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    « There are lots of reasons to despair. Give us a reason to hope. | Main | Want to Know if Your Ministry Environment is Welcoming to New Students? Ask. »

    Book Review :: What's Best Next by Matt Perman

    Whether you are an executive or a pastor, a student or a mom, you have projects. You have tasks. You have things to get done. You have papers to keep track of and appointments to keep. You have places to be and goods to deliver. Your life is geared toward productivity--the flourishing of a business, a family, a school, or a community.

    Those responsibilities come with stress. One of our greatest challenges in life is to discern exactly what is ours to do, and to make the best use of our days.

    Matt Perman has written a book that shows us how to steward our life well, and to find motivation for productivity in the gospel itself. What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done is a helpful, clear read on how to approach every dimension of your life as a Christian, using productivity methods as a way to relieve stress, do excellent work, bless your neighbor, and serve the world.

    Over the past decade I've read a number of books that are well known in the productivity field. I've read David Allen, Tim Ferriss, Daniel Pink, and Julie Morgenstern. I recommend reading their books. But Matt Perman's book is unique. While Perman provides practical tips for approaching your life, like using a time map, making the most of your to-do lists, creating idea-capture systems, managing email, building a team, and delegating responsibilities, his greatest gift is providing the reader with a doctrinal and theological frame through which to view productivity in all of life.

    To focus in on one example, Perman makes a helpful distinctions between work efficiency and effectiveness. Think about it: you can be very efficient at work while doing the wrong things. The key is to be focused on your God-given mission, and to be effective, accomplishing tasks that bless others. Perman also explains how efficiency doesn't solve the problem of the never-ending flow of incoming tasks, can make things worse by draining your energy, lower morale, hamper innovation, and remove a sense of meaning from work. In this instance, your doctrinal and theological frame makes a big difference. Effectiveness keeps the ultimate end in view, and can motivate you to do the right things along the way that will help you get there. What you believe about God shapes the how and the why of effectiveness.

    This, of course, raises the question of how to identify the right things. That is when Perman expands his discussion of our doctrine and theology. Perman argues that our work should be God-centered. Our lives do not need to be balanced, but instead focused on the right thing--God. It is God who provides us with meaning and depth in all areas of life. Perman reminds the reader that God is foundational to right and true principles, defines for us what the right things are to get done, and lastly, asserts the fact that God is "what matters most." Pleasing God should be our aim in all efforts--everything we do should help us to know, love, serve, and tell others about God in our personal and professional lives.

    Perman's position that Christians might be able to do the most good for the cause of the gospel simply by doing their work well is also spot on. Whether your an underling or a CEO, a great deal of good can come simply by accomplishing one's work with excellence. Business is a powerful avenue for the blessing of other people. Therefore, our work should be done unto the glory of God and in service of other people. This can be challenging, for each vocation has particular temptations and vices that can best be addressed by a fellowship of Christian professionals working in the same field. But it's nonetheless a worthy venture. While the best companies do exist to thrive financially and generate a profit, they also exist to create better lives for employees, to create products that are helpful, and to make life better.

    Even if you don't work full time, this book will provide you with a great deal of wisdom. If you are a parent, you will find instruction that might help you better structure your time and focus more fully on the projects that matter. Perman's chapters on discerning your life's mission and creating a flexible time structure will help anyone. This book will help anyone get things done.

    Lastly, this book doesn't necessarily have to be read cover to cover. You can use the table of contents, identify the type of instruction you need at the moment, and get to work. Each chapter also has helpful summations, and the book even ends with a 500 word summary of exactly what you'll find in WBN. If you are a knowledge worker like me, you might want to immediately read parts 3 to 6, where Perman explains the DARE model behind gospel-driven productivity: define, architect, reduce, and execute.

    It isn't enough to read a bunch of productivity literature. Eventually, you have to determine your approach and put it in to practice. There is work to do and projects to complete. But if you're looking for a place to start, pick up Matt Perman's book. It's a worthwhile read.

    If you like what you find, you might want to check out Matt's blog or follow him on Twitter.

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