As we think about goals and priorities for the new year, we are frequently reminded of how often we have failed to reach our goals of previous years. Apparently only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions successfully accomplish their resolutions.
In our mission organization, we are asking all of our members to put together an Individual Growth Plan for 2015. Being intentional about and planning our learning is important. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions. But planning is only the first step. Unless we carry out the plan, we are no further ahead at the end of next year.
How do we make sure that we get the most important things done? How do we prevent our lives being crowded out by the tyranny of the urgent, leaving our good intentions and learning plans just gathering dust in our file cabinets?
To deal with this very real problem, I recommend a relatively new book (published March 2014) by Matt Perman on personal productivity – What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. In contrast to many other books that seek to help you organize your life, Perman recognizes that God must determine our priorities and the purpose of our lives is not to make our lives comfortable and wealthy, but rather to bring glory to God and serve others in love. As Matt’s blog says,
“Unique to any other book about maximizing personal productivity, What’s Best Next is a God-centered, gospel-oriented perspective that addresses the proper motivation to drive your productivity — serving others, to the glory of God.”
In the book itself, Matt says, “This is a book about getting things done and making ideas happen, with less friction and frustration, from a biblical perspective.”
But I think John Piper says it even better:
The book is really about how to be so satisfied in God that the power of this joy is released “to love people better in the midst of the current, very challenging environment of our modern, technological, constantly interrupted knowledge work era.”
The first part (actually Parts 1 & 2) of the book lays a biblical and theological foundation for productivity, showing that God really cares about us getting things done, but that the key is not becoming more efficient (getting more things done) but becoming more effective (getting the right things done). Throughout the book, multiple references to various themes of Piper’s preaching and writing ministry can be found. Avoiding wasting your life, seeking the glory of God above all, and focusing on God’s global mission and the centrality of the Gospel are all woven into the discussion of productivity. This Piper-emphasis is not surprising since Matt Perman served as director of strategy for Desiring God, a ministry which John Piper founded.
What’s Best Next is complemented by a toolkit of downloadable articles and tools on Perman’s website.
This book is simply extraordinary. This is largely because of the way God has wired Matt Perman. His mind is saturated with biblical truth, and he is passionate, sometimes to a fault (as you will see in his personal stories), about being effective for the glory of Christ. Those two traits have combined to produce a God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated book that, without blinking, gets into stuff like Al Mohler’s midnight productivity and Seth Godin’s method for carving out time for work that matters. 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. This combination is at times mindboggling.