It’s an admission of failure that the task: “Write: Review for Do More Better” sat in my Wunderlist account for almost a week, each day being pushed back to a later deadline. It was almost like the book was mocking me: Here I am, a book on productivity, and you can’t even find the time to review me. That’s because Do More Better is not a quick fix for productivity and busyness — it’s a system. And systems take time. Also, I am a dense human being and don’t learn lessons quickly.
Cruciform Press has a unique mission: to write good, short books that are under 120 pages and highly applicable to everyday Christian life. While this is a good goal for any book, it’s especially relevant for a book on productivity. We’re so busy, we can’t even be bothered to read too much about productivity lest we lose time reading about productivity when we could have been being productive instead! Ahem. In short, Challies’ book is a brief look at the topic, with deep roots that make this a hard-hitting book that will take much longer to implement than it will to read.
Challies starts not with a motivational speech but with a reminder of the core of productivity: “effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.” (16) You can skip over the beginning and go right for the tips and tricks, but true productivity will only come out of a heart change and a realignment to God’s will for your life. After all, the failure to be productive is a theological problem, argues Challies, who calls it “a failure to understand or apply the truths God reveals in the Bible.” (23)
From the basic starting point, Do More Better walks us through a methodical audit of our life. This audit identifies your responsibilities, where your priorities are currently laying, and suggests you write some brief mission statements for each area of responsibility in your life. Let’s be clear: this forced look at my own life, where I’m spending my time, was easily the most helpful part of the book. Am I really spending the time to shepherd, protect, and love my wife? Or am I going the path of least resistance, keeping busy with empty tasks? Do not read this book without filling out the one-page worksheet. Even if you don’t read the book, fill out the worksheet.
Challies spends several chapters explaining how to set up Todoist, Google Calendar, and Evernote, but the meat of the book was in the first half. Don’t get me wrong, these tips and tricks are helpful, but I found the hard-hitting heart talk far more effective than a Google Calendar tutorial. And I think, in the overall picture of the book, Challies intended that emphasis. This is not a book about processes — you can copy Challies’, or you can set up your own. That part really doesn’t matter that much. What does matter is the honest self-evaluation that the book brings about.
I will say, I did appreciate the idea of a coram deo — a daily jumpstart ‘in the presence of God’ that is aimed to remind you of your dependence on God, as well as give you a 20,000 foot view of the day ahead. This sort of committing to God is exactly the sort of habit that breeds a heart change, which then has bearing on how each day is spent. Challies also offers a wise experiential tip: systems break down. In chapter ten, he recommends a monthly ‘re-audit,’ aimed at restoring the passion and mission in your tasks and responsibilities.
Do More Better is not a playbook of special-sauce productivity tips. Instead, Tim Challies takes direct aim at the heart of each reader, which is time well-spent. By focusing on the root issues of productivity, Challies has written a much more enduring book than one twice its length which focuses on all the wrong issues. I commend Do More Better to you: read it, and maybe re-read it. Take the time to walk through the examinations inside of it. Finally, let everything be done in prayer, seeking God’s will.
Published on 15 February, 2017. Last updated on