by Tim Challies
PDF, 114 pg.
Cruciform Press, 2015
Read: December 11 – 12, 2015
Abraham Lincoln reportedly said about someone’s book, ” People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.” If it were chronologically possible, he might have been talking about Do More Better. I am not the person who likes this sort of thing, but I have profited from reading some productivity-improvement books — this does not fit into that category. Could it help some people? I don’t see why not, but there’s a lot of people who won’t see their lives fitting into his mold (count me as one of them).
But honestly? I was turned off by the book before he started the practical section. I’m not going to give a detailed analysis, this isn’t the type of blog to do that, but I can give a thumbnail.
The first few chapters, the theory, or groundwork for his productivity guidelines are pretty questionable. Despite Challies’ proof-texting, I’m not convinced that any apostle or prophet encouraged anything along these lines (you could make the case that Solomon’s Proverbs could be used to these ends, not that I see Challies appealing to them). It looks so much like the kind of schemes we Americans (and, I suppose, Canadians) like — if I just do X, Y and Z, I can be whatever I want to be. If I eat all my veggies, especially the gross tasting ones, I can grow up big and strong. If I implement Method Q with Style R and Teaching S on a consistent basis, I’ll have well-adjusted, successful kids. And so on.
Chapter 5 on are so programmatic, so specific to his own scheme, that it’s restrictive (I’m sure he’d argue these aren’t hard-and-fast rules, only guidelines, but to implement them as he suggests, you’d pretty much have to treat them as hard and fast for however long it takes to set them as habits). I’d spend so much time for the first few weeks with his book in one hand and my Galaxy Note in the other, just making sure I was doing what I was supposed to be doing as far as my Tasks, Calendar and Information were concerned — even before my weekly Reviews. How would I get anything else done? Good question. As an example — I’ve been an Evernote junkie for 4 years now (this was composed on Evernote), but to use it the way he wants me to would take a focused readjustment.
Lastly, this is the kind of book that can only be produced in the affluent West. More than one author/speaker has talked about “The Cave Test” when it comes to evaluating worship “styles” — if it can be duplicated in a cave while meeting in secret, it’s fitting for Christians. While reading this, I wondered just how many countries (or parts thereof) in this world, where practicing Challies’ principles would be possible. The fact that a large percentage of the Church could not (and has not) been able to think in these terms — much less put this into practice — says a lot about their role in the Christian life.
I suppose I should say something about the writing — it’s certainly competent, clear and succinct. But it’s not at all interesting. Can you write about productivity/time management/etc. in an interesting, even entertaining fashion? Sure — see Chris Hardwick’s The Nerdist Way (not at all Rated G) as one example — but that’s not saying you have to. I don’t need to be entertained every second of the day, but if you want me to stay with a book (even a short one), you need to be more interesting than my microwave’s Instruction Manual. This was just so bland it was hard to keep focused.
I’m not suggesting that no one read this book, if reading the product description makes you think it could help you, I’m not going to argue. But I’m certainly not going to to suggest anyone go out and grab a copy — or even to borrow one. Do I think it’d be better if he removed his purported theological underpinnings from this? Yes. I’m also convinced it wouldn’t make a lick of difference to Chapters 5-10 in application (which speaks volumes).
I received this book from the kind people of Cruciform Press for this review, I hope they don’t regret it.