Most people are looking for ways to do more work that matters.
Disclaimer: I’m not talking about working more hours. I’m talking about becoming more efficient, learning what projects to say yes or no to, and doing stuff that matters.
If you fall into this category of people, allow me to recommend Do More Better: a Practical Guide to Productivity – a mercifully short book written by pastor/author Tim Challies. Challies is an active blogger at www.challies.com.
- Gospel Focus – One of my biggest pet peeves in current church culture is our obsession with labelling everything Gospel-cenetered ______. However when discussing productivity, it is easy to begin boasting in our own efficiency or criticizing others who are not as effective as we are, at least as we judge effectiveness. Challies does not allow the reader to stray from the Gospel truth that God saves the most efficient and most lazy of people – and our productivity does nothing to impress God or earn his love.
- Brevity – this makes sense for a book about productivity, right? Challies gets right what most productivity writers get wrong. At 119 pages, Do More Better teaches you what you need to get to work and you can knock it out in one sitting.
- Practical Action Steps – Challies does not waste pages overly discussing productivity theories or quoting other productivity authors, like many do. Within each short chapter he gives practical action steps to implement right away.
On why we work
You are already very good at doing things that benefit you. We all are. From your infancy you have become adept at expending effort toward your own comfort and survival. But when God saved you, he gave you a heart that longs to do good for others. Suddenly you long to do good to other people, even at great cost to yourself. After all, that is exactly what Christ did on the cross…and he calls on you to imitate him. – 13
One of the best sentences in the book is Challies’ definition of productivity.
Productivity is effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.– 16
In Chapter two, Challies identifies three productivity thieves:
- the mean combination of thorns and thistles (as a result of the Fall, sin has complicated work, making it harder to produce than God originally intended. Notice: work is not a consequence of sin. Work being difficult is).
The bulk of Do More Better is focused on specific, practical tools. Challies outlines his own productivity system without insisting the reader adopt his own. He does clarify that this system has worked well for him and others.
Challies lays out main areas of responsibility and then clarifies roles and responsibilities with those areas. He then gives each main area a loosely binding mission statement so he has a parameter in which to remain focused on what matters most.
The question I had, which Challies quickly answered was, “What about tasks that don’t fit into those five or six main categories?”
Challies provides three possible solutions:
1. Drop them – so much of our productivity potential is wasted on things that don’t matter. I am a pastor so people matter most in my world. But, to spend the most time with people there are times I have to say no to other people. For example, I know I work best at the very beginning of each day. So I usually start with the door shut to my co-workers, some of whom work differently than I do. As the day progresses, I generally meet with people more after lunch as my productivity levels start to drain but my relational capacity is still high. I have to drop some things so I can do the things that matter most.
2. Delegate them to someone who can do them better – this is absolutely not dumping something you simply don’t wish to do on someone else. In my world, we recently upgraded our worship team equipment, which I know nothing about. Instead of me wasting hours and hours trying to learn and eventually making a bad decision, I asked a few of my friends who are much more knowledgeable than I am to help me make the best decision. They saved me time, money, and helped me focus more on my own strengths as they served me with theirs.
3. Do them – this is where Challies’ gospel focus is heard loudly. As a Christian trying to pattern my life after Jesus, there should be no task that is beneath me. The founding pastor of my church, one of the largest in town, can regularly be found with a broom or mop in his hand cleaning up and serving in ways no one else sees. He does what needs to be done and serves just as honestly and joyfully without an audience as he does when he is preaching on stage to a packed house.
Challies spends a chapter each on three productivity tools: tasks, calendar, and information. I found his chapter on systems to be particularly insightful, especially the system he uses to create to-do lists and beginning the day strong.
He also discusses systems to evaluate yourself and your work in review. The two bonus chapters in the back are especially helpful (6 tips for email and 20 general productivity tips).
If you are looking to increase productivity and do more that matters, this book is for you.
Disclaimer: I received a free, discounted, or advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.