Year after year, new books on productivity are published, promising the best new techniques, tips, and tricks for improving your organizational skills, productivity, and life overall. In recent years, the Christian publishing market has joined this trend, providing a spiritual spin on the age-old problem of self-improvement.
The particular challenge, when it comes to productivity books, is that you can read a million of them without it making an impact on your life. For a book about organization, focus, planning, and task-management to make an actual difference in your life, you have to make the decision to implement what it recommends.
Author and blogger Tim Challies recently published Do More Better, a concise, clear book about improving productivity from a Christian perspective. While I can’t tell you whether or not his approach really works (not yet, anyway), what I can tell you is that it reorients the reader’s thinking about why we should pursue productivity and effective work, and provides a practical approach for pursuing better work.
In Do More Better, Challies defines productivity as “effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.” From the outset, this sets the book apart from its mainstream peers. Challies doesn’t spend a long time discussing the theology of work and productivity (for that, you might want to check out Tim Keller or Matt Perman), but he delivers a punchy introduction to the idea in first quarter of this volume.
I don’t want to sell this part short, because he really has some pithy comments about the effect of your faith and integrity on every other part of your life. This part was particularly good:
While this book will emphasize tools and systems and other important elements of productivity, nothing is more important than your own holiness and your own godliness. No amount of organization and time management will compensate for a lack of Christian character, not when it comes to this great calling of glory through good— bringing glory to God by doing good to others. (Do More Better, p. 25)
Before talking tips and tricks, Challies discusses a short “productivity catechism,” followed by a list of “productivity thieves” that stand opposed to our progress in this area. (My big enemy? The fruit of procrastination, which Challies calls “busy-lazy.”)
After this introductory section, Challies begins breaking down his approach, which starts with defining your roles and responsibilities, and then developing a mission statement to focus your activity in each of these areas. The rest of the book is devoted to using specific types of tools (task-lists, calendars, and information storage) and routines to carry out your stated goals in each of your roles. He encourages weekly reviews to help keep an eye on the “big picture” projects and goals.
Throughout the book, Challies repeats a guiding principle in the practical working out of this system: “a home for everything, and like goes with like.” And with a little bit of work on the front end, his recommendations can be put into action.
Another key idea in Do More Better is that we Christians live each day coram Deo — before the face of God. All of this effort and activity with tools and systems should be done for the Lord, and not for ourselves. Our efforts to be productive and effective cannot be merely for our own advancement, but for the ultimate praise and glory of God.
This is not to imply that a non-Christian has nothing to gain from this book. There are elements that can be very practical and applicable to people of all backgrounds. But you will miss something of the book’s power if you leave out this key component.
So the question remains: does it work? As I said, I don’t know…yet. But when I started reading this book, I decided to do something I have never done before when it comes to productivity books. I committed to give this one a real try, and started putting this plan into practice. As of this writing, I’ve been using Challies’ system for about 3 weeks (with the exception of the weekly review, which I’ll start doing this weekend). I can already attest to the fact that I have benefitted immensely from these new habits. In about a month, I’ll give you another update on my progress, with more specifics about how I’m working out the particulars of Challies’ approach.
Final Review: Do More Better is succinct and potent, full of practical instruction and thought-provoking concepts. If you are a Christian who wants to be more productive and effective in your daily life and work, Do More Better is a worthwhile read.
I was provided with an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. The preceding thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.