Do More Better

After several days of feeling like I was just spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere, I decided to pick up Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies. I’ve read his blog for years and saw this book on a Kindle sale a while back.

When we think productivity, we often think of life hacks. But before Tim gets to practical advice, he lays a biblical foundation with clarity about usefulness and purpose of productivity.

Productivity is not what will bring purpose to your life, but what will enable you to live out your existing purpose (p. 10).

We somehow assume that our value is connected to our busyness. But busyness cannot be confused with diligence. It cannot be confused with faithfulness or fruitfulness. . . .  Busyness may make you feel good about yourself and give the illusion of getting things done, but it probably just means that you are directing too little attention in too many directions, that you are prioritizing all the wrong things, and that your productivity is suffering (pp. 20-21).

No amount of organization and time management will compensate for a lack of Christian character, not when it comes to this great calling of glory through good—bringing glory to God by doing good to others . . .there is no great gain in being a productivity monster if the rest of your life is out of control (pp. 24-25).

After sifting through what productivity is and isn’t good for and what our purpose in life is as Christians, Tim shares this pithy definition: “Productivity is effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.” (p. 16).

He deals with enemies of productivity and the need to define our responsibilities and roles.

Then he discusses tools. Old-school equivalents would be a task-management tool, like a Daytimer or to-do list, a calendar, and a filing cabinet of vital information. But Tim brings us into the 21st century by sharing how to use apps that serve these purposes.

He shares his routines for managing his time and energy. We only have limited amounts of each, yet more opportunities to use them that we can handle, so we need to make decisions. “Motivation gets you started, but habit keeps you going. You need to use those times of high motivation to build habits and to embed those habits in a system. That way, when motivation wanes, the system will keep you going” (p. 79).

He reminds us that “Your primary pursuit in productivity is not doing more things, but doing more good” (p. 39). Sometimes that good is not a physical or practical thing one can check off a list. I had to learn this over and over while visiting with my mother-in-law when she was in assisted living. I “felt” like I was accomplishing more when there was something physical I could do, like tidy up her room. But she would get agitated if I puttered around, saying it made her feel like a bad housekeeper—even though she wasn’t supposed to be doing the housekeeping then. What she needed most was someone to sit down with her, look her in the eye, and talk and listen.

Interruptions are inevitable, and we need to view them from God’s sovereign hand.

Because your life is so prone to interruption and redirection, you have to hold to your plans loosely, trusting that God is both good and sovereign. At the same time, you cannot hold to your plans too loosely or you will be constantly sidetracked by less important matters. The solution is to approach each situation patiently and prayerfully and to trust that, in all things, God will be glorified so long as you flee from sin (p. 95).

Tim has some worksheets that tie into the material in the book on his site. One appendix shares a system for taming email; the second lists “20 Tips to Increase your Productivity.”

I read a lot of management books in early married years, but it was good to brush up on vital principles. Plus I don’t think any of them included some of the perspectives Tim shares here. I like that he repeats certain key principles.

This was a short book—128 pages—but it’s full of wisdom and good advice.

(Sharing with InstaEncouragements, Grace and Truth, Senior Salon,
Booknificent,Carole’s Books You Loved)

21 thoughts on “Do More Better

  1. Good thoughts here! It’s interesting to consider that being productive isn’t always about “doing,” as you allude to with your mother in law. My mom is a huge “do-er” and can stress me out with emails listing x-number of things she has accomplished today and asking what I did, etc. It’s a good thought that just sitting with someone, spending time with them, etc. still “counts” as being productive, in God’s kingdom at least.

    • I’m not sure why the latter is harder for me. As busy as Jesus was, He made time to talk with people one on one without rushing with them to get to the next person. I need to remember that just being there and listening can be a great ministry.

  2. Appreciate your review, Barbara. Sounds interesting from a unique perspective. People work very differently and common “hacks” don’t always work. I remember one common one was to limit looking at your email to only twice a day. Probably 80% of my work is responding to emails (we need things in writing) so I knew I could toss that one out!

    • That’s true. Not every tip works for everyone. I remember a popular article a while back where the writer encouraged doing a load of laundry a day. That would drive me crazy. I’d rather get it all over with in one day. But she had several young kids, and smaller. more frequent loads were probably easier for her to handle.

  3. Thanks for the book review. I do believe we need to make the best use of our time. Sometimes “spinning your wheels” can be productive in its own way. Being still can recharge our batteries. Reading your post reminded me of this quote from Sarah Bessey I copied as a reminder: “Productivity and relentless positivity don’t make us winners to Jesus.”

    • By spinning my wheels, I mean flitting from thing to thing but not seeming to get anything actually accomplished–very frustrating. As this author defines productivity–stewarding our resources of time, gifts, and energy to do good to others–rest is a vital part of that. I’m no good to anybody without physical and mental rest. I also like how he says it’s not about doing more, but doing more good. Sometimes that’s sitting and listening more than being busy.

      But even understanding that, we all have things to do, and I like finding more efficient ways to do them.

  4. I’ve seen this title but did not realize it was a different approach than traditional productivity books. In my work supporting activists, I recommend creating a life vision so that they are living their values. Challie’s approach sounds similar. I’m putting this on my reading list. Thank you.

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  7. This is one of Tim Challies ‘s books I haven’t read yet. It sounds like a good one, love the quotes you shared. I’ll have to pick this one up.

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