It’s the New Year in just a few hours, and many of us are hoping for a more productive 2016. Have you noticed this trend in your life? Every year I find myself making resolutions that seem eerily similar to the resolutions from the year before. My New Year’s resolutions are on a kind of Rollover Plan–if you catch my drift.
In his latest book Do More Better, Tim Challies hopes to help us turn our good intentions into good works for the glory of God and the benefit of others. In a vulnerable move, he cracks open the door to his office and gives us a look at how he gets things done:
The best way I know to teach these principles is to open up my life and to let you in a little bit. I will show you what I have learned, how I use my tools, how I build my systems, how I get stuff done. I think you will get the best value from this book if you read, observe, and imitate—at least at first. Then, as time goes on, you will inevitably adapt those tips you find especially helpful and discard the ones you do not. (7)
Not So Fast.
Many would be tempted to skip straight to evaluating Challies’ tools and systems beginning in chapter 5. However, the opening two chapters were by far the most edifying and helpful. Whether you intend to adopt Challies’ practical methods or not, these chapters provide a biblical framework of productivity that is not to be missed.
Using a catechism structure, he works toward a proper definition of productivity. The chief end of man is to glorify God, and we glorify God by doing good works: “Good works are deeds done to the glory of God and the benefit of other people” (12).
Productivity, then, is not accomplishing everything or spinning a mile a minute or multi-tasking or a host of other misconceptions. Challies argues that since we have been created in Christ to do good works, we ought to maximize every area of life for God’s glory and others’ benefit. He lands at this definition: “Productivity is effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God” (16).
In chapter 2, Challies pins down several obvious, yet sheepishly ignored, obstacles to productivity: laziness, busyness, thorns and thistles. Here’s a taste of his no-nonsense approach: “If you want an excuse for being unproductive, you will inevitably find one, and if you can’t find one, you will manufacture one” (20). Shots fired!
A Home for Everything, and Like Goes with Like.
In Chapters 3-10, you will watch over the author’s shoulder as he explains how to set up his system and tools. Whether you intend to wholesale adopt his method will determine how helpful the details of this section will be. Either way you are certain to pick up some tips, and his basic premise for organization is applicable in all situations: “a home for everything, and like goes with like” (49).
Challies shows how individual tasks fit into areas of responsibility which must point toward the overarching goal of bringing glory to God and benefit to others. His remaining chapters will give detailed instructions on getting three particular tools up and running: Google Calendar (scheduling tool), Todoist (task management tool), and Evernote (information tool).
Does it work? With books like this, it is impossible to determine how effective the methods are without time and effort. I worked through the various exercises and set up the three tools with the intention of pursuing Challies’ productivity system in 2016. Time will tell if it works well for me personally. The book is short and succinct and deserves your consideration, especially if you are like me and don’t have a well-defined system of organization.
I will relay a hilarious closing note. In the appendix “Tame Your Email”, the author tries to show the idiocy of how many of us deal with email using an illustration with a real mailbox:
[Imagine] you walk outside to check your mail and reach into your mailbox. Sure enough, you’ve got some new mail. You take out one of your letters, open it up, and begin to read it. You get about halfway through, realize it is not that interesting, stuff it back inside the envelope, and put it back in the mailbox muttering “I’ll deal with this one later.” You open the next letter and find that it is a little bit more interesting, but you do the same thing—stuff it back into the envelope and put it back inside the mailbox. Other mail you pull out and don’t even bother reading—it just goes straight back inside the mailbox. And sure enough, your mailbox is soon crammed full of a combination of hundreds of unopened and unread letters plus hundreds of opened and read or partially read letters…It is absurd, right? (110).
Totally. I’ve never. I would never do such a thing. No. Opened mail and put it back in the mailbox? Psshhh. That’s not a thing that I do. Challies, what kind of a nut job would do such a thing! That is…quite…absurd.
*Ahem*. Pardon me while I go clean out my mailbox.
(Disclosure: I received a free copy of Do More Better from Challies.com in exchange for a non-biased book review. I think I got the better end of the deal.)