Book Review: What's Best Next by Matt Perman
A few years ago, I read Matt Perman’s book, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. I felt like I was busy from dawn to dusk but had little to show for it, so I was curious. How does the Gospel make a difference in the ordinary and the everyday?
Basic Premise: Ironically, the best way to be truly productive in the things that count is to put others first. It is about learning how to live a life that starts with a God-sized vision and mission and then designing our life from that core instead of simply trying to do what is most pressing and urgent.
Living our lives for God is the only way to be truly productive.
Productivity is not about being efficient because you can be quite efficient at getting the wrong things done. Efficiency is not the same thing as effectiveness. In order to be effective with our lives, we need to let God define what is most important.
This was a big a-ha moment for me. It is so easy for me to separate my “ordinary” life from my spiritual work or ministry. This idea challenged me to closely examine what I was doing and actually plan and pray for His guidance in even these ordinary tasks of life.
The Gospel should change how we do everyday life—especially the ordinary.
Loving God and loving others are the two great commandments of Christ (Matt. 22:37-40). As a believer and follower, do these likewise provide the framework for my daily choices as well?
It is easy to get caught up in the grand majesty of loving God, but where the rubber meets the road is in the nitty gritty: the dishes, the paperwork, the conversations around the dinner table. If I desire to live a life of Gospel-Driven Productivity (GDP), I will recognize that I love God and others in the midst of these ordinary—and often mundane—moments.
When I live a life of Gospel-Driven Productivity, my everyday work can play a key part in transforming the world I live in.
It is a false notion that only the great things I do will further God’s Kingdom here on earth: the big initiatives, the greater reach, the money raised. I struggled with this book for that reason. I felt like because I wasn’t doing these high-level projects, my work at home was not contributing to God’s cause on earth.
But what I came to realize is that it is not about the projects but the intention with which I do these ordinary tasks. Am I homeschooling world changers or am I just satisfied with getting my kids to finish their assignments on time? Am I creating a home environment that God can use for ministry or am I just trying to get dinner on the table?
How This Book Changed Me: While I believe this is a good book for any believer, I actually had a hard time with seeing how it related to my life as a homemaker. Some of the practical suggestions were not suitable in my life situation.
However, that is precisely also how this book changed me. It forced me to get to the heart of the message and then seek how the general principles flesh out in the home space. It is not directed to homemakers, but applying it in the home helped me to see my home as my place of ministry, not just a season of my life I just want to get through as quickly as possible. Right here, right now, I can impact the Kingdom, even in the private sphere of my home.
Critique: Though it had a great message, I found his tone a bit condescending at times. Second, he does have some practical tips in Parts 3-6 as he fleshes out the “DARE” acronym (Define, Architect, Reduce, Execute), but they do require you to do some extra stretching to fit it if your vocation (like homemaking) is not the traditional type.
Should You Read This Book? I believe Parts 1, 2, and 7 of the book are very helpful for any believer who desires to live out Ephesians 5:16’s exhortation to make the best use of our time. If you are an executive or high-level manager, you may find Parts 3-6 helpful. If you are not, I would read those sections with a creative mind, thinking of the underlying principle and looking for possible ways to apply it in the home or your life situation.
Three Actionable Steps:
Carve out time to spend with the Lord. Let Him define what is most important—not just for you but for His Kingdom plans through you. Unless we sit with God to do this reflection, everything looks important when it really isn’t.
Examine your daily work, commitments, activities in light of eternity. Sometimes we confuse the efficient for the effective. Again, spending time with God will help us to look at the ordinary in light of eternity. He alone gives us that perspective.
Put the most important things in your life first. This principle is vividly illustrated with the Sand, Pebble, and Rock demonstration. It is often easier said than done, but it is possible. What has made it possible for me is keeping the Gospel-driven purposes of God as the foundation, and then practicing the disciplines of annual, weekly, and daily planning to keep me on track.
Bottom Line: Despite the challenges, I was deeply challenged by this book. Because the heart of the book’s message resonated with me, I wanted to see how I might live it out as a homemaker. It has awakened in me a desire to explore productivity in the home so that it doesn’t just help me to get things done but to move forward in truly meaningful, Gospel-driven ways, even in this season of active parenting and homeschooling. In a sense, it has been the impetus for this whole blog in the first place.