The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Review: “Do More Better”

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Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity
Tim Challies
Cruciform Press, 2015, 132pp., paperback, $9.99
ISBN 978-1-941114-17-9

In the kingdom of the distracted, the focused man is king. I often wonder if one of the prime saleable skills in the job market of the near-future will be the ability to concentrate over an extended period of diligent effort. If that is so, too many of us are going to be out of work.

As Christians, we accept that work is a gift, a privilege, and a duty. Before Adam fell, he was put in the perfect garden to tend and to keep it. Now, we contend with thorns and with thistles that cumber the ground – a host of obstacles and awkwardnesses that make our work hard. We contend, too, with our own sinful laziness. We contend with streams of diversions and distractions from our vocations and their moment-by-moment expressions.

Into that environment have come a number of books from Christian authors intended to assist us. Two that spring quickly to mind are Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung, a book which could have been entitled Deeply Distracted as I think it has as much if not more to do with the problem of distractedness than busyness. Then there are more developed volumes like Matt Perman’s What’s Best Next?, a sort of holy Getting Things Done book, full of helpful counsels.

Somewhere in the space between comes Tim Challies’ Do More Better. Challies’ book is shorter than Perman, more personal than DeYoung. Let me confess that I know Tim a little; I like Tim very much; I respect Tim a great deal. I am also in the slightly awkward situation of discovering that my own attempts at productivity use a very similar system to Tim, and some of that is due to the fact that I have taken his counsels once or twice over the years.

In brief, the author has spent a lot of time trying to work out how to be genuinely and responsibly productive to the glory of God and in the service of others, and here is the counsel he passes on. His definition of productivity is “effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.” The answer is not so much a checklist as the cultivation of a certain kind of character.
The productivity process begins with definition: working out what you’re actually supposed to be doing then defining your mission(s) in those spheres. Tim then identifies three tools: one for task management, one for scheduling, and one for information, each one organised around the simple principle that there is a home for everything, and like goes with like. As a creature of the digital age, Tim suggests three programmes (and some equivalents and alternatives) that provide these functions. Those who have turned their backs on (or never turned their faces to) the digital realm will have to find their own equivalents. Basically, Tim has a well-ordered set of filing cabinets and calendars floating in the electronic ether and well-stocked with information. With each tool comes some comments and counsels on how to make the most of each in integration with each other. Planning and prioritising and reviewing and maintaining also get a few words, before the whole is closed with some thoughts on taming email and twenty miscellaneous tips.

In short, it’s short and sweet. You may not use all the tools that Tim recommends, but the overall approach is – I think – a good one, and the structures within which Tim is operating are profitable to work through even if one does not necessarily arrive at all the same spots. I found myself going back over some of my own systems and fine-tuning under the gentle prods and reminders of Do More Better. This book may not have all your answers, but it contains very good questions and offers very helpful pointers. Like so much in this and other spheres, it provides the toolbox but it requires diligence and effort to learn and use the tools. Do that in dependence on God, and you will very likely thank God that someone like Tim bothered to write something like this.

And now, having checked off this task, Tim urges me on to another. Thank you, brother!

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an impartial review.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 11 December 2015 at 12:54

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