interview with Rory Vaden about his book Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time. I haven’t read the book yet, but you can bet it’s on my wishlist. One of the principles he discussed in that interview is something called the focus funnel.

To apply the focus funnel, ask yourself these questions about each task that comes your way:

  1. Does it have to be done? If no, eliminate it.
  2. Can something else do it? If yes, automate it (for example, using Assistant.to to automate appointment bookings).
  3. Can someone else do it? If yes, delegate it.
  4. When can it be done?
    1. If it can be done later, procrastinate on purpose (go back to 1).
    2. If it has to be done now, concentrate on it.
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Rory Vaden's Focus Funnel
Image via Rory Vaden

Stewardship of Relationships

One of the implications of globalization and “social” media is that we all now “know” many more people than we used to. That is, “know” in the sense of being acquainted with, not in the sense of being familiar with, or personally close to.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2013 the median number of Facebook friends among millennials was 300, and 200 among Gen-Xers. But according to the British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, the maximum number of stable social relationships any one person can handle is only around 150.

Facebook Friend Counts, Pew Research Center
Image via Pew Research Center

That means that we are in some way “connected” to between 33% and 100% of the number of people that we can have stable relationships with. How can we manage that number of connections in a way that is both authentic and mutually beneficial?

I don’t believe that the answer is “we can’t.” At the risk of sounding as if I approach my relationships in-authentically, I believe that the very technology that creates the problem can be part of the solution.

If I am connected to a person on Facebook, I know certain things about them. I know a bit more about them if I am connected to them on other networks, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, or Pinterest. The problem then is that all of that information that my “friend” has publicly displayed is fragmented. I need a tool to pull all of that information into one place.

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That same tool also needs to work with my email, because a lot of conversations happen there too. It also needs to work with my phone, so that I can at least know when was the last time I called or texted someone.

Enter Nimble, the relationship management tool. Nimble is an automated contact database that pulls in data from each touch point and contact with a person. This may or may not sound appealing for your first 150 social connections. But it is absolutely critical for relationships 151+ (see, I knew that would sound in-authentic).

The point isn’t that people are numbers, the point is that we have a limited capacity to remember who we know and where we know them from. If we’re lucky enough to remember that much, we still have to remember our past conversations with them. A tool like Nimble won’t help those chance street encounters to be any less awkward, but it will help you to be more intentional about connecting, reconnecting, and following up with people.

Here’s a quick overview video of Nimble aimed at business users. Even if you’re only considering it for personal use, you should still check out this video.

https://vimeo.com/68175844

Add Your Voice (comment below)

  1. How can you be a better steward of your time, money, and relationships?
  2. Which of the tools that I mentioned might help you the most or least?

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By Dan

Founder, Executive Director, Mental Health Counselor at Restored Life Counseling