What do you do when you don’t know what to do? (Do what’s best next!)

“Every Christian must be fully Christian by bringing God into his whole life, not merely into some spiritual realm.”
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What do you do? What’s your vocation, the good contribution to the greater good you get to carve out and work on each day?

Do you ever feel conflicted, as if your job is less important than all that spiritual stuff you could be doing for God? You have lots to get done, but the “spiritual” people are telling you to just relax, quit trying so hard, and ‘let go and let God.’1 Do you feel that faux guilt? What is a responsible person to do?

If you’re productive, resourceful and hard-working, you press on through. You’re responsible for people, projects and tasks. Are you supposed to sit and read your Bible and pray all day when your job is to lead, decide, invent, confront and create?

It seems we pastors are suddenly realizing that people have jobs and life and stress, and it isn’t just the ‘religious professionals’ who are doing God’s work. (Yep, I can admittedly be pretty slow to see others’ contributions in God’s mission.) This is a good development. Yet to be honest, I think we pastors tend to have a skewed view of work — and aren’t known for possessing the best work ethic in general — so we’re not really the best in equipping people to work with all their might.

Where can people turn to learn how to get things done, from a godly perspective?

I’ve read numerous books on productivity, including David Allen’s Getting Things Done. My copy is highlighted all over, and I keep it near my desk for reference. GTD was really helpful for a guy who tries to do too much, too fast, all at once. (Yep, I’m a recovering multitasker.) Yet, I couldn’t adopt the ‘system’ wholesale, partly because of the spiritual nature of my work. Something annoyed me about all these business leadership books. They’re all about self-empowerment and emphasize self-actualization. Potential is a terrible thing to waste. But is it the worst thing to waste?

Enter a site like whatsbestnext.com. For years Matt Perman has been faithfully writing on productivity from a God-centered emphasis. God’s glory is the most terrible thing to waste, and we have a responsibility to honor and reflect Him in all we do (and why we do it). Motivation matters. Matt’s a consummate learner, and thoughtful reflector on all he learns and does. Leaders are readers; leaders are also doers. Been reading his blog for years, yet wondered when he’s go deeper in equipping Christian leaders, publishing an accessible book. Alas, here it is.
What's Best Next
Matt Perman says why he wrote the new book, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done, which released this week:

“My aim in this book is to reshape the way you think about productivity and then present a practical approach to help you become more effective in your life with less stress and frustration, whatever you are doing.
I want to help you live the life that God has called you to live, and to live it with maximum effectiveness and meaning. If you are an executive, I want to help you be a better executive. If you are a homemaker, to be a better homemaker. If you are a pastor, to be a better pastor. If you are a creative professional, to be a better creative professional. If you are a missionary, to be a better missionary. And if you don’t know what life God has called you to live, I want to help you find it.”

In fact, I am convinced that this book will be helpful for anyone wanting to get things done. Obviously, for Christians, yet also for anyone. If you buy one for a non-Christian (or not-yet-Christian) business leader, and they don’t find it imminently helpful, I will buy it back from them. Seriously.

Perman knows that bad productivity approaches are annoying. And stresses that managing ourselves well is foundational to all we do. Plus, if you’re more efficient, you’ll be more effective, and thus be able to do more good for others. (See, it’s not about you!) In 350+ pages, coupled with a thorough table of contents and some fabulous appendices for quick reference, What’s Best Next will help you create a productivity approach that works, and helps you do more good for others.

Another quick excerpt:

It is odd that there is so little Christian teaching on productivity because, as Christians, we believe the gospel changes everything — how we go about our home life, work life, church life, community life, everything.
Yet there has been little Christian reflection on how the gospel changes the way we get things done —something that affects all of us every day.
In fact, good productivity practices are often downplayed in the church at the altar of overspiritualization.
For example, shortly after I started my blog on productivity, a pastor at my church told me it was like I was “Einstein teaching first grade.” He said it was a compliment, but it almost made me want to quit blogging! Another time, I mentioned that I was having a difficult time figuring out how to manage my work and family life with the arrival of our third child. I was looking for practical help and guidance. Instead, he simply said, “It’s only going to get harder.”

Andy getting things done

Andy works with dozens of volunteers daily to prove food, goods and services to the homeless in our county. At this moment he’s wrapping up the work week, after navigating one interruption after another. He gets things done, loves people, and does good for the world.

How do you even respond to that? I know he meant well. But I was looking for real help. Yet all I got was what seemed like an overspiritualized dismissal.
Many of us have experienced similar push-back from well-intentioned Christians when seeking to learn about practical subjects. A friend of mine who has a lot going on but is doing it all very well was told by one of his pastors that he should take it easy and not do too much because it “causes worry.”
And sometimes when things get overwhelming, it is suggested that we need to “take a retreat with Jesus.”
But maybe we’ve had enough retreats with Jesus. Maybe Jesus wants us to learn how to get things done. Further, we often come back from such retreats with loads of new stuff to do. How do we make those things actually happen? We need to know how to execute — how to get things done and manage ourselves. Developing a great vision for the next quarter or year or season of our lives and ministries will not help much if we don’t know how to translate that vision into action.
In fact, I would argue that this downplaying of the practical is not only discouraging but actually an (unwitting) failure of love. It’s a failure of love because part of the biblical conception of love is giving practical help to those who need it, and in our modern society this more and more needs to involve concrete insight on how to get things done and stay above water without burning out or ignoring your family.

Intrigued? I bet you are. What’s Best Next is chalked full of helpful wisdom, practical insight, all from a God-centered approach. It’s so freeing to go about your work, knowing it all doesn’t depend solely on you. (More on the book here, and links to buy, since Amazon is already sold out.)

Let's Do This

One critical value of the What’s Best Next approach is the ability to prioritize and schedule (and thus do) what is most essential. Like being a father. Let’s build something together. Let’s do this!

  1. I find the phrase “Let go and let God” to be lazy and unhelpful. It doesn’t reflect the message of Jesus, which would be more like: “Trust Me, rest in Me. And get to work doing what I want you to do.”