online media and productivity w/ Tim Challies

Talking Online Media and Productivity with Tim Challies

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For a full list of episodes featuring special guests such as Mike Riccardi, Mike Abendroth, Dr. Greg Harris, and many more, please visit our Inner Revolution page.

Here are the show notes, and please don’t miss Robert Zink’s written review of Tim’s¬†Do More Better below the notes.

  • 1:58¬†Do you sleep, and if so, when?
  • 3:50 The explosion of challies.com really kind of happened by accident, is that right?
  • 6:18 So you’ve recently made the decision to go full-time with the blog. Can you talk to us about that decision and what went into your final conclusion?
  • 8:20 What does this mean for the future of challies.com? What can we expect in the future now that you’re full time?
  • 8:56 What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now?
  • 11:30 Can you tell us anything about the new book idea you’ve got on your mind?
  • 12:26¬†Where do you see online media headed?
  • 14:45¬†What would you recommend for Christians who are looking to use online media as a tool for making a difference?
  • 16:22 Are people really looking more to their phones than church leadership these days?
  • 18:30 How do we go about presenting truth in a relative online format without compromising depth?
  • 23:48 Can you share from your heart what you do for Scripture memorization?
  • 25:11 Can you talk to us about a biblical theology of productivity?
  • 26:41 What does it look like to characterize your life according to areas of responsibility?
  • 27:56 Why is it important to have multiple mission statements?
  • 30:51¬†You have really laid hold of the phrase,¬†Coram Deo. Can you talk to us about what that means?
  • 33:24 How do tools play such an important role in keeping us on track?
  • 37:18¬†Can you talk about the difference in the 7 day and 30 day life review?

Book Review by Robert Zink

Do More or Do Better?

One of the greatest laments in life for many people is not a greater concern for personal holiness, the church’s theology, or the culture’s discord with God, no, it¬†is simply the lack of time, and more importantly the lack of time spent well. This is why it has been encouraging to see new books on productivity being produced from a Christian worldview. From Kevin DeYoung’s Crazy Busy, to Matt Perman’s What’s Best Next, and now with the addition of Tim Challies’ Do More Better¬†there are several great resources for Christians to use . . . of course, that’s assuming you have the time to read a book about time management.

Each book, written by a unique author with unique gifts, offers a unique perspective on the issue of time. I don’t mean unique perspective in that they differ, but quite the opposite. Each brings forth varying aspects so that they all complement one another, allowing for a¬†theology of time management while aiding us in the application of that theology. Our productivity will never be fully efficient¬†because people happen, as Kevin DeYoung teaches us. In fact Matt Perman tells us the goal should not be efficiency but effectiveness¬†because people are our greatest focus. Enter now Tim Challies, who without contradicting these men trains readers on how to be efficient¬†in the areas within their own management.

We must consider that God’s priorities consist of God’s people. We have no control over the events that may take place (or not take place) and so we can only respond when they happen, even at the cost of our own ‘productivity.’ This however does not negate the responsibility that we have in stewarding the time God has given us. In fact, it makes it all the more serious and requires greater attention as a result.

Do More Better

Paul writes, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-17). Further study of this passage reveals that Paul is encouraging the Ephesians to be vigilant of opportunities and make use of them by manifesting Christ through our character and¬†conduct in the midst of a morally corrupt world. The goal of productivity then is not to merely do more to elevate ourselves, but to do more to elevate God.

With that in mind, we can appreciate Challies’ definition of productivity from the outset: “Productivity is effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.” It is a definition that is not self-focused, but instead oriented on God and others. According to the definition productivity is not about our own successes and abilities, but instead harnesses the gifts that God has already provided for the purpose and benefit of others and God. When we make productivity about ourselves, it becomes an idol that replaces God rather than an opportunity to glorify God.¬†The definition defines the rest of Tim Challies’ writing, therefore because it is fixated on God, the book is as well.

While the book contains 10 chapters packed into 120 pages (from cover to cover) it can easily be divided into four sections devoted to the output of our lives:

  1. Identify It:¬†He begins by merely setting down a theological framework of time management and productivity. Theology should impact everything in a person’s life, and this is especially evident in an especially relevant topic. So the author does the appropriate thing by laying out a theological framework.
  2. Define It:¬†Upon defining time management in God’s words, it becomes necessary then for a person to define their lives upon that biblical view of time management. It is at this point that Challies begins laying out the systems of one’s life. He asks readers to know who they are first by laying out their purpose in life (in the form of a mission statement). Second, he asks them to identify all of their roles and responsibilities in life (i.e. husband/wife, father/mother, pastor, general director, web designer, etc.). Not only does this play a role in the organization of life to be more productive, but it causes the reader to ponder who they are in God’s plan.
  3. Do It: Here comes the practical implications. What tips, what tools, and what systems can be put into place in your life to help your productivity? The author answers all of that within this section. It’s easy to rush ahead to this point because this is what we all want. Don’t tell me the why, just the how. Don’t fall into that trap. I appreciate that Tim spent so much time on laying a foundation, and you will to if you read through the book as it is laid out.
  4. Live It: The hardest part in organization is the follow through. Up front all of the ideas and plans sound wonderful and yet the full blessings of them are never experienced because actually putting them into practice never happens (or only happens for a short time). It is here that Challies encourages readers to continue in their system and to truly live it out. This does not mean that he discourages necessary changes or tweaks for the sake of improvement. Quite the contrary. He urges readers to do what works for them, but the key is to live it out for it to have an impact.

Each section builds off of the previous and has a direct correlation to the management of our lives. The author was very intentional in this layout and that intentionality makes the book that much more meaningful and significant.  

The meaning and significance of the book comes in two distinct areas. The first is in the area of theology, something that we have addressed several times. Most of us fail to comprehend the significance of Scripture in our time management and so it is appropriate and appreciative that he spends time developing this for readers. Furthermore, he does with biblical accuracy, rightly fixated upon God and His truth. 

The second area of meaning and significance is in the practicality of the book. The book is short, something that is a blessing for people who supposedly don’t have much time. Beyond that, it is a powerhouse book that is meant to be applied from the opening word, as seen through the following:

  • Focus:¬†Rightly fixated on God, the author keeps our focus on Him throughout.¬†
  • Furnishings: As a man known for using¬†the right tools to keep on track, it makes sense that he would outline some of the tools for others to use as well. He goes further by not merely suggesting some tools, but he demonstrates how to use them. Admittedly these are all electronic based, so if you are still using a paper-based system, they won’t be as much help. There is a potential for some readers to be hindered by the fact that the author is somewhat limited in which tools he recommends and outlines. As one who has used mostly the same tools as the author, I appreciated some of the detail here, but if you have other preferences you may not. This does not take away from the application and systems that he goes on to show.
  • Function: With tips like knowing when you work best and make your schedule accordingly, Challies offers some great insight into setting up a system geared towards productivity and making it work. He also incorporated steps to make sure you are looking ahead to your due dates for the next week and month so that you do not miss an important deadline. Personally, I wish there was better inclusion of how this works for long-term projects that span a number of months or even a couple of years without adding it as a recurring to-do everyday. However, that is a personal application that may not be relevant to me. What is important is how he attacks the majority of a person’s life by guiding them in the process.
  • Flexibility:¬†As an example, the author often refers to his own life and demands. He does this only to give the readers a better understanding of implementing the focus, furnishings, and function into a person’s routine. The exact steps that he uses may not work for you, but that is one great benefit of the book. The suggestions are just that . . . suggestions. He is not afraid to tell readers to adapt and change things in order to make them work. The goal is not a blanket system for everyone, but instead to tailor it to the needs and responsibilities of each individual.¬†

The book can be a quick read, it is the implementation of it that may take time. Don’t let that stop you from considering it though. The suggestions are practical and worthwhile. He has done a great job at covering the bases of establishing a productive lifestyle.¬†

Do Better at More

In society, busyness is often equated with importance. Too often, professing Christians adopt that mindset as well to equate busyness with holiness. Neither of those is true, but because of the mindset we say yes to everything we can and become overwhelmed. We become so overwhelmed that we do nothing well and everything mediocre. Without directly meaning to, Tim Challies has helped to address this issue.

By having readers define their mission and then laying out roles and responsibilities based upon that mission, it forces readers to not merely do more, but instead to focus on doing fewer things and doing them better. It means that sometimes you have to say no, something most of us don’t like to do. I have long learned that sometimes the difference in our lives is not merely about saying no to the good things, but is more about saying yes to the best things.¬†

The focus then becomes, do a better job at fewer things for the good of people and the glory of God. As the author states from beginning to end, “Your primary pursuit in productivity is not doing more things, but doing more good.”

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