Productivity, Effectiveness, and Gospel Flourishing

I’ve been getting stuck lately. Two of my goals for this year are writing the first draft of my next book and filling my new shop with artwork. But I keep hitting obstacles to productivity. Sometimes it’s circumstances beyond my control (like health problems); sometimes it’s choices of necessity (like ministry responsibilities); sometimes it’s a combination of the two (like grad school schedules). Plus there’s the procrastination and utter lack of motivation that comes when you least feel like fighting it.

Can you relate — have you run into barriers on any of your long-term goals or even changing your daily habits?

Maybe unforeseen personal challenges have caused a season of upheaval. Maybe you’ve gotten distracted or just plain lost interest. Maybe you’re actually making progress, but not as fast as you hoped. I don’t know about you, but it makes me so frustrated! I start losing interest, forgetting my why, and getting impatient to see things done without putting in the necessary work. In other words, I get stuck.

How to Get Unstuck, by Matt Perman
How to Get Unstuck (affiliate link)

How to Get Unstuck

Enter Matt Perman’s timely new book, How to Get Unstuck. It continues building on the gospel-foundation he established in his first book, What’s Best Next, by considering common barriers to productivity, not just to get more done, but to flourish in loving God and others with our to-do lists.

There are many productivity books out there that focus on getting things done, but this one is unique in its intensely gospel-driven focus.

It begins by exploring what it means to be stuck, why it’s so important to get unstuck, and how it all relates to personal effectiveness for the glory of God.

Getting stuck is defined not as simply failing to get things done, but rather failing to faithfully pursue whatever God has called you to do — whatever reflects His glory, obeys His commands, and loves His people.

Getting unstuck is then defined as being “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

In other words: flourishing and abounding on the right things, according to God’s principles and commands, despite the difficulties of daily life. I found this definition (and its lengthier explanation in Chapter 2) foundational for understanding and implementing the ideas in the rest of the book.

Personal Leadership: The Compass

The next section considers how vision, strategy, mindset, and preparation affect our ability to flourish in what we do. Knowing your why, understanding how your faith and work relate, embracing (helpful) professionalism, and working deliberately to improve all play a part in increasing our productivity and personal effectiveness.

This section was a little closer to what you’d find in other productivity books (though with some unique perspectives), but still written from a clearly biblical worldview, with the overarching theme of doing all for the glory of God — not just to get ahead in your job or cross things off your to-do list.

There were also a few sections tailored specifically to professionals, such as office workers or team supervisors. For instance, the chapter on preparation included ideas like knowing your company business model, understanding the roles of others in your organization, and improving your processes for project management. However, it was still interesting to read the suggestions for those workplace environments, and I was generally able to adjust the ideas to my own circumstances as a work-at-home freelance contractor.

Personal Management: The Clock

While the first two sections were crucial to better clarifying my understanding of personal effectiveness, the third section was the one I found most overwhelmingly helpful. It develops a healthy approach to time management, how to set the most effective priorities, the power of deep work and how to implement it, and how to find renewal when we get weary (mentally or physically).

Too many productivity books encourage you to start with your task list, setting the top three priorities on that list, and then doing those things first . . . no matter what. The problem is that our tasks are never-ending, but our time is not. This is true for anyone, no matter what your role might be — parent, CEO, freelancer, handyman, student, etc.

Time is our scarcest resource. You can never earn more, it cannot be stored for later, nothing can be substituted for it, and everything requires it. So, when it comes to figuring out how to get unstuck and start flourishing . . . we start with time management.

This principle is developed throughout this section by considering:

  • how to evaluate your activities and eliminate time wasters
  • the benefit of excluding some (good) things to focus on (better) things
  • the consequences of not setting the right priorities
  • why consistent focused attention leads to excellence
  • how to get ‘in the zone’ on a regularly scheduled basis
  • why limitations and rest-periods are critical to building momentum

It was a very actionable section, with practical ideas that could be immediately implemented for long-term results. For instance, I did the time-tracking assignment (logging all my activity for a week) and the results both encouraged me and helped me fine-tune my time management for the future. I discovered my focus is better than I realized, but I seriously under-estimate how long I spend on deep work! I was also able to easily implement some of the specific ideas for scheduling deep work on a more consistent basis.

Instructive and Actionable

The final section of the book considers a few common barriers to productivity — such as disorganization, poor willpower, planning for interruptions, and adaptability — and offering specific remedies to overcome those obstacles. This is a section I will definitely be returning to in the future as my circumstances change and my roles fluctuate at both home and work.

It’s obvious the author has spent many long hours reading, pondering, and personally working through the concepts he shares. The writing is engaging and practical, and the ideas are well-researched and easily implemented. But where it shines most is by putting the gospel at the foundation of our effectiveness.

The gospel-centered focus of this book (and of What’s Best Next) make it one of the best approaches to personal effectiveness and productivity.

It’s a must-read for any Christian who wants to flourish in doing the right things, despite distraction and difficulty!

The book is filled with actionable steps and thought-provoking ideas, and also includes a helpful section for each chapter with key thoughts, practical exercises, and further reading. I’ll definitely be keeping this book nearby for future reference!

If you’re struggling to get things done, to know how to prioritize effectively, or just want to flourish in every sense of the word, then I strongly encourage you to get both of his books and start working through them!

Aren’t convinced yet? Check out these additional resources:

Do you have any favorite productivity tips or resources?

Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for sharing my honest review. All opinions are completely my own.

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