Review: What’s Best Next by Matt Perman

I just finished: What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman. This is the book I Imagine John Piper would write on productivity; its Christian hedonism/Jonathon Edwards mixed with a good dose of the best secular authors on productivity. This shouldn’t surprise us since Perman worked for Desiring God for some time, and Piper writes the forward…

As the title implies, this book is not just a collection of productivity hacks; instead, it articulates a Christian theology of why we should prize efficiency, well also explaining why we sometimes shouldn’t. This may be the book’s most important contribution, given that much of what matters in the information age is intangible, and often feels incredibly unproductive (i.e., writing a book, networking).

Like most New Testament epistles, the book begins with theology, and only then moves toward practice. As a New Testament professor, my favorite part was the theology of productivity section. The rest feels familiar, covering skills like speed reading and task management (an expanded and updated version of Getting Things Done by David Allen mixed with First Things First by Covey). I don’t feel like I learned much from the skills section, but I loved the incredible selection of quotes from Christian history about productivity, especially from Jonathon Edwards, which will sparkle in future sets of class notes! Along with this, Perman has also included interviews with a variety of Christian and secular influencers on their own habits of productivity. The interviews range from Seth Godin to my favorite Christian blogger, Tim Challies. To be honest, I was hoping for more from these interviews, given the way they were hyped in the introduction. Nevertheless, they still provide a nice break from the nitty-gritty of task management.

On that note, the whole book is designed to be readable in whatever format you want. You can gobble it in one sitting, or read a chapter every other month. It is set up with text boxes at the end of each chapter which include the core material for the chapter, including a core quote and the core takeaway, as well as follow-up reading. Another strength is that the book allows for any level of application, insisting that it is better to act than fiddle with perfecting our tools. This explains the title of the book, that “What’s Best Next” is actually a question. The core thesis of the book is that no matter what moment we are in, true productivity means honoring God with our gifts by discerning what is most valuable for his kingdom in our immediate context.

My final assessment: I expect this will be required reading for vocational ministry at the seminary level, because it moves beyond efficiency to theology and provides a map charting how to be productive in the age of 24/7 intangible productivity.

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