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What's Best Next: How the Gospel…

What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things…

by Matthew Perman

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A really helpful book on personal productivity. Perman does a good job of applying the gospel to the realm of productivity and task management. In my opinion, the book earns 5 stars because its treatment of "gospel-driven productivity" is comprehensive and refreshing in that it points readers to place service to God and others as the most important principles of personal effectiveness. ( )
  codyacunningham | May 9, 2016 |
This is the best book on "Getting Things Done" because it helps you clarify which THINGS need to be be done, done next and done well. We live in an age of productivity and distraction. We easily can be productive at things that ultimately do not matter. Perman helps us from a Biblical perspective think about what the most important things are to us and how we can get them done. He is honest about his own shortcomings and work-a-holism. Those deficits lead him to help others avoid the traps and snares he found himself in.

I am grateful for the wisdom contained in this well written and well organized book. I will return to it's pages often to relearn the wisdom found in it. ( )
  azolibrary | Nov 27, 2015 |
Seems everyone is reading this book, but I honestly didn't find it that well-written. It appears as though books related to Perman's topic were released around the time he was writing it, and some get a cursory mention in his last chapters. For example, Perman claims in the opening chapter that there is not much literature on the "interesting" theology of work. But I have a reading list of about 30 books on the topic, many taken from the bibliography of Tim Keller's Every Good Endeavor. Perman quotes from Keller's other works, but Every Good Endeavor only gets a mention as a suggested reading in the last chapter. (I also recommend Hugh Whelchel's How Now Shall We Work and if you want a non-Reformed perspective look at Work by Ben Witherington III, for starters). So, Perman does not seem to be really well-read outside of the management classics. I have not checked his blog to see what's new. This book could have been a lot shorter with better formatting and less repetition ad nauseum from the same sources.

I like Perman's attempt to draw up a Gospel-driven approach to productivity.

"The only way to be productive is to realize that you don’t have to be productive" (loc. 223)
He explains the biblical foundations for productivity and its important in an overall mandate of dominion over the earth (though not as good as Whelchel and others).
"The reason we should seek to be productive is to serve others to the glory of God, and not for the sake of personal peace and affluence" (231).
"productivity is about intangibles — relationships developed, connections made, and things learned."
"God is the ultimate measure and judge of our productivity. Things that do not pass muster at the final judgment are, by definition, not productive in an ultimate sense" (loc. 947).

I liked Perman's recognition that "all areas of our lives are callings from God" (loc. 264). You are called to be a son, a brother, a husband, father, co-worker, manager, servant, neighbor, etc. and we should see our activities in those callings as bringing glory to God.

The second half of the book is a look at various other management guru's productivity hacks through a biblical worldview, and an application based on Perman's personal experiences. I would recommend reading the books Perman suggests before reading this book. I have striven for the same efficiency and productivity described in the book and consider it a constant work in progress.

Most helpful to me was Perman's response to Tim Ferriss' The Four-Hour Workweek (my review). When I reviewed that book I asked if there was a Christian response to it, indeed Perman responds well. While incorporating some of Ferriss' hacks, he notes that Ferriss' goal is to free people up to spend less time dealing with others-- which is really a crucial part of being a Christian. I've often wanted to shut down various aspects of my life to get rid of inefficient meetings, distracting co-workers, and ridiculous emails, but Perman reminds us (with help from C.S. Lewis) that relationships and human interaction are what are important:
"The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination" (loc. 4144).

His admonition about making weekly plans, daily to-do lists, etc. are helpful but he doesn't step out of his own job experiences to see how unworkable they sometimes can be. Some of us work in jobs where, even if we set aside a block of uninterrupted "productive time," each day we will still be interrupted by tasks that well-meaning people say need to be a done "ASAP" and could take all day or weeks. That disrupts the entire work plan for the day/week/month, and one never knows what days or how often in a day that will occur. Some people work jobs on-call and never know when the call will come or what their schedule will be very far in advance. We may also have corrupt or incompetent superiors who demand the impractical, and that's grating to the spirit in a way that Perman doesn't really address in the book. He does make the comment that suffering in our work may be part of our calling in glorifying God, he just seems to have mostly worked for Christian non-profits and not done much of that himself.

In all, I give this book 3.5 stars out of 5. I would recommend it to someone just starting a new job, or their first job, as a way to better frame the work he or she does. ( )
  justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0310494222, Hardcover)

Do Work That Matters Productivity isn't just about getting more things done. It's about getting the right things done---the things that count, make a difference, and move the world forward. 

In our current era of massive overload, this is harder than ever before. So how do you get more of the right things done without confusing mere activity for actual productivity? 

When we take God's purposes into account, a revolutionary insight emerges. Surprisingly, we see that the way to be productive is to put others first---to make the welfare of other people our motive and criteria in determining what to do (what's best next). As both the Scriptures and the best business thinkers show, generosity is the key to unlocking our productivity. It is also the key to finding meaning and fulfillment in our work. 

What's Best Next offers a practical approach for improving your productivity in all areas of life. It will help you better understand: 
Why good works are not just rare and special things like going to Africa, but anything you do in faith even tying your shoes. How to create a mission statement for your life that actually works. How to delegate to people in a way that actually empowers them. How to overcome time killers like procrastination, interruptions, and multitasking by turning them around and making them work for you. How to process workflow efficiently and get your email inbox to zero every day. How your work and life can transform the world socially, economically, and spiritually, and connect to God's global purposes. 
By anchoring your understanding of productivity in God's purposes and plan, What's Best Next will give you a practical approach for increasing your effectiveness in everything you do.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:37 -0400)

What's Best Next will first look at productivity in a theological context-showing how the Gospel transforms our understanding of productivity, giving us a new way to look at productivity and new reasons to care about productivity. Then, on this foundation, it will outline a practical approach for improving our own productivity. As a result, What's Best Next will show us how to increase our productivity in a way that truly increases our joy-that is, how to grow in productivity so that we can have the thrill of making life better for others (with, perhaps, the added benefit of being able to use cool tools to do it).… (more)

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