I am a musician who became a pastor, which means, by definition, I am a scatter-brained person who has a lot of responsibilities. Over the years of my ministry, I have spent countless days both frustrated and overwhelmed about getting done what needs to be done and I have felt the weight of anxiety over forgetting an important task or being a slave to the urgent.
To remedy this, my wife bought me planner in order to have a maintain tasks while being mindful of the time I have to accomplish them. This helped, but only marginally because it did not provide a mental categorical framework for all the different areas of my life that I needed to juggle. Add all of those things to the ever-busy calendar of a family with four kids and you have a recipe for problems.
Enter Tim Challies’ new book Do More Better. Prior to reading this book, I would have said that productivity meant “getting the most amount of things done in a given time with quality.” And I would never have defined it outside of my job. Through this work, however, Challies completely reframed my thinking about what productivity is and how to accomplish it.
The beauty of Challies’ approach to productivity is not in the “how-tos,” but rather in the “whats and whys.” Instead of defining productivity as “getting stuff done” he defines it in terms of G0d-centered work for God’s glory and the good of others. He puts it this way:
Productivity is effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God (16).
It is only when we understand and embrace this idea of productivity that we can truly move forward in our tasks.
Unique to Challies’ book is how he helps categorize our crazy lives and give them purpose. By suggesting that we label all of our responsibilities and put them into categories is helpful, especially for men who tend to compartmentalize things more. Once our lives are categorized he guides the reader through on discovering our purpose for those categories. Those purposes, then, drive what we do in order to maximize our productivity for the glory of God.
Those categories are then used as the grid for everything else we do. Whether it be a calendar, a to-do list, or a digital file cabinet, everything is funneled through these categories. It sounds confusing, but I promise you that Challies is skilled in his ability to communicate his system.
From there, he guides you through various programs, or apps, and suggests ways in which you can get better organized so that you can be doing more good for others and for God. It is in this section that the book probably has its biggest weakness: the dependence on technology. I love technology. I live my life on my phone, iPad, and computer. However, there are two immediate potential problems with this method: First, though he does briefly cover how to do this method with notebooks and pens, it would be much more difficult to follow through in this way, especially in the chapter on digital storage. This book is targeted to people who are somewhat tech savy and can navigate in and out of various apps to accomplish things. Second, because it is tech-heavy, I fear that it will become obsolete in ten to twenty years. With the transient nature of technology these days, unless certain tech companies keep up, new and better systems will come along. However, I can see how the principles will more than likely stand the test of time. Therefore, these criticisms should be taken with a grain of salt.
Though Do More Better is not destined to become a classic, it does provide some very insightful benefits for the reader. If the book only contained the chapters on redefining productivity and formulating purpose, it would be well worth the money to get this book. I’m grateful for Challies’ latest contribution to the publishing world and look forward to years of productivity for the glory of God and the good of others.