Tim Challies, 2015, Cruciform Press, 120 pages, 4 of 5 stars
Summary: a brief, contemporary, biblical, and practical guide to productivity
A couple years ago I reviewed a book on productivity by Kevin DeYoung. This paperback by Challies is about half the size, more practical and just as good. Tim Challies is a family man and pastor that writes a lot. He posts daily on one of the most well-known Christian blogs in the world. He gets a lot done. He writes here to give some tips.
Overview and Strengths: The book contains twelve concise and helpful chapters. Chapter one lays the foundation by giving the readers a six-question catechism on productivity. For example, “What is productivity? Answer: productivity is effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God. I like Challies’ format here. Chapter two describes three productivity thieves. I struggle most with the second.
Chapter three provides a productivity worksheet to help the reader define their chief responsibilities. My wife and I filled it out. Chapter four informs the reader that the primary goal in productivity is not doing morethings but doing more good. You can often do more good if you have fewer roles and projects. Better to direct a lot of attention to a few areas where you are gifted than little time where you are not.
Chapter five introduces three essential tools for task management, scheduling, and information. He’ll flesh out the details of this trio in chapters six through eight, so don’t get intimidated. Chapter six introduces Todoist as the best ways to manage your tasks. I had never used this before. I took a few minutes to download the app to my computer and gave it a go. Challies walks you through step by step. I’ll admit it’s been a bit clunky for the couple of months I’ve been using it. I’m determined to allow this app another month to convince me.
Chapter seven shows you how to plan your calendar. Nothing profound here except the reminder that this is not the place to store tasks, only appointments. Chapter eight promotes Evernote to gather one’s information. I was on cruise control in this section because I’ve been using Evernote for nearly a decade. I love it. The final two chapters are more philosophical, giving the reader a number of helpful thoughts about productivity. Create good habits. Do the hardest tasks first. Review your schedule. Use checklists and so forth. Really good stuff here.
The book closes with two bonus sections. The first is how to tame one’s email. Pastors especially need this. Incalculable are the occasions I get a month-old reply from a man of the cloth beginning: “I’m so sorry for getting back to you late…” The final bonus chapter gives a slew of tips to increase productivity, like accountability, deep work, airplane mode and—especially for men—stop trying to multi-task.
A minor weakness: A considerable part of the world’s demographic won’t be able to relate to some of the principles. Tradesmen, older folk and those in poorer settings will stand bewildered by the repeated emphases on tools such as Google Calendar, Todoist and Evernote.
In sum, this was a very practical and delightful read. Good for the whole family. Since the reading, a common mantra in our house is: “A home for everything and like goes with like.”