This is something I cut from the introduction to What’s Best Next for space reasons, but which is very important to understanding the book. It discusses how What’s Best Next is in some sense a follow-up to and spin-off from John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life, and how it relates to other books similar to it, such as David Platt’s Radical.
Both of those books have been very influential on me, and I think they do a good job of getting to the heart of what Jesus means when he says “follow me.” Productivity practices, in turn, exists to help us live out that call to follow Christ, because he calls us to follow him not off in the mountains by ourselves, but in the everyday context of the modern world — which is very complex and requires wisdom and skill to navigate.
If You Don’t Want to Waste Your Life, You Need to Know How to Get Things Done
The absence of practical instruction from a Christian perspective is especially significant given that, in the Christian realm, there are a ton of books exhorting us to live lives of radical sacrifice for the glory of God and good of others, while at the same time there is an extreme shortage of books that get concrete and specific about how to actually do that.
For example, one of my favorite books is Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. Piper argues that the goal of life is to live with a single passion to “joyfully display God’s supreme excellence in all spheres of life.” Instead of just marking time or spending our lives on comfort and pleasure — whether traveling the world or staying at home watching clean PG-13 movies with the family every night — the call of Christ to us is to spend ourselves living radical lives of sacrificial love for the good of others and his glory. I agree with Piper, and this book shares the same vision.
Piper’s book is an incredible exhortation to live that life. But, once you have realized that living for the good of others to the glory of Jesus Christ is the purpose of life, a thousand questions are raised for the practical arena of your life. You know that you exist to proactively seek the good of others for the glory of God, but how do you go about that? Does it mean you have to go be a missionary? (Piper’s answer: no — though many should consider that.) If not, what does it look like in the midst of our daily lives right where we are at?
Further, seeking to live a life devoted to the good of others is going to make your life harder in many ways — busier, more challenging, more complex. How do you manage that? You need to know how. Simply having the aim of glorifying Christ in everything is not enough. We need to know how to translate that into the everyday.
And it translates in some very concrete ways, such as knowing how doing emails and going to meetings relates to your faith, knowing how to lead meetings well so that they actually serve people rather than tick them off, and how to stay on top of your email so that it doesn’t drown you in your quest to be a servant to others in all areas of life.
David Platt’s Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream and Francis Chan’s Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God give similar calls. I love these books and find them super helpful and important.
In one sense, What’s Best Next is a follow-up to these books. Don’t Waste Your Life, Radical, and Crazy Love exhort us to live radical, risk-taking lives of love for the good of others. But how do you go about this in a practical sense, in the midst of the everyday, without being overwhelmed by all the new opportunities and demands this brings? And how do you live a life for the glory of God in the midst of your current life, which often consists of many mundane things? That brings us solidly into the realm of productivity. By zeroing in on the practical dimension of life, this book seeks to equip you in the how.
We can even say that in a very real sense, Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life (as well as these other books) is really a book on productivity. For it’s about orienting your life around God’s purposes so that you get the most important thing of all done with your life — namely, making much of God. That’s what Piper himself said to me once in an email when we were discussing my book. He wrote “as you might guess, I view all my books as books on productivity — that is, as books on getting the most important things done (not wasting your life), which is making much of God.”
As Don’t Waste Your Life is in a sense a book on productivity, What’s Best Next is also a book on not wasting your life. And it seeks to do this by first laying out a biblical vision for what we are even doing when we get things done (part one), and then getting into the details of how to go about getting things done effectively in daily life for the glory of God, good of others, and your joy (the rest of the book).
Knowing how to make the most of our time and lead our lives well needs to be seen as a component of Christian discipleship because it’s about how to serve others well.
 I would want to nuance Platt a bit in his chapter 6 on money and giving, but even there I affirm fully his call for Christians to be radically generous and sacrificial in their giving.