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What's Best Next
March 12, 2014
I believe there is a Christian way to think about everything. Yes, everything. What the Bible does not address explicitly, it addresses implicitly; what it does not address directly, it address in principle. But in the end, the Bible has something to say about everything. One of the joys of reading Christian books is to see author after author address Christian thinking and Christian living in their area of passion of expertise. Over the past few years we’ve seen books on Christians and technology (by yours truly), Christians and work (by, among others, Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger), Christians and marriage (Tim & Kathy Keller) and on and on.
New to the market is Matt Perman’s What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. This is a book on productivity, on getting things done. But it’s more than that. It’s not only about getting things done, but about getting the best things done, and doing it all in the right way.
I have read widely in the area of productivity and best practices, and over the past years have developed systems that allow me to get a lot of things done without any part of my life crumbling under the pressure (so far, at least). Many of the systems I have adopted were inspired by the writings of unbelievers and I had to find ways of applying Christian thinking to them. And this is exactly what Perman does in What’s Best Next. Even though I have read many of these books and thought deeply about these issues, I still learned a lot from him. Perman takes the work of men like Peter Drucker, David Allen, Stephen Covey, Tim Ferris and many others, and examines them through the lens of Scripture. What is good he accepts, what is bad he rejects, and what is somewhere in-between he adapts.
At heart the book is about “getting things done and making ideas happen, with less friction and frustration, from a biblical perspective.” Perman aims to change the way we think about productivity and then to present a practical approach that will allow us to become more effective in life and to live with less stress and less frustration. This makes it a book for anyone who needs to get things done, but especially for those involved in knowledge work and the realm of ideas.
Perman begins by explaining that making God supreme in our productivity is of utmost importance. This is the foundation upon which everything else is built. He then introduces his concept of “gospel-driven productivity,” which is getting the right things done—the good works we are called to as believers.
The heart of the book is four parts, each composed of several chapters, in which Perman explains his DARE model of productivity: Define, Architect, Reduce, Execute. In the define step you will look at mission and vision to determine your roles and responsibilities and which should be prioritized. In the architect step you will create structure and routine that will allow you to properly balance each of these responsibilities. In the reduce step you will learn to get rid of those things that only distract from your core mission and will also learn the importance of delegation and automation. In the execute step you will learn the importance of planning your week, of managing workflow, and even of dealing with the never-ending deluge of email. The book closes with a couple of chapters on actually living out all of this.
On the negative side, the book is probably 60 or 80 pages longer than it needs to be, a fact that is tinged with irony since the book deals with productivity. Of course this length is a product of Perman’s logical step-by-step progression through the topic, something I find difficult to criticize. Still, I think the steps are a little bit smaller than they really need to be, making the book a little more intimidating and time-consuming than it ought to be.
On the plus side, there is nothing quite like this book. Perman teaches that true productivity is not getting more done, but getting the right things done—the things that serve others to the glory of God. He does not leave this as an idea for us to execute as we see fit, but provides a thoughtful, logical, do-able way of living so those first things really do remain first. This makes What’s Best Next a worthy investment of your money and, that most precious of resources, your time.
What's Best Next