Matt Perman. What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014. 327 pp. $19.99
Church and Ministry
Pastor, you slog through every day working heartily for the Lord (Col. 3:23), but you never have enough hours to do it all. The ghastly reality is that something has to give. Will it be administration or relationships? You want to be effective and efficient at both because you want to be productive. So how do you do it and for what reason?
Matt Perman, formerly the senior director at Desiring God Ministries, doesn’t just want you to be productive; he wants you to let your light shine so that others will see your work and give glory to God (Matt. 5:16). In his book, What’s Best Next, he calls this Gospel-Driven Productivity. This is how he describes it: “The essence of GDP is this: We are to use all that we have, in all areas of life, for the good of others, to the glory of God – and that this is the most exciting life” (28). Perman asserts that this is the overarching principle behind productivity – not being productive to get ahead of the competition or get the good life but for God’s glory and other’s good. Synergizing common grace from the best business thinkers with his own theologically grounded reflection, Perman presents his model of Gospel Driven Productivity.
In part one of What’s Best Next we discover how the principles of effectiveness and God-centeredness rescue us from three villains: ambiguity, overload, and lack of fulfillment. In part two Perman frames his argument for Gospel-Driven Productivity by explaining the guiding principle of love, how the gospel fits into productivity, the problem of turning our completed tasks into the source of peace, and the role of scripture and prayer in productivity. All this sets us up for Perman’s method for achieving Gospel-Driven Productivity.
According to Perman, Gospel-Driven Productivity is built on a four-step process around the acronym DARE: define, architect, reduce, and execute. Parts three through six of What’s Best Next respectively cover these steps. This is the kernel of What’s Best Next. Part seven closes the book by presenting a soaring vision for productivity. You see, when each person is productive, organizations become productive, and society and the world benefit.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
No review sufficiently covers all the benefits of What’s Best Next; there are just too many nuggets to treasure. Here is a trifle smattering of them.
Perman’s distinction between efficiency and effectiveness is perceptive. In chapter two he explains, “More important than efficiency is effectiveness – getting the right things done. In other words, productivity is not first about getting more things done faster. It’s about getting the right things done” (43). This resonates with me. How about you? I’ve devoted too much time getting wrong things done faster rather than doing the right thing. That’s why the first step of the DARE process, defining, is critical.
Chapter three’s discussion on lack of fulfillment is penetrating. This third villain vacuously sucks away life. “We feel unfulfilled when there is a gap between what is more important to us (the realm of personal leadership) and what we are actually doing with our time (the realm of personal management),” Perman laments. “You are satisfied with your day when there is a match between what you value and how you spent your time” (52). Perman traces four generations of business thinkers who attempted to thwart the lack of fulfillment menace to no success. This history of time management methods is fascinating. Perman’s offer of a fifth generation, God-centeredness, is the only viable solution. He says: “To be God-centered, then, is to make God the source of your guidance, security, and meaning” (54). This is the only way to dispatch that petulant lack of fulfillment.
Part three’s tactic for guiding us through definition is imperative for productivity. We must discern what big things to attend to and then prioritize them. Thus, we need a God-centered mission, a personal life vision to aim for, and an understanding of our role(s). I loved Perman’s exemplar, William Wilberforce. As he shared Wilberforce’s story, we learn not just about definition but how one person’s defined vision changed a nation.
Perman’s suggestion to architect a flexible schedule unfetters us. Instead of being ruled by tasks we live by routines. You will relate all too well to Perman’s frustration with the “Get Things Done” method to completing tasks. His intuitive nuance to this strategy by creating a schedule of routines for managing rhythms, workflows, and relationships is liberating (see example on pp. 200-201).
There are a number of other mentionables in What’s Best Next. Perman supplies tips from people like Al Mohler, John Piper, and Tim Challies. He recommends the occasional sixteen-hour work day for major projects. His technique for reducing work by delegating, eliminating, automating, and deferring tasks is worthy of returning to frequently (chapter 17).
What I appreciate most about What’s Best Next is Perman’s continual refreshing of Gospel-Driven Productivity in every segment of the book. Some books state a thesis, and leave it behind in chapter one. What’s Best Next’s thesis pervades the book to the climactic final part where Gospel-Driven Productivity has global effect.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
What’s Best Next promotes a peerless model for productivity that is gospel-driven for the Glory of God, the good of others, and your own joy.