168. That’s it.

You and I have exactly the same amount of time. Rich or poor, young or old, we each get 168 hours in a week’s time.

With some of that, we need to rest, or we’ll get fewer total weeks in our short lives. With some of that time, we need to spend quality time with people, building friendships and relationships.

And with some of that time, we work. Actually, most of us work during a lot of that 168 hours, proportionally speaking.

How many times have you gotten to the end of the day, or the week, or maybe just Monday morning and said, “If I just had more time, I’d…”

Reality check: You can’t get more time.

But what you can do is expand your capacity. You have the ability to be more fruitful with the same amount of time you’re working now.

I recently wrote on another website about the difference between bandwidth and capacity, and how we often confuse the two.

Bandwidth pertains to how much time we have for a given area of life, such as family, work, or volunteering. And capacity refers to how much fruit I am able to bear in that given amount of time.

When I was a kid, I used to help my grandfather carry things from one barn to another. He was a little slow and I was a little kid, so I could easily keep up with him. We took the same amount of time walking between the barns. But he was strong and could carry easily six times as much as I could. We had equal bandwidth but he had much greater capacity.

The only way to increase your bandwidth is to quit doing something you’re already doing with your 168 hours. You can shift the budget around and get more time for volunteering if you use less time for leisure, and so forth.

Most of us overestimate our bandwidth (the amount of time we can spare), but we underestimate our capacity (what we’re capable of doing with the time we have).

We think we’ve got plenty of time to commit to more tasks and we’ll figure out a way to squeeze it all in. That’s how we start down the path of burnout.

There are far more ways to expand your capacity than your bandwidth.

My grandfather had spent years working with his hands, all the while expanding his capacity to move things from one barn to the other. He had slowly expanded his capacity.

So, here’s the million dollar question… how can you expand your capacity?

Let me give you a few ways.

1. Be a lifelong learner.

Every time you learn a new skill, you increase your capacity. I knew nothing about the world of business until I read some good leadership books. I also met with friends who were in business and gleaned whatever knowledge they were willing to share with me.

Then, I tried my hand at joining a friend in a business venture. It failed. (I still like to think our idea was just ahead of its time.) But in failing, I learned a lot about how marketing, financing, and even football (it’s a long story).

Right now, I’m learning about coaching. I’ve been coaching leaders for quite a few years now, but I must keep learning to increase my capacity to produce greater fruit.

We learn when we read good books, when we take courses and seminars, and when we learn from coaches and mentors, we expand our capacity.

2. Do what you do well, the most.

When I was a teenager, I worked for my Dad. We remodeled houses, built decks, and took on other residential construction projects. My Dad, because of a bout with polio at a young age, only has one good arm to work with, but he can swing a hammer like nobody’s business.

He knew how to do pretty much any home improvement job (except electricity – another long story). I, on the other hand, was terrible with a hammer. I have about a .350 average on hitting the nail. That’d be great in baseball… not so much in construction. But I’d spent my childhood carrying things.

So I would carry things and Dad would do most of the tasks that required actual skill. And because we had a bit of a system, it worked.

There is a lot of power in discovering your gifts, your passions, and your abilities and working within that sphere. It’s okay to change careers, but it’s unproductive to try to be someone you’re not.

3. Do the things you don’t do well, less.

I’m not arguing that you can’t ever do tasks outside your skillset. All of us will need to do difficult things to live productive lives. That’s the nature of work.

But how long will you continue doing things you don’t like doing and aren’t very good at when you have the choice to do something else?

Doing the things we don’t do well, less requires the disciplines of both discernment (to understand your own reality) and delegation (whenever it’s possible to hand off tasks to others).

In business, this is referred to as planned abandonment. I’m going to purposely neglect the things that aren’t productive and shift that energy and focus to what does produce results.

4. Work with people.

I don’t know who said it first – John Maxwell maybe? – but, teamwork makes the dream work.

There’s a reason farming communities come together to build their neighbors’ barns. When you combine people with various skills and expertise, you increase your capacity.

I lead a great church. It’s growing and healthy. And it isn’t because of the preaching… it’s the staff. I’m blessed to be surrounded by capable, willing, amazing people who do what they do very well and with a ton of dedication.

And, our staff members are leaders who gather others to their team to accomplish more. Right now, we’re looking at a great new book called Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership.

According to the authors, Ryan Hartwig and Warren Bird, there are five things that healthy teams do well:

  • Focus on purpose.
  • Leverage differences in team membership.
  • Rely on inspiration more than control to lead.
  • Intentionally structure decision-making.
  • Build a culture of continuous collaboration.

We’re evaluating which of the five is the discipline we really need more focus on, but the discussion is reminding us how much we need each other!

You’ll never be able to get more time. You can’t buy it. You can’t manufacture it. You can only budget the time you have.

You can, however, increase your capacity by learning, by doing what you do well more, and by working with the right people along the way!