Most leaders I know struggle with how to invest their time and energy on a daily and weekly basis.

Recently I learned from blogger and writer Michael Hyatt something that I have shared with dozen’s of leaders over the last few years. It’s a simple but profound way to look at and decide how you will steward your time.

Michael uses the analogy of an actor or band.

He says there are three aspects to what they do

  • Front Stage
  • Back Stage
  • Off Stage

Front stage:

This  is the actual work of performing in front of the curtain.

Back Stage:

This is where all the preparation goes on behind the curtain getting ready for front stage. The multitude of hours they spend preparing to do the actual acting/performing. 

I’m thinking of well known athletes in football, basketball, soccer, etc. and how much time they spend in back stage practice and training camps and how many hours on the field or the court they put in before an actual game—or a band and how many hours they invest practicing before coming on stage.  The elites in their fields of expertise spend a crazy amount of time getting ready. The quality of your front stage will be proportionate to the time on back stage. The principle applies across the board regardless of the activity. For the Christian leader this is dreaming, praying, planning and preparing for the work—front stage.


This is where we are not working at all—down time. Time to recoup, recover, refuel and refresh. The quality of both back and front stage will be proportionate to the time on offstage. 

The people who work, work and work without taking time off are not doing themselves, their families or their organizations any favors. As the old saying goes, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy—it can also make Jack a dead boy. Ignore offstage consistently and you could be having your first heart attack or stroke.  To borrow a word from “Top Gun,” your ego/calendar could be writing checks your body can’t cash.

When I first ran across the concept of Back, Front and Offstage, my brain started to buzz and vibrate with thoughts.

Here are some observations I have made from the “Three Stages:

As it relaters to the actual work, entirely too many leaders spend the majority of their time on front stage and too little time on back stage. If they aren’t busy doing things and producing they feel they are wasting their time. It’s a huge challenge for leaders to carve out time to think, pray, plan, learn, grow and gain best practices by having conversations with others with similar roles which they have. Many pastors will say they barely have enough time to prepare a sermon every week let alone sit still to pray and plan. 

We have heard it said, “Don’t just sit there do something.” Perhaps we need to be saying, “Don’t just do something, sit there.” Many leaders never read a book or take time to think of new ways to approach their God-given work. It’s just more and more front stage, less and less back stage and precious little off stage; especially with increased responsibilities and more demands and expectations placed on them.

Several years ago a pastor I knew stood up on a Sunday morning and told those present that he had put in 100 hours of work the past week. I thought to myself, “Is he saying this by way of bragging or by way of confession?” I believe I knew him well enough to realize that he was commending himself, and not only that, but subtlety sending a message that he expected lots of work hours from those on staff.

With little or very little back and offstage time, Is it any wonder, then that so many Christian leaders are exhausted, frustrated and on the verge of burnout. 

We have all heard that we should stop and smell the roses, but it’s getting so bad that we are now paying others to smell the roses for us.

We need to set up appropriate boundaries around our work so that we have sufficient and must needed time for offstage activities.

“We will not boast about things done outside our area of authority. We will boast only about what has happened within the boundaries of the work God has given us, which includes our working with you. We are not reaching beyond these boundaries…”

~ 2 Corinthians 10:13,14 NLT 

Front and back stage can consume the best of our 168 weekly hours if we are not careful and paying attention. We can actually feel guilty when experiencing and enjoying offstage activities. Offstage is critical to be at our best in back and front stage. We may think we have a good work ethic, but, generally speaking, we definitely do not have a good Sabbath ethic. Many leaders have no hobbies and are not proactive in doing fun and creative things with their family when they have offstage time.

As it pertains to Offstage, I like to think that there are three parts:

  1. Time for you 
  2. Time with your spouse if married  
  3. Time with your children if you have some. 

It should be a combination of all three.

I’m sure we have all heard it said that no one on their death bed ever wishes they had spent more time at the office. 

So we have 168 hours a week—never more, never less. One way to utilize Michael’s Back, Front and Off stage analogy is to decide how we will allocate those hours. 

What percentage or number of hours in any given week will we spend on each “Stage?” Then we, at the start of the week, either Sunday evening or early on Monday, can set up the week.

From that point on it’s, with His help, the determination and discipline to stay as close as possible to what He’s leading us to do. The work will always be screaming at us, and we need to set up healthy boundaries to protect the very much needed Off stage time. 

“I have just a minute, only sixty seconds in it 

Forced upon me, can’t refuse it

Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it 

I must suffer if I lose it

Give account if I abuse it

Just a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.”