Hugh is the author of the fantastic book How Then Shall We Work? You will also find their website to be an incredible wealth of information on faith, work, and economics from a biblical perspective. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
As most of you have probably seen, WTS Books has been doing an incredible deal on What’s Best Next. If you buy 5 or more copies, you they are 50% off ($10/book).
Today is the last day of this deal. It is very much worth taking advantage of, buying a bunch of copies to take your staff or organization or church or ministry or leadership team through. I’ve even seen people on Twitter organizing book groups. So this is a great and timely deal that is worth checking out!
Here’s the table of contents for the book, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done.
You can also find out more about the book on the page for it here on the blog, and of course it is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble (especially useful today, as Amazon is sold out), and WTS Books (which has a fantastic deal on bulk orders–buy 5 or more at 50% off).
Here are some of the especially notable and cool comments people have been making on the book on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and the Amazon reviews. (I considered a bit whether to do this, but I want to highlight what people are saying, and also say “thanks!”)
“My friend Matt Perman has written the most helpful book on productivity from a gospel-centered perspective I have *ever* read, either as a mom or as a business woman. It’s already changed some entrenched-bad habits and helped me navigate through these crazy days of being a mom/wife/student/health insurance warrior. I can’t imagine what it could have done for my high tech career. It’s already sold out at Amazon, but here’s the link to reviews there anyway. Note that John Piper himself agrees with me, so I must be right.”
“Reading this book has been great. Each chapter contains practical illustrations, bulleted lists, callout boxes, and helpful acronyms. It’s neither condemnatory nor lax, neither overwhelming nor oversimplified. My hope is that you’ll be aware of this helpful resource and you’d want to learn more on the subject.”
“Perman helped me to see that the ordinary activities of my day might not be so ordinary after all. Returning a phone call might lead to an opportunity to encourage. Smiling at the check out clerk at the local store and sincerely asking about his or her day could be the first caring words he or she has heard all day. And organizing your schedule, your desk, and your to do lists, as mundane as these things may seem, are really the things that, if organized well, will result in freeing up more of your time to serve those around you.” (Jeff Kennon)
“If you read only one book this year, it should be What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman. Yes I mean that.
“The aim of the book is “to reshape the way you think about productivity and then present a practical approach to help you become more effective in your life with less stress and frustration, whatever you are doing.” And the book delivers.
Stop everything and read it.” (Matt Heerema)
“I love the subject of productivity. I love theology. I love the concept of stewardship, particularly time stewardship. I have bookshelves full of books related to those subjects. I’ve read every book, article, and blog post about time stewardship that I could get my hands (or my digital hands) on.
And What’s Best Next is the first book I would recommend to anyone wanting to take his or her time stewardship to the next level.” (Loren Pinilis)
“The rest of the book is broken up into seven parts. That sounds like a lot but they move fast. Perman is an engaging writer who doesn’t waste word in bringing his message to his readers. Over those seven parts, Perman explains why it’s had to get things done but why just getting things done isn’t enough. He presents a better–more realistic and purposeful–approach to effectiveness and productivity. This involves figuring out what’s most important and clarifying your roles. For Perman, the gospel of Jesus Christ becomes a key factor in this part of his productivity.”
“When I finally took the topic more seriously about a year ago, I found many helpful suggestions. But I didn’t feel ‘whole’ about the matter. Besides missing some of the big action pieces of productivity (which Matt speaks about), I was thinking about productivity all wrong. My starting point was wrong. Matt helped me see that I can’t take out the thread of biblical theology that so naturally weaves itself into how one thinks about work, particularly productive work. Beyond that, Matt weaves together in this one book the principles and practical applications of being productive that is connected to faith.”
“Make no mistake, this is no dry book. What’s Best Next is replete with clear examples and personal anecdotes to give more meaningful application of its principles. I found it difficult to stop reading at times because its conversational prose and eye-pleasing format lead me to want to continue to the next chapter and continue from the “what” and the “why” to get to the “how.” If you are serious about maximizing your time and efforts so you can be an effective steward what Christ has given, this book will be an asset to you.”
“What’s Best Next is sure to be a standard for many years to come.”
“May Be One of the Most Important Books of Our Decade.”
“This is the book I have been waiting for. I love the Bible and I love books on productivity & leadership. What’s Best Next is the first book that I have read that effectively connects both.”
“HOWEVER, THIS BOOK ISN’T JUST FOR CHRISTIANS. Though thoroughly saturated with excellently-done Christian theology, I believe that a non-Christian can get a lot out of this book as well. Any fans of Godin, Covey, Allen, Collins, or Ferris will love this book, which synthesizes all of the best productivity and management thinking out there, and puts it all together in a way unlike any other book I’m aware of. (And if another exists, please tell me!)”
“started reading #whatsbestnext – In ch 3 and already blown away! Just what I needed as I start up a business!”
“Take The 12 Myths About Productivity Quiz wp.me/pTOnf-4P4 cc @mattperman #whatsbestnext”
“One key concept I’m learning in @MattPerman’s new book on productivity is that of the importance of “intangibles.” ow.ly/ugb87”
“If you only read one productivity book, make sure it’s this one. What’s Best Next by @mattperman Out today: chrspb.lt/OXYL3v”
“A gospel-driven Christian is known for both their love and sound theology #whatsbestnext”
And, especially great:
“I am finding the book helpful and exciting! Thanks! I’ll be 80 this year and want to make the most of whatever more time God gives me.”
Amen to that. “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
It is amazing to watch this and see so many people talking about the book on Twitter, their blogs, and Facebook. Thank you to everyone and keep it going!
Having broken into the top 500 at Amazon, I wonder if we can break past the #250 mark, or higher.
Certainly it’s not the numbers that matter, but this is a way of exposing the book to people who would not otherwise know about it.
Update: Amazingly, we reached this goal and the book made it up to #244 last night.
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!
My book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done, releases March 4. You’ve been hearing about it for a long time now, and thanks for all of the encouraging words that so many of you have sent me over the last couple of years. It’s been a long journey and I’m really excited for its release!
If you are interested in being a part of the launch for the book, I’d love to have you as part of the launch team.
What You’ll Get
Here are some of the benefits of being a What’s Best Next launch team member:
- A free electronic edition of the book in advance.
- Private Facebook group access.
- A half-hour teleseminar prior to launch on Friday, February 28.
- A thank you link back to your blog.
- A free copy of my ebook How to Set Up Your Desk (not yet published).
- A free PDF where I compiled a whole bunch of my research for the book (about 300 pages).
And, most importantly, it will be a lot of fun and you can help me get out a very important message on what it means to base our productivity in the gospel!
What You’ll Do
As a member of the launch team, here’s what you’ll do:
- Write a short review on Amazon or other e-tailer site.
- Spread the word using your platform during launch week (the week of March 4) and after, whether through Twitter, Facebook, your blog, or all of the above.
- Share ideas in the Facebook group on other ways to help get the word out about the book to as many people as we can.
(And, of course, note that you don’t have to be a part of the launch team to do these things (except item 3), so please feel free to do these whether you are a part of the launch team or not!)
How to Sign Up
To become a part of the launch team, just email me through the contact form on the blog by Tuesday, February 25. Send me your name and email, and we’ll get you hooked up with your electronic copy of the book, the Facebook group, and other details. It’s that simple!
(I suppose I should add that the team will be limited to a certain number of people; I’m actually not sure how many yet. But everyone who asks to join the team before we reach that cutoff point will be part of the team.)
More on the Book
You’ve heard some things about the book as I’ve blogged about it during the writing process, and the description is up at Amazon. I’ve also started building out the page for the book here on the blog, where you can see a brief description and all of the endorsements (including the ones I haven’t been able to get to show up yet at Amazon), as well as the link to John Piper’s foreword. I’ll also be blogging more on the book in the week leading up to release (next week).
Update: Thank you everyone who joined the team! We had over 100 people sign up, which is fantastic and amazing. If you missed the deadline, there are still many things you can do to help by blogging about the book, writing an Amazon review, tweeting about it, and posting to Facebook. If you would like to formally join the launch team, go ahead and contact me through the contact form here on the blog (link above) and we can still add you to the Facebook group.
Several weeks ago I had the privilege of being a guest on Loren Pinilis’s very helpful podcast on Christian time management.
Loren is a great interviewer and I really enjoyed talking with him. I think we talked for almost three hours! He has broken up our conversation into several episodes in his podcast. Here’s the first episode. In it, we discuss:
- The roles of discipline and passion
- How to pursue excellence without being a perfectionist
- What the difference is between a legalistic productivity approach and a gospel-based productivity approach.
- How to approach productivity and life when you’re not really enjoying God’s grace and his love.
- The crucial nature of understanding justification by faith alone and how that affects productivity
- The roles of discernment and uncertainty in productivity
- What it was like writing the book
- What I hope readers take away from the book
I have some great news. The book I’ve been working on for the past two years (or more) is finally done.
The book, which you’ve probably heard me talk about before, is on the gospel and productivity. It’s called What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done and has a two-fold aim:
- Present a God-centered, gospel-driven perspective of our work and all the things we do every day that is motivating, biblical, and encouraging, and isn’t trite, superficial, or reliant on trendy Christian catch-phrases that nobody really understands anyway.
- Give you a practical approach for getting things done — whether at work, home, in your community, or anywhere else — that is solidly anchored in the Scriptures and actually works.
This is what I’ve needed (as I talk about in the introduction and other parts of the book) and what I’ve found so many others need as I’ve talked and interacted with thousands of Christians around the world for the last several years. The subject of how to be effective in managing our work and lives from a biblical perspective is a huge gap in Christian thinking right now that I hope this book can help fill. It’s filled with biblical reflection, practical tips, and (I hope!) interesting personal stories that show the mistakes I’ve made (sometimes kind of funny) just as much as any accomplishments.
I hope the book helps a lot of people. More details on the book to come.
Now, a bit about the blog.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been blogging much for a while. The book is why. It took up all the time I had (and much more) and was absolutely exhausting.
Writing this book was by far the most challenging, difficult, and painful thing I’ve ever done. The worst thing of all is that it just wouldn’t let up. I’d think I was done, then it turned out I wasn’t. I thought I was done again, but was wrong again. And so it continued.
As far back as a year and a half ago, when I completed the first draft, I tweeted that it was the hardest thing I had ever done, times ten. Little did I know…I still had a long ways to go and it would get way harder.
I’ve been trapped in a canyon, fell flat on my face while running in the Wal-Mart parking lot, had horrible nose surgery, and experienced a whole host of other painful realities, and this book was worse than any of them — by far.
But, the book is finally done, for real, and with the publisher (Zondervan) and on track for release this winter. (I actually finished it in early June, but it’s taken me this long to get back above water after the writing process.) I am grateful to the Lord for sustaining me through the process. Without his support and strength, I would have sunk for good long ago, no question.
Now that I’m getting back to a normal workload, here are some of my immediate and longer-term plans for the blog, Lord willing:
- Get caught up on some past things I’ve wanted to post about.
- Do a series on why the book took so long (because I think it’s very interesting).
- Do a whole bunch of other cool and interesting posts and series of posts that I’ve had a bunch of ideas for but haven’t had the time to write.
- Get back into my blogging routine.
- Expand the content on the blog. I have hundreds of articles and dozens of audio messages I’ve been wanting to get posted for a while, and as I can I’ll be getting that content online.
Thanks for sticking with me through this process. I’m excited about the future and, Lord willing, there will be lots of interesting stuff on the blog to come!
I’m sorry for being sparse in posting the last few months. If you haven’t guessed, it’s been because of the book. Winston Churchill sums up how I’ve felt the last few months (last year?):
Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.
I think this book skipped the “toy and amusement phase,” and that I’ve been in that tyrant phase for perhaps the whole time!
I had an interesting post written up on what has taken so long, but maybe I’ll save that for later. Several times I thought “oh, it’s done,” because of the length, but it still wasn’t what I wanted it to be. One piece of good news is that early on I suppose you could say I was struggling with writer’s block (though Seth Godin says it doesn’t exist!), and so I took the standard advice: just write anything, and you can always revise it and cut it back later. So that’s what I did, and I ended up writing a lot. The process of getting things cut back, however, was super challenging as a result (which is not what the conventional wisdom said would happen!), and I have actually taken out something like the equivalent of 4 books from this. For example, I have one short book almost ready to go on a Christian view of working in your strengths (and how to view our weaknesses). My priority, to be sure, has been this book, though hopefully this is one benefit that has come out of this process.
I plan, Lord willing, on writing many books in the future, and the whole process of writing this book (and all the writing that I ended up doing) will benefit that aim and make future books go much faster.
In the meantime, I’m sorry for the delay and, as Churchill would say, I’m just about to kill the beast. Can’t wait. It’s been fun, but totally brutal as well. The challenges will be worth it if it helps any of you be more effective in the important work you do every day, whether you are a stay-at-home mom or corporate executive. I believe the things we do matter immensely — both big and small, in all areas of life — and that God delights in them if we do them for his glory. I want to help you do them better, and with less stress and more joy, both where you are and in the service of fighting large global problems and reaching the nations.
Last, a word on missions. There is a relationship between our productivity in all realms of life and the advance of the gospel. We don’t need to and shouldn’t seek to justify all that we do simply on the basis of its evangelistic usefulness. Work matters in itself, and our ultimate motive in all things should be love for others and the glory of God. Yet, while the things we do matter in themselves, it is true that they are also a supporting testimony to the gospel and a means by which it naturally spreads. I don’t think small, and so I hope this book can also have the effect of helping equip the church in the task of putting a large dent in the Great Commission. I think a robust doctrine of work is key to reaching the nations, which means that part of the key to finishing the Great Commission is actually affirming that all work matters, not just evangelism and direct missions, and that we should seek to do all we do with excellence, creativity, and competence. And that learning how to work is key to doing everything we do more effectively.
I hope the book will help you immensely (and encourage you!), and keep me in your prayers!
In the meantime, I’m going to try to get back to regular blogging even as I finish up, and I’ll be blogging the Global Leadership Summit tomorrow and Friday.