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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"What's Best Next" (Matthew Perman)

TITLE: What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done
AUTHOR: Matthew Perman
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014, (352 pages).

Not too long ago, there was a bestselling productivity book that helps us manage our time and achieve our best use of resources. Entitled, "Getting Things Done," author David Allen shows us the way to live "stress-free" as we practice the art of "do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it" rule and so on. What about a similar book but written from a Christian perspective? Like many well meaning Christians, it is easy to talk about ideas and generate tonnes of them. When it comes to putting ideas to work and finding workers to do them, the ideas and suggestions remain pieces of paper to be shoved somewhere in the building. Then there are also myths that are far too often been brandished as facts. Dispelling myths first is like getting a person to stop doing wrong before starting to do right. Halt the rot and begin the recovery. I summarize Perman's initial 12 myths as follows:
  1. Productivity is less about efficiency but more about effectiveness;
  2. Productivity is less about having the right tools and techniques but more about character and right decisions;
  3. Productivity is less about man helping himself but more about stewarding God's gifts to us;
  4. Productivity is less about how productivity forms us but more about how God reforms us;
  5. Productivity is less about tightly managing people and ourselves but more about engagement, motivation, and unleashing our best;
  6. Productivity is less about achieving peace of mind but more about serving people for the good of others and for the glory of God;
  7. Productivity is less about succeeding for self but more about putting others first;
  8. Productivity is less about getting everything under control but more about letting the gospel drive everything;
  9. Productivity is less about to-do lists to be made and accomplished but more about appreciating time and space as "support material" for our activities;
  10. Productivity is less about achieving "tangible outcomes" but more about intangibles like "relationships developed, connections made, and lessons learned."
  11. Productivity is less about the amount of time spent working but more about results we get;
  12. Productivity is less about concerns for work stuff but more about concerns for all areas of our lives (work, home, community, church, etc);

Formerly a Director of Strategy at John Piper's "Desiring God" ministry, Perman is now a full time consultant and speaker on topics relating to improving productivity, leadership, theology, and equipping Christians in their work. There are many books that talk about time management, techniques and methods to enhance performances, and even productivity bestsellers like David Allen's "Getting Things Done." Very few books talk about productivity from a Christian perspective. Some books are too spiritual and lack the practical dimension. Others are somewhat too man-centered that spiritual matters are slapped on it more as an afterthought. Perman hopes to "reshape" the way we think about productivity and then introduces a new way forward for us. He presents seven steps for effective productivity as follows:
  1. Begin by admitting that bad productivity approaches (or no productivity) are annoying;
  2. "Managing ourselves well is foundational in all we do";
  3. "A good productivity approach enables us to be more effective in doing good for others."
  4. "Knowing how to get things done is a component of our sanctification."
  5. "Knowing how to get things done enables us to fulfill God’s call to make plans for the good of others."
  6. "Knowing how to get things done is a component of a complete worldview"
  7. "Managing ourselves well enables us to excel at work and in life."
Perman is unapologetic about using strategies, systematic thinking, and the best productivity tools to get things done. The heart of the book deals with a challenge to DARE.

  • D - Define where we are going (mission, vision, roles, goals)
  • A - Architect by weaving the important things into our lives (schedule, routine, plans, lists)
  • R - Reduce the distraction of unimportant things 
  • E - Execute (make things happen)
The reasons for our DARE is three-fold. First, we honour God through doing things well. It is very much a part of discipleship. Second, we adopt "gospel-driven productivity" through good works, efficient, fruitful, prayerful, peaceful, with a keen focus on what's most important. Third, we live out the DARE both individually and in society. 

So What?
Packed with lots of good ideas and infectious energy, Perman has given us a productivity tool that is pure adrenaline for the lethargic, dynamite for the diligent, and direction for the aimless. By bringing together the principles of Steven Covey's First Things First, and David Allen's Getting Things Done, coupled with Perman's unique synthesis of the two with a Christian perspective, we have a modern concoction not only of a good way to work, but an enjoyable way of working. Few books get me raring to go and desiring to get up and do something. This book ranks among one of those that perk me up and come-on-let's-get-going result.

Perman says it well that the "gospel makes us eager to be productive" as a way of paraphrasing Titus 2:14 to be zealous for good works. He has even included free resources online for us to check out. If there is just one idea that can get you up and running, it would have worth every cent you paid for this book. I am usually quite skeptical about productivity books but with this, I am most happy to make an exception to give it five thumbs up. Thanks to Perman for this great resource!

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Zondervan and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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