BOOK REVIEWS · Discipleship · Leadership · Personal Productivity

Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity – Tim Challies (2015)

challiesHere’s a lofty claim: “I believe this book can improve your life.” This is a claim we’ve all heard before. Infomercials, hucksters, and television preachers make similar claims. The net result is generally less than satisfying. The consumer usually walks away from such a claim with a lighter wallet, a bruised ego, and more skepticism to boot.

Tim Challies is hedging his bets in his new book, Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity. He believes that lives will be changed if readers will invest a bit of time in his book.

Do More Better (DMB) is a fitting title as the author sets out to help readers lead more productive lives. But DMB should not be confused with the typical self-help books that saturate most book stores. It should not even be compared to some of the most popular books on the discipline of productivity. Works like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, What’s Best Next by Matthew Perman, or Getting Things Done by David Allen made their respective contributions in the field of productivity.

But DMB truly stands alone in a sea of books that promise productivity. The author argues that our lives must begin with a solid foundation. Ultimately, this foundation must rest on a commitment to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Glorifying God involves doing good works and making God look good. In typical Reformation fashion, the author reminds readers that good works are only possible because of Christ’s completed work on the cross.

So the author encourages readers to establish productivity on the solid rock of the gospel. Indeed, this is the highest form of productivity, namely, a life that “glorifies God by doing good to others.” This lofty aim is what sets DMB apart from other books on productivity.

Challies highlights several barriers to productivity, what he calls “productivity thieves.” Readers are encouraged to structure and organize their lives so they can do “maximum good for others,” which in turn brings maximum glory to God. The call to Christian character is a dominant theme here. The author argues, “No amount of organization and time management will compensate for 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.”

Next, DMB urges readers to define their responsibilities and their roles. Responsibilities are general items such as personal, family, and church. Roles are more specific. For example, personal roles may include spiritual fitness, physical fitness, administration, etc.

Readers are then encouraged to write a purpose statement for each area of responsibility. Challies gives helpful examples to help assure success in this area.

Three tools are recommended for maximum productivity: a task management tool, scheduling tool, and information tool. Challies points readers to digital tools that will help and encourage personal productivity. Specific action steps are spelled out for each tool. Ultimately, readers are challenged to “live the system” that is presented in the book.

I have been reading about personal productivity for nearly twenty-five years. I have benefited from some of the works mentioned earlier. But once again, Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity, by Tim Challies truly stands alone. Three features set this book apart. This work is God-centered, practical, and offers users immediate help that is sure to boost personal productivity. I commend this excellent work and trust that God will use it to encourage many people!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS · Personal Productivity

PERFORMING UNDER PRESSURE – Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry (2015)

pressurePerforming Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most  is a fascinating book that seeks to provide readers with “pressure solutions” to help “immunize themselves against the sabotaging effects of pressure.”  These “pressure solutions” are, in the final analysis, the “short-term strategies for overcoming pressure.”

The authors make it clear in advance that “managing the pressure of the moment will allow you to perform closer to your capability, which increases your likelihood of being successful.”

The book is supported by thousands of hours of research and suggests that “helping people manage pressure in their lives is an untapped strategy for unleashing their creative and intellectual potential.”

Part 1 gives an overview of the nature and science of pressure.  Readers learn the difference between stress and pressure and why they feel “heat” in a pressure filled moment.  This section is truly worth the price of the book.

Part 2 includes twenty-two pressure solutions.  These strategies are designed to help readers work through periods of pressure and respond appropriately.

Part 3 includes long-term strategies and practical help for people who face pressure.  The authors encourage readers to wear a COTE of Armor, a clever acronym that stands for confidence, optimism, tenacity, and enthusiasm.  The authors reveal, “The emotional blending of confidence, optimism, tenacity, and enthusiasm makes up the fabric of that coat.  With these attributes, you can immunize yourself against pressure so that your capability isn’t diminished or compromised by it, giving yourself your best chance to succeed.”

The main criticism I offer is that the book relies heavily on evolutionary theory.  The irony of this approach is that the data presented is based on time-tested and pain-staking research.  To rely on, and place so much stock in a theory such as evolution that will never be proven, detracts from some of the otherwise sound principles.

However, readers who embrace historic Christianity (as I do) should be careful not to discount what the authors present.  For all truth is God’s truth.  There is no reason to reject a given principle if the principle is supported by Scripture, reason, and experience.

Performing Under Pressure is a worthy and helpful read.  It contains many practical suggestions that may be tailor-made to different people at different junctures.

I received this book free from the publisher.   I was not required to write a positive review. 

3.5 stars

BOOK REVIEWS · Leadership · Personal Productivity

THE ART OF WORK – Jeff Goins (2015)

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins is a personal growth book that focuses in on the important topic of calling.  The subtitle gets at the heart of the 0718022076_bbook – A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant To Do.

Goins identifies seven characteristics that help frame a person’s life and calling.  These characteristics appear to be common themes that emerge in the lives of people who have come to grip with their calling and have subsequently moved into the deep waters of life.  The seven characteristics include:

  1. Awareness
  2. Apprenticeship
  3. Practice
  4. Discovery
  5. Profession
  6. Mastery
  7. Legacy

The remainder of the book walks readers though each characteristic and urges practical application at every juncture.

I found The Art of Work to be encouraging and trust that it will be of service to people who are in search of their calling.  The author has done his homework is happy to share the fruit of his labor with his readers.  The fruit of such an endeavor is bound reap a mighty harvest as readers apply the principles in this fine work.

Two notable quotes appear at the end of this work and are worth their weight in gold:

“Sometimes all the little things in life aren’t interruptions to our calling.  They are the most important part.”

“I used to think that your calling was about doing something good in this world.  Now I understand it’s about becoming someone good – and letting that goodness impact the world around you.  Which means that you won’t fully appreciate the whole story you’re living until the end.  But for now, if you are intentional and willing to appreciate the fact that you don’t see the whole narrative, you can enjoy more of the journey.”

The Art of Work is a worthy read and is certain to encourage many in the days ahead!

I received this book free from the publisher.   I was not required to write a positive review.