Review and Giveaway: What's Best Next

I used to be organized. I read all the books; I attended the seminars; I have the apps. I’ve created ideal weeks, set S.M.A.R.T. goals, and used every productivity hack I could find. Despite all this, I still spent the majority of this year so far in feeling perpetually overwhelmed.

In other words, I needed to read Matt Perman’s new book What’s Best Next. I’ve been following Perman’s excellent blog for years, and I’ve come to trust his advice. I’ve been waiting impatiently for this book, and I’ve already devoured it and ordered extra copies. Best of all, it’s already making a difference in how I think and live.

I love this book. Let me tell you a little about it before I tell you why you need to read it. Stick around to the end and you may even win a free copy.

What’s Different about What’s Best Next?

As I mentioned, I’ve read a lot about productivity. I’ve used Franklin Covey, David Allen’s Getting Things Done, and more. Every system I tried had its strong points, but they all left me frustrated. They seemed to be either too simple or too complicated, and they inevitably broke down under the weight of everyday use. This left me feeling stressed and frantic.

What’s Best Next is qualitatively different in a few ways.

First, it puts God in his rightful place. God cares about productivity. The Christian life is about doing the right things, including loving others and getting good works done. We need to look to God to define what productivity is, so that we can serve God and others. It turns out that Scripture has a lot to say about this issue.

Second, it applies the gospel to our productivity. The last thing we need is another system that weighs us down. What’s Best Next doesn’t impose an unrealistic system on us. It helps us realize that “the only way to be productive is to realize that you don’t have to be.” When Perman wrote “This book is also for screw-ups and failures!” I knew that this was a book for me.

Third, this book provides a more realistic and workable system. It’s a helpful combination of practical wisdom and biblical insight. I found that Perman encountered many of the same difficulties in other systems, except he’s made the necessary adjustments and tweaks. I’m already finding that his approach is more workable than anything else I’ve tried. He helps us define our work, architect a workable structure, reduce the unnecessary, and execute on what’s most important. He has keen insight into the obstacles we face in our era of knowledge work and digital overload, and how to overcome them.

Fourth, What’s Best Next brings us to what matters most. Productivity is not about getting it all done. It is about the “things that pass muster at the final judgment — and hence receive the verdict ‘eternally productive.’” Perman helps us understand why our lives and our work really matters.

I’ve made careful notes throughout the book, and I plan on returning to it often.

Why You Need to Read It

There are a couple of reasons why you need to read this book.

First, your life matters. You have been given a lot, and what you do with your life matters. As John Piper says, “Aimless, unproductive Christians contradict the creative, purposeful, powerful, merciful God we love.”

Second, nobody is productive by accident. With the onslaught of emails, never-ending tasks, the end of the 40-hour workweek, and the endless avalanche of information, it takes a great deal of intentionality to do what matters most. What’s Best Next will not only motivate you to be productive, but it will give you the tools that you need.

It’s the best book I’ve read in a long time, and it’s already paying dividends in my life. I hope you’ll read and apply it to.

Check out the book on Amazon, or read a PDF sample from the book. Check out Perman's post on why he wrote this book.

I encourage you to get a copy. I buy most of my books on Kindle; this one is worth getting in paper for easy reference.


I'm giving away one free copy of the book. Enter your name and email below, and I'll randomly pick one winner. The contest is closes on Wednesday, March 5 at midnight, and is open to anyone who lives in Canada or the continental United States. Your email will be kept private, and you won't be added to any email lists.

Update: The contest is now over.

Productivity for Pastors

Lloyd-Jones on Productivity

The first great rule is that he must be very careful to maintain a general discipline in his life. There are many dangers in the life of a minister. Unlike men in professions and in business he is not tied of necessity by office hours and other conventions, or with conditions determined outside himself ... One of these is the danger of just frittering away your time, particularly in the morning...
If he has the right motive and the right objective, if he is truly called, he will be so anxious to do all he has to do in the most effective manner that he will take the trouble to find out how best to order and organise himself and his day. (Preaching and Preachers, 178-181)

Productivity Resources

Some helpful tools:

The Power of Less by The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Business and in Life — With the countless distractions that come from every corner of modern life, it’s amazing that we’re ever able to accomplish anything. The Power of Less demonstrates how to streamline your life by identifying the essential and eliminating the unnecessary — freeing you from everyday clutter and allowing you to focus on accomplishing the goals that can change your life for the better.

What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (forthcoming) — What's Best Next will first look at productivity in a theological context---showing how the Gospel transforms our understanding of productivity, giving us a new way to look at productivity and new reasons to care about productivity. Then, on this foundation, it will outline a practical approach for improving our own productivity. As a result, What's Best Next will show us how to increase our productivity in a way that truly increases our joy---that is, how to grow in productivity so that we can have the thrill of making life better for others (with, perhaps, the added benefit of being able to use cool tools to do it). Note: This is more of a prediction since the book isn't out yet, but if it's anything like the author's blog, this will be a helpful book.

18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done — Based upon his weekly Harvard Business Review columns, 18 MINUTES clearly shows how busy people can cut through all the daily clutter and distractions and find a way to focus on those key items which are truly the top priorities in our lives.

One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way — Kaizen is the art of making great and lasting change through small, steady increments.

Any resources you've found helpful? I'd love to hear about them.

What I'm Learning from Strategic Coach

Strategic Coach is a company that has headquarters in Liberty Village, Toronto, and offices in Chicago and the United Kingdom. I first heard of this company through an entrepeneur, and then again when we began to plant a church in Liberty Village.


I’m not the kind of client that they’re looking for. Strategic Coach is designed for high-income entrepreneurs; I’m a church planter. That hasn’t stopped me from ransacking their store to see what resources they have that could benefit me. I’ve learned that they have lots to teach me. I have to filter some of it, but I’m still learning lots.

Here are the top three things I’ve been learning from Strategic Coach:

Learn and focus on what you do best. I’m good at some things, moderately good at some things, and lousy at others. Strategic Coach teaches that our best contribution comes from the essence of who you are and what you’re about, combining your talents, passion, and skills. It’s similar to what Howard Hendricks said:

There are many things in life you “can do” for God. And the more success you have, the more opportunities will come. (You will know more people, you will have more resources, etc.) But most opportunities are distractions in disguise. Therefore find the one thing you “must do” for God.

Strategic Coach offers a book called Unique Ability that I’ve found really helpful in wrestling with and applying this concept. It’s already paying off.

The right question is powerful. Strategic Coach teaches a question (they call it the R-Factor question) that you can use:

If we were meeting three years from today, what has to have happened during that period, both personally and professionally, for you to feel happy about your progress?

Simple, I know, but potentially profound. They also teach a follow-up question to do with dangers, opportunities, and strengths. I’ve found this question really helpful personally and in ministry. It has a way of clarifying one’s thinking and focusing on the future. Their short book, The Dan Sullivan Question, is perhaps not the best named book out there, but it does a good job of explaining how and why to use this question.

Use some days for your most important work, some days free from work, and some days to prepare. Strategic Coach teaches a pretty radical system when it comes to time. They teach that we should divide our time into three different kinds of days:

  • Free Days for rejuvenation (150 a year, including weekly days off, vacation, and other holidays)
  • Focus Days that are free from non-productive tasks so that you can do your most important work (135 days a year)
  • Buffer Days to do the preparation work necessary for you to take Free Days and Focus Days (80 days per year)

They teach that one’s productivity increases dramatically using this system.

150 Free Days sounds pretty radical to me, but taking 4 weeks vacation (28 days) plus stat holidays (12) and a weekly Sabbath (52 days less the 4 already counted under vacation) already brings you to 92. Add another weekend day and you’re almost there.

As I adapt this system, I’m learning the value of taking some days off completely, and taking other days to focus on my most important work. Their book, The Time Breakthrough, explains more about this system.

There’s tons more, but this is a start:

  • Learn what your best contribution is, and focus your efforts there.
  • Ask good questions that get to the heart of what you’re trying to do.
  • Spend some days on your most important work, and some days completely free from work, and some days preparing so that you can do this.

Check them out at