Finally, after two years of writing and many months of preparing for launch, my book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done has been released and is now availabe.
It has been a long road!
Why We Need This Book (and Why I Wrote It)
I wrote the book because I believe that this is what the church most needs to hear most of all right now, at this point in time. And this is slightly ironic, because this is a very practical book and a practical subject, yet I am more of a theologian by nature. In college I spent most days reading theology, writing articles to remember what I wrote, debating atheists and Jehovah’s Witnesses for fun, and talking about these things with my friends. After college, I studied under John Piper (who wrote the foreword) and got my M.Div. at Southern Seminary. You would have thought my first book would be on theology.
But there are lots of books on theology now (and, to be sure, we need more!). There has been an explosion of them in the last ten years (which, again, is a really fantastic thing). What we are lacking now are solid books on the very practical realities we are all dealing with in this new, ultra-connected world of work (and life!) that has emerged over the last twenty years — and that at the same time address these realities on a solid biblical, theological foundation.
And we absolutely need to address these realities, because productivity, managing ourselves, and getting things done are things we all deal with every day. Further, the Scriptures call us to think about all of life in relation to the gospel. Hence, it is critical that we think about productivity and how to get things done in a God-centered, gospel-driven way.
Yet, there are almost no books out there right now that seek to do that.
There are lots of secular books on productivity which are incredibly helpful (I am indebted to David Allen’s Getting Things Done, obviously, and many more). But none of these books show how our productivity and the things we do every day connect to God and the gospel. On the other hand, over on the biblical side of things, there are very few books (almost none) that give serious reflection to productivity from a biblical perspective while also providing best-in class productivity practices and tips, of the same caliber of books like Getting Things Done or Stephen Covey’s very helpful First Things First.
So that’s what my book seeks to do.
More specifically, I seek to do two things.
The First Aim of the Book: Present a Biblical Vision of Our Productivity and the Things We Do Every Day in a Unique, Compelling Way
First, I seek to give a biblical vision for how we are to think about our work, productivity, and the things we do every day. The lack of teaching in the church on how our faith relates to our work is one of the reasons that so many struggle with meaning in their work. I seek to show how amazing and surprising the biblical vision for our work and productivity really is (and how relevant it is). Some of the most interesting and significant things we see here are:
A (More Biblical!) Way of Understanding Good Works
We see that good works are not just rare and special things we do, like going to Africa, or spiritual things like leading a Bible study, but anything we do in faith—even tying our shoes. Hence, our vocations are actually one of the chief arenas in which we can serve and worship God. This gives great meaning to the things we do every day (the greatest possible!).
Why it is Absolutely Essential, and not Optional, to Consider Productivity in Relation to God
Lots of books on productivity talk about organizing our lives around “what matters most.” But God is what matters most! Yet none of those secular books — as important as they are — make that point.
We can’t just assume this, or leave “what matters most” up to whatever we say it is. If God exists, then he is the most important reality in the universe, and therefore to truly care about “what matters most” means to care about and love God — and thus center our lives around him.
Therefore, any ultimately “productive” approach to life will have God at the center. Those who seek to be productive without God can do many great and wonderful things, which are to be commended; but we can only be eternally productive if we do everything we do in Christ and for the glory of God (John 15:5). This book fleshes that out, and shows why it is good news.
Why This Matters for Non-Christians as Well as Christians
This book is also written for those who are not Christians, though I recognize many might not be initially inclined to pick up a God-centered book on productivity.
I tried to write in such a way as to show why it is reasonable to consider the claims of Christ for anyone who cares about productivity. For if we care about being productive, shouldn’t we care about what is ultimately productive forever — namely, living our lives for Christ? It’s worth considering. That’s what I want to say (and show) to those who are not already approaching this from a God-centered point of view. And so, for example, I seek to show how Stephen Covey’s principle-centered approach to productivity (the best yet) naturally leads to something beyond that — namely, a God-centered approach.
While I hope that any non-Christians who read this book will give serious consideration to the claims of Christ, there is also much they will benefit from even if they do not take that path. I believe that, as Christians, we are to serve all people (Galatians 6:10; 1 Thessalonians 3:12), and this book will be useful even to those who do not share my faith.
The Second Aim of the Book: Present a Practical Approach for Getting The Most Important Things Done that Actually Works
Then, after giving a biblical perspective for how we are to understand our productivity and work in a new way because of the gospel, I seek to provide a practical approach for improving our productivity in every area of life.
I seek to provide an approach that is simple, yet deals with all levels of our work and lives. Those who love GTD like I do will recognize GTD as a significant part of the framework (and I give many shout-outs to it), but this book is not a re-hash of GTD. I seek to develop it further, and also simplify it in many respects.
I seek to give an approach you can follow even if you aren’t in to having very many lists (though I do believe lists are very helpful and often necessary). Further, my approach is top-down (whereas GTD is bottom-up). I also integrate some of the best insights from books like Scott Belsky’s Making Ideas Happen, Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive, and many others.
Some of the things you will learn in these sections include:
Mission Statements (that work! and aren’t stuck in the 80s…)
Mission statements matter! But many don’t work well for people, because we do it wrong. So we look at how to create a mission statement for your life that actually works (and why this matters).
Identifying Your Life Calling
It is also important to know how to identify your chief calling in life — the one thing you are most fully on the planet to do (note: this is actually something different from your mission statement), and do it in a God-centered way. This can be especially helpful when having to make career decisions and other major life decisions.
Creating a Flexible Framework (Time Map) for Your Week
Even when you know your chief priorities, they don’t happen automatically because systems trump intentions. Hence, you need to weave them into the fabric of your life through a flexible framework so they actually get done.
This is most of all done through creating a flexible time map for your week. In these chapters, we also get some glimpses into how the president schedules his day (I interviewed one of president Bush’s former schedulers in preparation for this book) and how Christian leaders like Al Mohler get things done.
Delegating–in God-Centered Way
We look at how to delegate in a way that actually works and empowers people, rather than treating them like machines or gophers.
If we are to be God-centered in everything, that includes delegation! There is a way to be God-centered in our delegation that we often overlook, and is fundamental to what it means to treat people with respect and dignity (which are fundamental to any God-centered approach to life — if we are to honor God, then we must honor people, who are made in his image; this is non-negotiable, and has to be reflected in the way we go about our work). God-centerd delegation means delegating to people in a way that truly empowers them and hands over real responsibility. It is based on trust. We look at what this means, and how to do it well.
Processing Workflow, Managing Projects, and the Details of Execution
And, of course, we look at how to get things done in the moment by learning how to process workflow and get your email inbox to zero every day, how to manage projects and keep track of all your actions and information through simple project plans, how to plan your week, and the six routines you need to have in your week.
The Last Section: The Results of Gospel-Driven Productivity
Then, in the final section, I show how all of this connects to God’s global purposes, including productivity in our organizations and society, and ultimately world missions. Ultimately, we see that as we are productive in a God-centered way in every area of our lives, God transforms the world through our work socially, economically, and spiritually. (And, perhaps most interestingly, this is precisely what Paul teaches in Ephesians 5:8-17, the core New Testament passage on time management.)
(And Some Other Things)
That’s a quite-extended snapshot of the book, and there are still many, many things I left out! I will be posting on the book throughout the week to give you shorter snapshots and some of the other key take-aways, including the D-A-R-E process that I use to summarize and integrate all of these things in a way that (hopefully) makes it easy to remember.
Some Blog Posts on the Book So Far
Several people have blogged on the book so far, and there are many more posts to come that I am aware of. Here are a few of the key posts so far:
- Justin Taylor’s post on What’s Best Next
- Matt Heerema’s post The One Book You Should Read This Year
- Andy Naselli’s post (with a great summary of the book and the table of contents)
- Joshua Van Der Merwe’s post Three Reasons You Should Read What’s Best Next by Matt Perman
Here are also some other resources on the book you might find useful:
- The page for the book on this site, with all the endorsements, a briefer summary than this post (!), a sample of the book, and more.
- John Piper’s foreword for the book.
Some Reader Comments
I suppose I should also list some of the endorsements. I’ll post just a few for now, but you can see all of them on the page for the book listed just above.
Perhaps most interesting are some of the comments I’ve received from other advance readers so far. Here are a few:
“This book has such fruit-bearing potential I wish I’d started a blog years ago for the sole purpose of recommending it today. If you struggle to manage the number of things on your plate and want to serve people more effectively with the time that you have, you need to embrace and apply the principles in this book.”
“The table of contents made me want to stay up all night.”
And, here are three of the endorsements:
“This book is simply extraordinary…. I doubt there is a person on the planet who knows both theological issues and time-management literature to the depth and extent Matt Perman does.”
—John Piper, founder and teacher, desiringGod.org; author, Don’t Waste Your Life
“In this amazing volume, Matt Perman offers a wealth of practical, real-world productivity solutions, all framed within the context of the Gospel. He provides the know-how and the know-Who we need to be faithful stewards over the gifts we have been given.”
—Michael Hyatt, New York Times bestselling author of Platform; MichaelHyatt.com
“As Christians, we are called by God to work with all our heart, because our work is—or should be—directly for the Lord. But beyond platitudes no one has really approached being productive at working, until now. Matt Perman approaches the task not only from his personal experience, but from a Christian worldview. Follow his model to align what you do with God’s purpose in your life—and in particular in your work.”
—B. Joseph Pine II, co-author, The Experience Economy
In Sum: Read the Book!
At the end of the day, I think the best way to experience the book is to read it! So I encourage you to pick up a copy, either in hardcover (Zondervan did an amazing job — it is a truly beautiful book) or for an eReader like Kindle.
(And Share It…)
Last of all: consider sharing the book with others by telling them about it, whether through tweeting this post or any of those listed above, tweeting anything else about the book, or through emailing them the Amazon page (here’s the link again: http://bit.ly/whatsbestnext) or through any other means.
There is a growing movement of gospel-centered Christians that are incredibly good at what they do in their jobs, and are excited about seeing all of life in light of the gospel. This book aims to help give a lift to that movement, which truly consists of all Christians who are eager to serve the Lord to the max with all of their gifts, without burning themselves out in the process.
I hope you enjoy the book and find it very helpful.
And, let me know what you think!