Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


How to Get Unstuck: Breaking Free from Barriers to Your Productivity by Matt Perman. Zondervan. 284 pages. 2018

I appreciated and benefited from the author’s first book, What’s Best Next, reading it twice, once in a book club with colleagues at work. Reading that book, while I would recommend it as it complements this work, is not necessary to gain the full benefit from this new book. The goal of this book is to get you unstuck in your productivity in work and life, do it in the right way – a God-centered, gospel-driven way – and enable you to stay unstuck through obstacles. It is about conquering busyness, doing great work, and escaping average for a cause greater than yourself.
The author aims to give brief insights on how to get unstuck from specific issues surrounding personal effectiveness. He wants you to do more of what God calls you to do and do it better. In short, the book is about accomplishing God’s purposes without getting stuck. The author wants to help you find what God wants you to do, and then for you to do it with excellence and through obstacles. He addresses how to accomplish God’s priorities using quick tips for getting unstuck in common time-management dilemmas.
Being productive as a Christian is ultimately about doing good for others. The author writes that being unstuck is about fundamental change, not just short-term or superficial change. Getting unstuck is also about staying unstuck as well. You consistently have to get things done, done well, and with continual improvement. Being unstuck is ultimately a positive concept. It is getting the right things done through obstacles again and again for the good of others and the glory of God.
The author addresses numerous aspects of getting unstuck. Below are some of my takeaways:

  • Personal effectiveness. This is the skill of leading yourself every day to get the right things done in the right way, for the right reason, and in the shortest possible amount of time. It is about developing a vision for your life.
  • Lack of vision, lack of execution, and obstacles. These are what get us stuck. To be unstuck is to be getting important work done through obstacles, and to keep doing it – over and over again.
  • Time management. The reason we get stuck in our time management is because we act on the basis of urgency rather than importance. The biggest reason we have to start with our time is because that is where the limitation is.
  • Your priorities are the things through which you can make the greatest contribution. Without setting priorities you ultimately get stuck. He states that if you practice prioritizing day after day, over time you will have developed an ongoing pattern of effectiveness.
  • This enables us to operate from the importance paradigm rather than the urgency paradigm.
  • This is central to effectiveness because it puts routine elements of a task on autopilot so that you can give your focus to the higher-level challenges involved.
  • Personal Management. One of the aims of a good approach to personal management is to enable you to get into the “zone” easily. The zone is the state in which you are able to do your best work in the most efficient way. It is when you are operating at your highest capacity.

A subject of the book I particularly benefited from was deep work, which means giving total focus to your work so you can get more done in less time.
Each of the relatively short chapters end with a helpful “Unstuck Clinic”, which includes core points, exercises and resources.

What's Best NextWhat’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms The Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman. Zondervan. 352 pages. 2014.

Matt Perman previously worked at Desiring God Ministries, the ministry of John Piper, who wrote the Foreword to this book. Perman states that this book is about getting things done and making ideas happen with less friction and frustration from a biblical perspective. It was one of my top books of 2014 and I just finished reading it a second time, with a few wonderful friends at work in a faith and work book club.

Perman wants to help us think about productivity as Christians. His aim is to reshape the way we think about productivity and then present a practical approach to help the reader become more effective with less stress and frustration, whatever we are doing. He wants to help us live the life that God has called us to live and live it with maximum effectiveness and meaning. He also wants to help equip us to do good in radical, creative ways – for missions, ending extreme poverty and bringing justice.

He introduces us to the concept of Gospel Driven Productivity (GDP), which looks at not only what the Bible has to say about getting things done, but also learns from the best secular thinking. The essence of GDP is that we are to use all that we have, in all areas of life, for the good of others, to the glory of God.  He states that true productivity is not first about efficiency – doing things right and doing them quickly – but effectiveness – doing the right things.

He uses the DARE Model, which is:

  • Define
  • Architect
  • Reduce
  • Execute

The author includes a lot of helpful resources, including interviews about productivity with leaders such as Albert Mohler, chapter summaries that include the Core Point of the chapter, a key scripture verse, etc.

One of the main reasons that Perman wrote the book was for the reader to see everything we do in a new light so that we can become an agent for good, right where we are, to the glory of God.  And that’s a pretty good reason to read this book.

Matt Perman BookCreating a Business Plan that Actually Works: Especially, But Not Only, for Faith-Based Organizations by Matt Perman. What’s Best Next. 33 pages.

Matt Perman is the author of the excellent 2014 book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. That book was so helpful (I’m reading it a second time with colleagues at work) that I’m going to be interested in anything that he writes. He is an important voice in helping people integrate their faith with their work. In fact he states that this resource will be especially helpful for those looking for a resource that makes the integration of faith and work explicit. He encourages us to see our work as an act of service, to the glory of God, stating it is at the heart of how to glorify God in our work and do your business plan in a gospel-centered way.

He writes that this short e-book was written to provide guidance for how to create a business plan that actually works––a plan that will truly help you in launching your new business, department, or other large initiative, without getting you stuck in the details of over-planning. It also gives specific guidance for how to create a business plan from a faith-based perspective.

He defines a business plan as simply a guide or road map for your business, new department, or other large effort. It will help us think through and articulate your mission and values, main objectives, core audience, comparison organizations or competitors, financial plan, core activities, marketing plan, and other key realities. A business plan is not just for those starting a new business. Perman states that if you’re starting anything or want to refine what you’ve already started, a business plan is a key step.

In looking at how to create a business plan that actually works and to do so in a way that relates to the Scriptures, we should learn from the best business minds (Jim Collins, for example), common grace realities as well as the Bible.

He takes the reader through each of the sections of a business plan and briefly explains what they mean and how it translates into the ongoing fabric of our business. He also includes some helpful resources that you may find useful. He stresses that the process of developing a business plan is as important as the final result; as the activity of thinking through your business or new endeavor in this way prepares you for effective implementation.

This short book contains much helpful information and is well worth your time to read it. I know I’ll be sharing what I learned here with others, including my sister-in-law who is the Director of a Pregnancy Resource Center.