Tim Challies

Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity

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(19 customer reviews)

Don’t try to do it all. Do more good. Better.

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Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity, by Tim Challies

Don’t try to do it all. Do more good. Better.

I am no productivity guru. I am a writer, a church leader, a husband, and a father—a Christian with a lot of responsibilities and with new tasks coming at me all the time. I wrote this short, fast-paced, practical guide to productivity to share what I have learned about getting things done in today’s digital world. Whether you are a student or a professional, a work-from-home dad or a stay-at-home mom, it will help you learn to structure your life to do the most good to the glory of God.

In Do More Better, you will learn:

  • Common obstacles to productivity
  • The great purpose behind productivity
  • 3 essential tools for getting things done
  • The power of daily and weekly routines

And much more, including bonus material on taming your email and embracing the inevitable messiness of productivity.
It really is possible to live a calm and orderly life, sure of your responsibilities and confident in your progress. You can do more better.

And I would love to help you get there.

–Tim Challies


Tim ChalliesTim Challies is a Christian, a husband to Aileen and a father to three teenage children. He is a co-founder of Cruciform Press and has written several books, including The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment and Sexual Detox. He worships and serves as a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario and writes daily at www.challies.com.

Sample Language from Reviews

As of this writing there are 320 Amazon reviews, with an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

David Murray:Do More Better is the simplest, most concise, most comprehensive, most practical, and most realistic productivity guide that I’ve encountered.”

Nick McDonald: “I read this book two weeks ago, and it’s already changed my life. … This isn’t a book I read. It’s a book I DID.”

Darryl Dash:Do More Better, though, is the shortest, clearest, and most practical guide to productivity I’ve read. I’ll be implementing its advice, and I encourage you to read and apply it too.”

Gloria Furman: “No doubt, the great claim in the first pages that this book will change your life, is spot on.”

David Steele: “his work is God-centered, practical, and offers users immediate help that is sure to boost personal productivity. I commend this excellent work and trust that God will use it to encourage many people!”

Eric Davis: “Anyone can tell you what they’re doing that works. It’s quite another thing to shepherd someone through change. I think this book does a fine job of that.”


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Weight5 oz
Dimensions5.06 × 7.81 in
Imprint or Series

Cruciform Standard


Print / PDF 978-1-941114-17-9
ePub 978-1-941114-19-3
Mobi 978-1-941114-18-6

US List Price

10.50 ebook, 12.99 Print


120 pages


Audiobook, Paperback, Three Ebook Formats

19 reviews for Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity

  1. Kevin

    As of 12/9/2015 there are 10 reviews on Amazon with an average of 5 out of five stars. Here are some samples of what people are saying:

    David Murray: “Do More Better is the simplest, most concise, most comprehensive, most practical, and most realistic productivity guide that I’ve encountered.”

    Nick McDonald: “I read this book two weeks ago, and it’s already changed my life. … This isn’t a book I read. It’s a book I DID.”

    Darryl Dash: “Do More Better, though, is the shortest, clearest, and most practical guide to productivity I’ve read. I’ll be implementing its advice, and I encourage you to read and apply it too.”

    Gloria Furman: “No doubt, the great claim in the first pages that this book will change your life, is spot on.”

    David Steele: “his work is God-centered, practical, and offers users immediate help that is sure to boost personal productivity. I commend this excellent work and trust that God will use it to encourage many people!”

    Eric Davis: “Anyone can tell you what they’re doing that works. It’s quite another thing to shepherd someone through change. I think this book does a fine job of that.”

  2. Theron St. John

    “How are you doing?” “I am doing well but keeping busy.” This is a typical response in our fast-pace culture. Sadly, we can tend to pride ourselves in our busyness, believing we are productive when we may not be. If busyness does not equate to productivity, how can we know if we are being productive? Thanks to Tim Challies and Cruciform Press, we now have an answer. In his book, Do More Better Challies gives us a concise and practical guide to a Christian understanding of productivity.

    The greatest contribution this book gives to the reader is its certain Christian understanding of productivity. Throughout the book, the Christian perspective is represented in two specific ways: the practice of stewardship and the purpose of the productivity. The two elements show up in the definition of productivity as “effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God” (Challies 16). Stewardship permeates every area of life and calls us to faithfulness in our responsibilities (Challies 29). As one who studies the importance of biblical stewardship, I greatly appreciate this. Likewise, I am grateful for Challies’ emphasis on the purpose of productivity: for the good of others and the glory of God (Challies 26, 39, 78, 91). Too often, productivity seeks the narrow view of improving one’s own life for one’s own sake. For the Christian, they must understand they exist for something more. Challies points us to what that “something more” is.

    A second commendation for Do More Better is the importance for organization. The book guides the reader to write mission statements for each area of responsibility and to be willing to say “no” to items and tasks which do not fit within those missions (Challies 40). Throughout the book, “a home for everything, and like goes with like” is repeated, stressing organization. Along with the idea of organization are priorities (Challies 92-93). Both organization and priorities are essential to a productive life.

    For these two reasons (and many more), I wholeheartedly recommend Do More Better by Tim Challies to any Christian who seeks to live a productive and fruitful life. That said, there are three qualifiers for the reader. First, the content of the book encourages technology-driven productivity. If you are not planning on using technology for task management, scheduling, and information, this book will not benefit you as greatly. Secondly, if you plan to read this book but not apply it to your life, you are wasting your time. This book again and again implores you to apply what you are reading to your own context. Third, and lastly, this guide to productivity requires commitment and maintenance daily and weekly. If you are comfortable using technology, planning on applying the content, and are willing to persevere, be sure to purchase your copy of Do More Better by Tim Challies.

    I received a PDF copy of this book for free from Cruciform Press in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review, but an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

  3. Joey Tomlinson

    Special thanks to Tim Challies and the good folks at CruciformPress for sending me a copy of the book, Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity and allowing me to write this brief book review.

    In God’s sovereignty, I volunteered to write this book review on productivity during what is turning out to be an extremely busy season of life for my wife and me. First of all, my wife and I are not unique. We are all busy. Every day you have the opportunity to choose what to devote your time and attention to and what to willfully neglect. Reading good books are no exception to this. I am constantly trying to discern what books to give my time and attention to and I’m glad I chose to read Challies’ new book, Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity. Allow me to briefly whet your appetite by giving you snippets of the loads of practical information contained in this short read.

    One of the distinguishing marks about this book on productivity that sets it apart from the myriad of other books on productivity is that it’s gospel focused. Challies asserts early on that “productivity is effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God” (18). This should be the aim of our entire lives and is the driving motive behind the decisions we make each day. The antithesis of this is a man living for himself looking out only for his own interests. Consider another quote from Challies, “…you are not the point of your life. You are not the star of your show. If you live for yourself, your own comfort, your own glory, your own fame, you will miss out on your very purpose. God created you to bring glory to him” (13).

    Challies helps the reader to understand that a failure to be productive as a Christian is a theological problem. He states, “It is a failure to understand or apply the truths God reveals in the Bible” (25). As a reader, this convicted me tremendously. God cares about every moment of my day. Every day is a precious gift from God for me to joyfully labor for his glory.

    Challies goes on in the book to define the “three productivity thieves” which include, laziness, busyness and a combination of thorns and thistles. He uses the example of the sluggard in Proverbs to warn the reader against laziness. Consider the following quote and evaluate yourself;

    “[The sluggard] is a man who refuses to begin new ventures, a man who will not finish what he has begun, a man who will not face reality and, through it all, a man who is restless, helpless and useless. His life is chaotic because his soul is chaotic. He cares little for God, so he cares little for those things that honor and glorify God- things like hard work and doing good for others” (22).

    Each one of us has at some point identified with the sluggard. Challies goes on to argue that busyness stems from pride and the love of looking productive rather than actually being productive. Finally, thorns and thistles are things that happen outside of ourselves because we live in a broken world (Genesis 3:17-18).

    In addition to being theological, this book is also highly practical. Challies introduces and urges the reader to categorize their life and responsibilities in no more than 5 categories and to import these categories into 3 productivity tools available to you. I won’t go into detail on this point, because frankly, I want you to buy the book. However, not only does he teach the reader how to organize his life, and utilize productivity tools, but he does so clearly and concisely in a way that makes the task of getting organized seem less daunting. He even goes as far as to give personal examples that he challenges the reader to model until they become comfortable with organizing, planning and executing the tasks in their own lives.

    This book overall is an apologetic for living gospel-centered productive lives to the glory of God and it’s pastoral in it’s exhortation and application to accomplish this.

    I highly commend this book to you. Buy it, read it, apply it, give it to a friend (or even better, buy another copy). For your copy of Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies, visit cruciformpress.com/product/do-more-better/

  4. Tom Jones

    Productivity. Conjures up blissful images doesn’t it; visions of folded laundry, dishes cleaned, and groceries bought; a blissful life of order; ah, the sweet serenity. It’s the crash of another cup of milk spilling to the floor that wakes you from your daydream. For some, productivity is a dream. A only-if that will never materialize. You’ve tried organizational tools before; they didn’t work, and apathy to the whole notion has set in.

    For others it’s a constant search: how can I fit more into my day? How can I do it faster, more efficient, and maximize my results? Wherever you are land regarding productivity, from mythical unicorn to productivity guru, blogger and author, Tim Challies, wants to help you do more better; and I think he can.

    “Do you want to live in such a way that you do good to others and bring glory to God? Of course you do. Then what is it that keeps you from it? What is it that diminishes your productivity or steals it altogether? Whatever the answer is needs to be identified and rooted out. It needs to be destroyed and replaced for the good of others and the glory of God” (pg.23). This is what Do More Better is about: providing practical, easy solutions to productivity within a theological framework. And to that end, I feel Challies succeeds.

    Challies assures us, “I don’t want you to do more stuff or take on more projects or complete more tasks…I want you to do more of what matters most, and I want you to do it better” (pg. 5).

    In a short and encouraging 130 pages, Challies not only helps us with the what and how of productivity — what systems should I use? And how does this play out with boots on the ground — but he lays a compelling theological foundation for the why — why should we even care about productivity? Which I feel is more important than the what, even though we all clamor for how-tos.

    For the why fuels the what. You can have a list of a thousand whats and how-tos, but without the fuel of why they’re as dead as your New Year’s Resolutions, but like water naturally finds its level, whys will naturally find the whats.

    Challies builds his foundation by theologically defining productivity. “Productivity is not what will bring purpose to your life, but what will enable you to excel in living out your existing purpose” (pg. 10). Which means, “the absence of productivity or the presence of woefully diminished productivity is first a foremost a theological problem” (pg.23).

    In other words, we don’t exist to maximize every second of our lives, we exist to glorify God, and that fact motivates us towards productivity. Get those two twisted and it’s an idolatry of perfectionism (which belongs to God) that can never be attained. Anyone else slightly convicted? No? Just me?

    Okay, let’s move on.

    Challies defines productivity as, “effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God” (pg. 19). And I think that’s a thorough and right definition. It hits both the what and the why of productivity. He adds, “productivity is not just about what you do in the workplace. It is not just about your success in the one task that consumes the greatest part of your time attention each week. It is about all of life” (pg.24).

    After effectively laying the foundation for productivity, Challies encourages us to take an audit of our lives; which I found incredibly helpful and valuable. His encouragement at “planned neglect” (HT: Randy Alcorn) was a great challenge.

    Planned Neglect means, when an opportunity arises we ask these questions: Are these the right and best things for me to be doing? Do these things fit my mission? Are there things I can do in this area that no one else can do? Am I gifted or talented in this area? Do I bring unique value to this? And is there someone else who could do this better than I can?

    For me, and many others who have a hard time turning down a good thing, these questions are wise and powerful buffers.

    Challies spends the final third of the book giving us practical tools to use to get us productive (and a bonus on taming your email that I’m sure will get lots of praise). And in this age of smartphones and clouds, there’s no shortage.

    Do More Better is a solid, short, and imminently applicable book on productivity built upon a Christian worldview. I have no doubt, as I’ve experienced myself, that this book will help you to build, not only the structure but the foundation for productivity. Don’t be intimidated.

    note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an impartial review.

  5. Chad Ashby

    It’s the New Year in just a few hours, and many of us are hoping for a more productive 2016. Have you noticed this trend in your life? Every year I find myself making resolutions that seem eerily similar to the resolutions from the year before. My New Year’s resolutions are on a kind of Rollover Plan–if you catch my drift.

    In his latest book Do More Better, Tim Challies hopes to help us turn our good intentions into good works for the glory of God and the benefit of others. In a vulnerable move, he cracks open the door to his office and gives us a look at how he gets things done:

    “The best way I know to teach these principles is to open up my life and to let you in a little bit. I will show you what I have learned, how I use my tools, how I build my systems, how I get stuff done. I think you will get the best value from this book if you read, observe, and imitate—at least at first. Then, as time goes on, you will inevitably adapt those tips you find especially helpful and discard the ones you do not.” (7)

    Not So Fast.

    Many would be tempted to skip straight to evaluating Challies’ tools and systems beginning in chapter 5. However, the opening two chapters were by far the most edifying and helpful. Whether you intend to adopt Challies’ practical methods or not, these chapters provide a biblical framework of productivity that is not to be missed.

    Using a catechism structure, he works toward a proper definition of productivity. The chief end of man is to glorify God, and we glorify God by doing good works: “Good works are deeds done to the glory of God and the benefit of other people” (12).

    Productivity, then, is not accomplishing everything or spinning a mile a minute or multi-tasking or a host of other misconceptions. Challies argues that since we have been created in Christ to do good works, we ought to maximize every area of life for God’s glory and others’ benefit. He lands at this definition: “Productivity is effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God” (16).

    In chapter 2, Challies pins down several obvious, yet sheepishly ignored, obstacles to productivity: laziness, busyness, thorns and thistles. Here’s a taste of his no-nonsense approach: “If you want an excuse for being unproductive, you will inevitably find one, and if you can’t find one, you will manufacture one” (20). Shots fired!

    A Home for Everything, and Like Goes with Like.

    In Chapters 3-10, you will watch over the author’s shoulder as he explains how to set up his system and tools. Whether you intend to wholesale adopt his method will determine how helpful the details of this section will be. Either way you are certain to pick up some tips, and his basic premise for organization is applicable in all situations: “a home for everything, and like goes with like” (49).

    Challies shows how individual tasks fit into areas of responsibility which must point toward the overarching goal of bringing glory to God and benefit to others. His remaining chapters will give detailed instructions on getting three particular tools up and running: Google Calendar (scheduling tool), Todoist (task management tool), and Evernote (information tool).


    Does it work? With books like this, it is impossible to determine how effective the methods are without time and effort. I worked through the various exercises and set up the three tools with the intention of pursuing Challies’ productivity system in 2016. Time will tell if it works well for me personally. The book is short and succinct and deserves your consideration, especially if you are like me and don’t have a well-defined system of organization.

    I will relay a hilarious closing note. In the appendix “Tame Your Email”, the author tries to show the idiocy of how many of us deal with email using an illustration with a real mailbox:

    “[Imagine] you walk outside to check your mail and reach into your mailbox. Sure enough, you’ve got some new mail. You take out one of your letters, open it up, and begin to read it. You get about halfway through, realize it is not that interesting, stuff it back inside the envelope, and put it back in the mailbox muttering “I’ll deal with this one later.” You open the next letter and find that it is a little bit more interesting, but you do the same thing—stuff it back into the envelope and put it back inside the mailbox. Other mail you pull out and don’t even bother reading—it just goes straight back inside the mailbox. And sure enough, your mailbox is soon crammed full of a combination of hundreds of unopened and unread letters plus hundreds of opened and read or partially read letters…It is absurd, right?” (110).

    Totally. I’ve never. I would never do such a thing. No. Opened mail and put it back in the mailbox? Psshhh. That’s not a thing that I do. Challies, what kind of a nut job would do such a thing! That is…quite…absurd.

    *Ahem*. Pardon me while I go clean out my mailbox.

    (Disclosure: I received a free copy of Do More Better from Challies.com in exchange for a non-biased book review. I think I got the better end of the deal.)

  6. Steven Hill

    Most people are looking for ways to do more work that matters.

    Disclaimer: I’m not talking about working more hours. I’m talking about becoming more efficient, learning what projects to say yes or no to, and doing stuff that matters.

    If you fall into this category of people, allow me to recommend Do More Better: a Practical Guide to Productivity – a mercifully short book written by pastor/author Tim Challies. Challies is an active blogger at http://www.challies.com.


    Overall Pros:

    Gospel Focus – One of my biggest pet peeves in current church culture is our obsession with labelling everything Gospel-cenetered ______. However when discussing productivity, it is easy to begin boasting in our own efficiency or criticizing others who are not as effective as we are, at least as we judge effectiveness. Challies does not allow the reader to stray from the Gospel truth that God saves the most efficient and most lazy of people – and our productivity does nothing to impress God or earn his love.

    Brevity – this makes sense for a book about productivity, right? Challies gets right what most productivity writers get wrong. At 119 pages, Do More Better teaches you what you need to get to work and you can knock it out in one sitting.

    Practical Action Steps – Challies does not waste pages overly discussing productivity theories or quoting other productivity authors, like many do. Within each short chapter he gives practical action steps to implement right away.

    On why we work

    You are already very good at doing things that benefit you. We all are. From your infancy you have become adept at expending effort toward your own comfort and survival. But when God saved you, he gave you a heart that longs to do good for others. Suddenly you long to do good to other people, even at great cost to yourself. After all, that is exactly what Christ did on the cross…and he calls on you to imitate him. – 13

    One of the best sentences in the book is Challies’ definition of productivity.

    Productivity is effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.– 16

    In Chapter two, Challies identifies three productivity thieves:

    the mean combination of thorns and thistles (as a result of the Fall, sin has complicated work, making it harder to produce than God originally intended. Notice: work is not a consequence of sin. Work being difficult is).

    The bulk of Do More Better is focused on specific, practical tools. Challies outlines his own productivity system without insisting the reader adopt his own. He does clarify that this system has worked well for him and others.

    Challies lays out main areas of responsibility and then clarifies roles and responsibilities with those areas. He then gives each main area a loosely binding mission statement so he has a parameter in which to remain focused on what matters most.

    The question I had, which Challies quickly answered was, “What about tasks that don’t fit into those five or six main categories?”

    Challies provides three possible solutions:

    1. Drop them – so much of our productivity potential is wasted on things that don’t matter. I am a pastor so people matter most in my world. But, to spend the most time with people there are times I have to say no to other people. For example, I know I work best at the very beginning of each day. So I usually start with the door shut to my co-workers, some of whom work differently than I do. As the day progresses, I generally meet with people more after lunch as my productivity levels start to drain but my relational capacity is still high. I have to drop some things so I can do the things that matter most.

    2. Delegate them to someone who can do them better – this is absolutely not dumping something you simply don’t wish to do on someone else. In my world, we recently upgraded our worship team equipment, which I know nothing about. Instead of me wasting hours and hours trying to learn and eventually making a bad decision, I asked a few of my friends who are much more knowledgeable than I am to help me make the best decision. They saved me time, money, and helped me focus more on my own strengths as they served me with theirs.

    3. Do them – this is where Challies’ gospel focus is heard loudly. As a Christian trying to pattern my life after Jesus, there should be no task that is beneath me. The founding pastor of my church, one of the largest in town, can regularly be found with a broom or mop in his hand cleaning up and serving in ways no one else sees. He does what needs to be done and serves just as honestly and joyfully without an audience as he does when he is preaching on stage to a packed house.

    Challies spends a chapter each on three productivity tools: tasks, calendar, and information. I found his chapter on systems to be particularly insightful, especially the system he uses to create to-do lists and beginning the day strong.

    He also discusses systems to evaluate yourself and your work in review. The two bonus chapters in the back are especially helpful (6 tips for email and 20 general productivity tips).

    If you are looking to increase productivity and do more that matters, this book is for you.

    Disclaimer: I received a free, discounted, or advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  7. Lyn Lee

    What I valued most about this book was the first one-third, which contained important truths of the theology of work. I felt encouraged, inspired, edified by the correct handling of God’s word with regard to productivity, and doing more good to others. The steps of auditing one’s roles and mission were easy to follow, and an excellent way of reflecting upon one’s life and activities. So timely for the end of 2015, and the beginning of a new year.

    The tools recommended are simple and free to download. I felt affirmed too, since I have already been using different versions of such tools to organise the 3 aspects of my life (tasks, calendar, information).

    If you are looking to live your life for God’s glory, to organise your time so that you are the most efficient and effective in His Kingdom, read this book. It’s short, sharp, practical. To God be the glory for the things He is doing through our brother Tim.

    *I received a free pdf copy of this book in exchange for an impartial review

  8. H. C. Newton/The Irresponsible Reader

    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.

  9. Camille Kendall/The Hurricane Report

    When Tim Challies announced the release of his latest book – Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity – I was eager to get a copy. Tim Challies is a husband, father, church leader, blogger, writer, and conference speaker. He juggles a lot more balls than I do. If Tim Challies thought he had helpful advice on productivity, I wanted to hear it.

    I love that Tim begins by formulating a theology of productivity, even before he presents tools and tips for achieving greater productivity. At the beginning of the book, he explores questions such as: Is productivity important? If so, why? How does my faith relate to my productivity?

    Answering these questions and taking time to develop a solid, foundational definition of productivity has already impacted my daily life and work in a positive way. A biblical definition of productivity helps me choose wisely how to best use my time, talents, and other resources as a mom, as a writer, as a speaker, as a church member. Tim’s simple, practical definition of productivity provides a lot of clarity when deciding what to do, and it alleviates ungrounded feelings of guilt when choosing what to leave undone.

    Mr. Challies begins Do More Better by focusing on Scripture and faith, but he moves quickly to practical tools for improving productivity. Challies is technically savvy; I, on the other hand, am a techno dinosaur. I knew from the outset that Tim’s strategies for improving productivity would involve electronic tools that would challenge my lack of technical expertise, but I determined to try my best to utilize the tools recommended.

    My favorite tool by far is the task manager: I think I’m in love! Thanks to the electronic tools that Tim suggests (he gives step-by-step instructions on how to set these up and use them effectively), I have cleaned a plethora of sticky notes off my kitchen cabinets, I feel less stressed about upcoming deadlines, and I have almost tamed my email.

    Would I recommend this book to others? Yes!

    At 120 pages, Do More Better is a quick read. It is full of useful advice and tips for increased productivity – tips you can actually start using today! – whether you are a stay-at-home mom, a writer, a student, or a professional.

    (Note: When I requested to do a review of his book, Tim Challies provided me with a free PDF copy of Do More Better. After reading the electronic version of the book, however, I ordered a print copy to have on hand as a reference book and to loan to friends. This is a resource I anticipate using repeatedly, when I want to reassess my productivity and re-evaluate my goals.)

  10. Suzanne (princapecos)

    I always considered myself to be a reasonably organized and productive person. Many years ago, while working in the PR department of a Christian college, I was introduced to a jam-up time management system. I loosely followed and adapted it for the rest of my working-outside-the-home career. But almost twenty years ago, when I became a stay-at-home and sometime part-time work-at-home mom, all of that organization (and the accompanying productivity) seemed to fly out the window.

    In hindsight, I don’t think the problem was so much a lack of organization or productivity. It was likely more a lack of understanding of my new role and priorities. What’s more, my working environment and responsibilities had been fairly controlled and regular. Predictable even. This new career field, not so much.

    It wasn’t so much that I lacked structure (although I probably did). A new system wasn’t the immediate answer.
    What I needed was a clearer understanding of my role and responsibilities as a wife and mother. And, because the dual jobs of wife and mother are somewhat fluid, I’m still working on that.

    Do More Better by Tim Challies is helping.

    Before going into the nuts and bolts of organizing life, Challies walks you through evaluating your life. The goal isn’t just to do more, to get more done. It’s to get more of the right things done.

    “Productivity is effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others, and the glory of God. Productivity calls you to direct your whole life at this great goal of bringing glory to God by doing good for others.” I like that. I’m good at being busy, but, “Busyness is a tricksy little fish.” It’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking we’re productive for the Kingdom just because we’re busy. The difficult thing is to figure out what God wants us to do for the Kingdom in our little circle and focus on being productive there. “God calls you to be productive for His sake, not your own.”

    This book is readable, at only 120 pages. It’s practical, walking you through not only determining your priorities, but setting up systems to carry them out. It’s biblical, helping you see your to-do list from God’s perspective (and reminding you that “Only God gets his to-do list done.”).

    I’ve read the book through, and now I look forward to the harder work of implementing what I’ve learned.

    I requested and received a copy of this book in exchange for an impartial review. This review was originally posted at http://princapecos.blogspot.com.

  11. Eyvonne Sharp

    9 reasons why Do More Better will help bring peace, order, and improved productivity to your life.

    It’s theological. Before jumping into tools and systems, Do More Better delves into the theological underpinnings that justify our pursuit of productivity. Our purpose is to glorify God by doing good to others which drives our desire to be more effective.

    It’s practical. Although the book opens with the necessary theological grounds for productivity, it quickly turns practical. Each section ends with an action item that prompts you to take a step toward organizing your system. Downloadable worksheets are available to guide you to think through your areas of responsibility and the tasks associated with each area. Challies describes how to use each tool and outlines a workflow to maximize your productivity.

    It’s mission-minded. Do More Better doesn’t merely provide a framework for accomplishing the most with your day, it explores the reason behind the work. If you follow the system, you will define your major areas of responsibility and create a mission statement for each. This discovery will help you design the system to match your life, calling, and goals.

    It’s simple. Unlike so many productivity tools, Do More Better is simple, straightforward, and succinct. I spent two hours in a local deli reorganizing my Evernote and configuring Todoist using Challies’ method. In only two hours, I had a functional system to tweak and expand.

    It’s clarifying. As you work through the system, you’ll clarify what you are doing with your time and why. You will likely find tasks you can eliminate or delegate. You will also discover tasks that will improve your entire day. Do More Better will help you determine when to say, “Yes” and when to say, “No” to requests of your time.

    It’s cross-disciplinary. The tools provided in this book will work for everyone who desires to be more effective. Stay-at-home moms, working moms, managers, ministers, entrepreneurs, and executives will all benefit from applying these concepts.

    It’s digital. Challies implements his system with three ubiquitous digital tools: Evernote, Todoist, and Google Calendar. He defines the role of each tool and provides a framework for their maximum efficiency. He explains what do to then goes a step further to describe how to do it, leaving no gap between the theoretical and practical. If you use a computer and have a smartphone, this system will simplify your life. Plus, the tools he recommends are free. (Note: The book doesn’t require these specific tools. For example, I use iCal instead of Google Calendar to manage my schedule. You can substitute OneNote for Evernote and Wunderlist for Todoist if you prefer. )

    It’s maintainable. Challies says, “You have probably noticed that there is nothing in this world that coasts toward order. There is nothing on all this sinful planet that, when left on its own, gets more orderly.” In response to this reality, Do More Better recommends daily and weekly tasks to keep your system in good working order. The daily tasks help you quickly assess your day and only take a few minutes to complete. Weekly maintenance takes a bit longer but is essential to keep the system in good working order. By completing my daily tasks in the morning, my day is more focused and peaceful.

    It’s shareable. As your coworkers, friends, and family notice the improvements you’re making, your new system of productivity will come up in conversation. It’s a great opportunity to mention the book. When I’ve shared it, I’ve made clear that the book is written from a Christian worldview and opens with a theological discussion of work. I add that it quickly becomes practical and, for me, transformational. You can spur your friends and family to better productivity and a deeper understand of the Christian worldview.

    No organizational system, plan, or software tool can give us the peace only Jesus provides. But when we embrace the truth that we are perfectly loved and accepted in Christ, we can reinforce this truth in our daily routines. When we accept our responsibilities as gifts from a loving God, order our tasks according to our gifting and God’s calling, and accept new roles only as they align with our right-now lives, we can glorify God by doing good with our entire selves. Do More Better provides the tools to find true productivity as we live in the light of God’s grace.

  12. Robin Ham

    “I believe this book can improve your life.”

    Admittedly it’s quite a bold sentence to begin your own book with, but that’s what writer Tim Challies chooses to go with as he invites us into Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity.

    You may be forgiven for raising a sceptical eyebrow or two. After all, we’re talking about productivity here! ‘Improve’ seems a subjective word at the best of times, but applied to a realm often associated with task management and to-do lists? Well, it just seems a bit over the top.

    DoMoreBetter3DCoverAnd yet by the end of Do More Better, I challenge you not to be inspired to try and do life differently. In fact, more than just wishful thinking, I think you’ll actually be equipped to do life differently.

    Of course on one level this book is completely inadequate to change your life. But the beauty of Do More Better is that the author recognises that straight-up. I’ll explain:

    The concept of productivity seems to be one that divides people. Some people lap up new tricks and techniques to order their day and priorities, perhaps in the hope that they’ll become more efficient in the workplace, or they’ll be able to straddle the work/life balance that little bit better. Others seem much more sceptical. Isn’t it all just buzzwords and baloney?

    However, before Tim Challies dives into any such practicalities, he begins with a ‘productivity catechism’, using the question and answer format to unpack an overall ‘foundation’ or framework, setting productivity within the context of what life’s all about. His point is that productivity cannot be considered as an end in itself. Rather, given we’ve been created by God for his glory and the good of others (i.e. we are not meant to be the star of our lives), then that must be the lens through which we understand productivity. Thus, these Christian convictions lead Challies to define productivity as follows:

    “Effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.”

    In other words, it’s not only about what you do, it’s also about who you are; “productivity is not what will bring purpose to your life, but what will enable you to excel in living out your existing purpose.” And whilst the rest of the book goes on to emphasise tools and systems, Challies is adamant that this prior foundation cannot be lost sight of. Only then does Challies go on to share his own methods for ensuring he effectively stewards according to the productivity definition above.

    To give a bit of detail, essentially Challies’ method is as follows:

    – Define your various responsibilities in life.
    – State your personal mission for each of these areas of responsibilities.
    – Select tools to enable you to effectively carry out the various tasks that you have in each responsibility. Here Challies advocates the importance of three particular tools:
    > A scheduling tool, i.e. a calendar
    > A task management tool, i.e. somewhere where you store your ‘to-do’ list, but broken into different projects according to each role of responsibility that you have.
    > An information storage tool.
    Challies’ underlying rule for using these tools is: “A home for everything, and like goes with like.” In other words, everything needs a place to go, and you stick similar things in the same place. Just as all your keys might go in a key draw (and thus you never wonder where you put your keys), so all your information goes in the same place, all your appointments are put in the same tool, and all your tasks are kept together. And then within these tools, you’ll create more specific ‘homes’ (along this same principle of ‘like goes with like’) for each of the different projects in the various responsibilities you have. Follow?

    – Collect your tasks. As tasks come up, add them all to an ‘inbox’ (i.e. a list) so none are lost.
    – Get into the pattern of giving a daily and weekly slot to ‘Workflow’. Essentially this means using a small amount of time each working day to go through your task inbox and allocating them to the particular responsibility they are associated with, and then to the particular project within that responsibility. Add deadlines as necessary. Then spend time looking at up-coming tasks and deciding which to take on today. Challies commends three questions to focus this process:
    > What are the possible tasks for the day?
    > What are the necessary tasks for the day?
    > What time is available?
    On top of this daily routine, Challies commends having a weekly version of this ‘workflow’ meeting which allows you to focus on the bigger picture and be mindful of the next 30 days or so.

    Although some of this might not be a million miles from the likes of David Allen’s seminal Getting Things Done, Challies aforementioned emphasis on the Christian foundation means that everything is viewed through starkly different lenses. For example, when outlining how to identify priorities, Challies suggests four steps: plan; pray; consider idolatries; embrace the tension. I find this approach allows vital space for recognising a number of important realities, which flow from a Christian worldview and so are often missed in general productivity lit:

    For a start Challies is aware of the deceptive nature of our own hearts, hence the need to consider our own ‘idolatries’, i.e. the unhealthy influences and desires that may be motivating us, such as taking on too much on because we’re seeking to please people, or overworking to try and make a name for ourselves.

    Likewise, his reference to embracing tension also reflects the important understanding that productivity is not about getting everything done, as ultimately we can’t see the future and there will always be unexpected turns. God’s sovereignty means we needn’t get angry or despair at this. As C.S. Lewis said: “The truth is, of course, that what one calls the interruptions [of life] are precisely one’s real life.”

    And then, whilst Challies generally advocates for “planned neglect,” (i.e. being content with saying ‘no’ to truly good opportunities out of an awareness of our own limitations and a desire to faithfully steward the various responsibilities we have prayerfully prioritised), he also acknowledges that, particularly as a Christian, there will be tasks which, whilst they don’t fit perfectly into any of our responsibility mission statements, we will yet still find time to do them out of a love for others.

    It seems that there’s been a plethora of Christian productivity resources out recently. Tim Chester blogged about busyness just this week, and has also written a book on it. Matt Perman’s much-anticipated What’s Best Next came out about a year ago (check out my review) and though that’s a more substantial offering, I’d now happily suggest starting with Do More Better.

    It is simple, clear, and I found the thought of implementing Challies’ suggestions as totally conceivable. For those reasons I’ve found it an invaluable resource to spend a few days digesting and applying as I begin a new year. That said, I’d be interested to know whether his approach appeals to (and works for) everyone. If it doesn’t, what exactly is it that rubs? I’m aware that whilst there’s part of me that loves the discipline of his method, another part reacts against anything that forces me to focus. But as I remember Matt Perman once saying, “we all have a system to get things done, even if that system is there is no system”.

    So, whilst Do More Better begins with the kind of bold sentence that might wind some Brits up, I’m convinced that if you take his productivity foundation to heart, if you prayerfully follow his approach to responsibilities, and if you invest in some tools and workflow method, then you’ll most likely find that, actually, you are doing more of what you’re intending to do, and, God-willing, you’re doing it to serve others and you’re doing it better.

  13. Garibaldi McFlurry

    Tim Challies makes a big claim at the start of this little book. When I read it, I was dubious, but here it is: ‘I believe this book can improve your life. This is a bold claim, I know, but the book would not be worth my time writing, or your time reading, if I did not believe it. I wrote this because I want you to do more better and because I believe you can.’

    I must confess that I’m not really into the ‘productivity’ mindset. Having read Matt Perman’s book ‘What’s Best Next’ last summer, it slightly scared me to find such highly motivated, always on, never resting enthusiasm. Perhaps it was a difference of personality, but ‘What’s Best Next’ wasn’t best for me. So when I heard that Tim Challies had written and released a productivity book, I approached it with trepidation. Having availed of the offer of a free PDF review copy for bloggers, and having read the opening claim, I almost switched the Kindle off. But I kept going, and I’m glad I did. I even think it might have made a difference in my life and work in the week since I’ve read it, and it has the potential to do even more even better in the future. If it can do that with someone once described as ‘so laidback he’s horizontal’ then Do More Better could help you as well.

    Tim Challies lays out the foundations for the book by describing how it came about. Having invested lots of time and energy into productivity, because he loves ‘to make the best use of my time and energy’, he is ‘constantly fine-tuning the ideas, tools, and systems that help [him] to remain that way.’ The book is a sharing of what he has discovered, by opening up his life to demonstrate how his system works. But before he gets to the system, he first covers the essential foundation of productivity – knowing your purpose. This first chapter unfolds the vision of purpose – why God made us (to bring glory to God), and how we bring glory to God (by doing good works). Good works are defined as ‘deeds done for the glory of God and the benefit of other people.’

    It’s a good place to start, but as I read it, I wondered was this a book only for Christians? Especially since he states: ‘But when God saved you, he gave you a heart that longs to do good for others.’ Now, later on he does explain the Gospel, and outlines how you can be saved, but in this initial chapter, it did appear to be limited in its approach. It wasn’t the only issue I encountered in the chapter. Several times there were statements that seemed quite simplistic, or un-nuanced. The first was ‘Good works, then, are any and all of those deeds you do for the benefit of others.’ The second was like it: ‘There is no task in life that cannot be done for God’s glory’ – to which I typed in my kindle ‘really?’ Setting aside my doubts and having made it through the chapter, the foundational purpose is found to be: ‘to glorify God by doing good to others.’

    Chapter two asks how we can do this in our everyday life, recognising that it isn’t always easy. The ‘lifelong struggle to be and to remain productive’ is because of three main reasons – laziness, busyness and the ‘mean combination of thorns and thistles.’ Through this chapter, he considers the sluggard of Proverbs, the equal and opposite problem of busyness which does lots but doesn’t achieve anything that counts; and the thorns and thistles of the Genesis 3 curse – ‘the punishment was not work itself, but the difficulty that would not accompany work.’ This was a helpful diagnostic chapter, and one which helped the reader to locate their own unique approach to life and work, and what might need done about it!

    From chapter three onwards, Challies becomes more practical and more hands-on. There’s even some homework, as the reader is called to Define your Responsibilities. The audit helps to summarise the various areas of responsibility, such as home, work, church, hobbies, projects, and to tease out the main tasks of each. Chapter four builds on this, by inviting you to State your mission as you allocate your scarce resource of time and make difficult decisions. The pursuit of productivity is refined by the helpful saying: ‘Your primary pursuit in productivity is not doing more things, but doing more good.’ He advises that the way to do this is the slow ‘yes’ and the quick ‘no’ to things that do or don’t fit the mission statement of your life.

    Chapter five begins to introduce what some would have expected from the opening chapter – Choose your Tools Having journeyed with him thus far, it makes sense to only begin to talk tools and procedures at this stage. His focus is on software tools, but it’s about finding what works. His system boils down to this: ‘Effective productivity depends upon three tools and the relationship between them: task management tool; scheduling tool; and information tool.’ The chapter then outlines the programs and apps he uses, along with alternatives for each, depending on personal preference.

    His shortlist is: task management tool – Todoist; scheduling tool – Google Calendar; and information tool – Evernote. The guiding principle for what goes where is ‘a home for everything, and like goes with like.’ The rest of the book follows an outline of what each bit of the system does, and how to set up and begin to use each of the three tools. But the key to effective productivity is to use them together, in connection with each other. His tip to doing this is to daily plan, and then execute – to review, decide and plan, and then actually get on and do the work. Tim outlines the way he does this, through a daily review, and a weekly review.

    All in all, it was an interesting book to read, and as I was reading it, I was thinking to myself that it was too complicated to put into practice. But then I thought I would give it a go. It would beat my current system of trying to remember the things I had to do (and forgetting some). I already use Evernote, and had dabbled with Google Calendar. So I decided to be more intentional with my Evernoting, switch to using the Google calendar on my phone (which links in to Facebook and the church website diary anyway), and download Todoist. Just to see. And now I haven’t looked back.

    My to-do list and reminders are contained in Todoist, and my productivity graph is rising each day as things get done. My calendar is always with me, and is working better than my Moleskine diary (I never thought I’d say that!). And the information I need is stored in Evernote (and Dropbox). I’m still working on email inbox zero, but I’m getting there. So perhaps the book has made a difference in my worklife. My system is working, and I’m feeling on top of what needs to be done. For that, and for the free PDF review copy of Do More Better, thank you Tim Challies!

  14. Seth Grotzke

    Point: To be productive is not merely to complete more tasks. Productivity means that one does what is most important and does it well. “Productivity is effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.”

    Path: Challies does an excellent job of defining what productivity is, what it is not, why it is necessary, and how one can plan to be productive through the effective use of tools.

    Sources: This book is not a composite of “prodicutivity gurus.” In the pages you can find hints of David Allen, Peter Drucker, and other time management specialists, but you don’t find strings of quotes.

    Agreement: This is an excellent book and I found it very helpful. I went through Matt Perman’s book, “What’s Best Next” early this year and also Challies’ blog series on productivity, so my habits have not changed dramatically, but it was an excellent read. His brief but thoughtful critique of our obsession and misunderstanding of productivity was challenging to me. Everyone with a computer or smart phone would benefit from reading his chapters on tools.

    Personal App: Am I just trying to get things done, or am I intentionally investing my time in meaningful pursuits in a manner of excellence?

    Favorite Quote: “Productivity is not what will bring purpose to your life, but what will enable you to excel in living out your existing purpose” (10).

    It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

    feels like they are daily spinning their wheels
    wants to streamline their workflow
    struggles with disorganized living
    is way to busy to read a book
    is just starting college or a new job
    Other books along this theme would be:

    DeYoung, Kevin. Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem. Crossway, 2013.
    Perman, Matthew Aaron. What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. Zondervan, 2014.
    Glei, Jocelyn K., and 99U. Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind. Amazon Publishing, 2013.
    Allen, David. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. New York: Penguin Books, 2001.
    *I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an impartial review

  15. Benjamin Vrbicek

    Tim Challies. Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity. Minneapolis, MI: Cruciform Press, 2015. 120 pp. $12.99.

    I want to do more—better. Don’t you?

    The problem, however, is that my ambition often leaves me feeling like King Solomon described in Psalm 127: with vanity-ache. Rising early, going to bed late, eating the bread of anxious toil—it’s no way to live. Solomon writes, in contrast to this, God “gives to his beloved sleep” (v. 2).

    And it’s here that Tim Challies begins Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity, with the encouragement that if a man as busy as King Solomon could figure out how to live a productive but not anxious life then by the grace of God, so can you.

    For those who don’t know, Challies is a husband, father, pastor, author, and has about a half dozen other important roles, such as co-founder of a publishing company (Cruciform Press) and host of a very popular Christian blog (Challies.com). And when I say “popular,” that’s an understatement. His blog had just under 16 million pageviews in 2015. For comparison, mine had less than 16 thousand.

    Yet for all this, Challies maintains that he’s no productivity guru.

    That’s okay by me, though. He’s certainly a practitioner, and his aim in Do More Better, as he writes, is to “open up [his] life and to let you in a little bit” (7). In other words, Do More Better is decidedly not a bloated textbook of source material with footnotes. Rather, as the subtitle says, it’s a practical (and we might add “personal”) guide to productivity.

    Do More Better has ten short chapters, and begins by stressing the importance of knowing your purpose; you can’t be truly productive without it. Then, Challies talks about how to find your particular purpose and mission, that is, how to find the sphere of responsibility that God has called you to be productive in. The book concludes by exploring tools for collecting your tasks, planning your calendar, and gathering your information. There are two bonus chapters, one on taming your emails and another with 20 tips for increasing your productivity.


    Let’s talk for a moment about definitions. Challies defines productivity in this way:

    Effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.

    When defined in this way, Challies underscores that productivity is first a theological issue. Thus, productivity is not merely a good thing that Type-A personalities kick-start in the early morning hours. Rather, because productivity is about “stewarding your gifts . . . for the good of others and the glory of God,” then to be unproductive is a sin of omission that must be forgiven and forsaken. In short, every Christian, not just go-getters, must strive for productivity.


    Speaking of striving, be aware that Challies isn’t writing to simply relay information. Get ready to work. To see what I’m talking about, consider how the opening paragraph to Chapter 4 ends: “And that means you are ready for your next assignment” (35).

    Assignment? Wait—what?

    The assignment he’s talking about is related to identifying your specific purpose and mission, and the responsibilities associated with it. He’ll metaphorically hold your hand through the process, of course, but in this way Challies is more personal trainer than author.

    Just as it will do an athlete little good to know the proper form on squats (inhale on the way down, exhale on the way up; flat back; eyes up; and keep your knees from extending beyond your toes—by the way), so it will do the reader little good to burn through this short book without application. Remember, it’s not receiving good coaching that matters. It’s good coaching followed that matters. And by way of encouragement, I can say that I was helped as I completed the assignments.


    There are many things I appreciated about Do More Better. Here are a few of them.

    First, I appreciated the simplicity. For example, if you have ever found yourself staring at a “To do list,” remember, you can only do four things with each task: delete it, do it, defer it, or delegate it (p. 59).

    Second, I loved the bonus chapters, especially the one on taming your email. My approach to my inbox didn’t seem so silly until Challies proposed this: “Imagine if you treated your actual, physical mailbox like you treat your email” (p. 109). If every time you received a letter or piece of junk mail you just peaked at it and stuffed it back in the mailbox, the result would be both humorous and sad.

    Finally, my favorite aspect was the distinctively Christian approach to productivity. For example, note this comment about delegating tasks to others.

    Most productivity gurus will encourage you to be as selfish as you need to be, to get rid of anything that doesn’t interest or excite you. But as a Christian you can do things that do not perfectly fit your mission but still do them out of love for God and with a desire to glorify him. (p. 42)

    Here, as throughout, the book is in stark relief to a selfish, secular approach to productivity. Every aspect of our lives, including our productivity, is to be bounded by godliness. For, what profit is it to us if we achieve massive levels of productivity without glorifying God? Any attainment in God-dishonoring productivity is like running the race backwards—really, really, really fast. Ultimately, you won’t win; instead, you’re productively running in the wrong direction.

    If there had been more space, I would have liked to see a little more discussion of Sabbath and contentment. God has appointed limits to our productivity, limits for our good. Also, more critique of the idols of achievement would have further highlighted a distinctively Christian view. The book, however, is purposefully short. I appreciated this, and I think you will too.

    I highly recommend Do More Better. It will help you discover God’s purposes for your life and move productively towards them.

  16. Matthew

    Do More Better is the first productivity guide that’s ever made sense to me. I’ve read heaps of different productivity articles on the web, listened to a few podcasts and even bought a few books to try and get more organised, usually in response to one or more deadlines zooming past. The one problem I’ve found with all of them is that they completely ignore God’s role in my life or at best they pay lip service to religion as just another sphere of life. In comparison, Do More Better spends the whole first chapter considering God’s purpose for my life and the reason why being productive is important. Throughout the entire book I was challenged to consider how I can best use my gifts, talents, time, energy and enthusiasm for the good of others and to glorify God.

    But it wasn’t just a theological or inspirational book. The other reason this book made so much sense to me was that it balanced the theology and theory of productivity with practical advice and tools. I was not only challenged to be more productive in the way I honour God with my life but I was also given practical and concrete advice on how to implement a system of productivity that will help me do that every day. Whilst I didn’t end up using exactly the same tools as Tim recommended, the instructions were easily adapted to the Task Management and Information Management tools I settled on (OmniFocus and OneNote respectively).

    I still have a long way to go in terms of productivity (the fact that this book review is over two weeks late testifies to that) but for the first time in my life I feel confident that I have a system of productivity that is structured enough to keep me on track and flexible enough to deal with life’s little surprises.

    Disclaimer – I received a free PDF version of this book in return for agreeing to write a review.

  17. Dave Mitchell

    Year after year, new books on productivity are published, promising the best new techniques, tips, and tricks for improving your organizational skills, productivity, and life overall. In recent years, the Christian publishing market has joined this trend, providing a spiritual spin on the age-old problem of self-improvement.

    The particular challenge, when it comes to productivity books, is that you can read a million of them without it making an impact on your life. For a book about organization, focus, planning, and task-management to make an actual difference in your life, you have to make the decision to implement what it recommends.

    Author and blogger Tim Challies recently published Do More Better, a concise, clear book about improving productivity from a Christian perspective. While I can’t tell you whether or not his approach really works (not yet, anyway), what I can tell you is that it reorients the reader’s thinking about why we should pursue productivity and effective work, and provides a practical approach for pursuing better work.

    In Do More Better, Challies defines productivity as “effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.” From the outset, this sets the book apart from its mainstream peers. Challies doesn’t spend a long time discussing the theology of work and productivity (for that, you might want to check out Tim Keller or Matt Perman), but he delivers a punchy introduction to the idea in first quarter of this volume.

    I don’t want to sell this part short, because he really has some pithy comments about the effect of your faith and integrity on every other part of your life. This part was particularly good:

    While this book will emphasize tools and systems and other important elements of productivity, nothing is more important than your own holiness and your own godliness. No amount of organization and time management will compensate for a lack of Christian character, not when it comes to this great calling of glory through good— bringing glory to God by doing good to others. (Do More Better, p. 25)

    Before talking tips and tricks, Challies discusses a short “productivity catechism,” followed by a list of “productivity thieves” that stand opposed to our progress in this area. (My big enemy? The fruit of procrastination, which Challies calls “busy-lazy.”)

    After this introductory section, Challies begins breaking down his approach, which starts with defining your roles and responsibilities, and then developing a mission statement to focus your activity in each of these areas. The rest of the book is devoted to using specific types of tools (task-lists, calendars, and information storage) and routines to carry out your stated goals in each of your roles. He encourages weekly reviews to help keep an eye on the “big picture” projects and goals.

    Throughout the book, Challies repeats a guiding principle in the practical working out of this system: “a home for everything, and like goes with like.” And with a little bit of work on the front end, his recommendations can be put into action.

    Another key idea in Do More Better is that we Christians live each day coram Deo — before the face of God. All of this effort and activity with tools and systems should be done for the Lord, and not for ourselves. Our efforts to be productive and effective cannot be merely for our own advancement, but for the ultimate praise and glory of God.

    This is not to imply that a non-Christian has nothing to gain from this book. There are elements that can be very practical and applicable to people of all backgrounds. But you will miss something of the book’s power if you leave out this key component.

    So the question remains: does it work? As I said, I don’t know…yet. But when I started reading this book, I decided to do something I have never done before when it comes to productivity books. I committed to give this one a real try, and started putting this plan into practice. As of this writing, I’ve been using Challies’ system for about 3 weeks (with the exception of the weekly review, which I’ll start doing this weekend). I can already attest to the fact that I have benefitted immensely from these new habits. In about a month, I’ll give you another update on my progress, with more specifics about how I’m working out the particulars of Challies’ approach.

    Final Review: Do More Better is succinct and potent, full of practical instruction and thought-provoking concepts. If you are a Christian who wants to be more productive and effective in your daily life and work, Do More Better is a worthwhile read.


    I was provided with an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. The preceding thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

  18. Dan Hall

    A long time reader of Tim Challies, I was curious to hear about a new book on productivity; Tim is a trusted scholar and pastor, but does productivity really have anything to do with Godliness? But I have to admit that I’ve grown busier and busier over the years, and so my interest was peaked. Fortunately, I was afforded the opportunity to receive a review copy to look over and respond to, and so on a quick flight from Boston to Florida, I committed to reading what Tim had to say about productivity, or, as he would call it, “doing more better.” As one final piece of full disclosure, this is the first book I’ve read on productivity, but it seemed like the perfect place to dive in.

    The book, like all of those put out by Cruciform press, was graciously short (around 100 pages), and I was able to get my reading done in a few hours, even through distractions and screaming babies on the plane. The book is designed this way, and it meets its objective. There were a few points where I felt Tim went on a bit longer than he needed to, and ironically there were a few areas where I thought he might serve (or surprise) the readers by offering a few more antidotes; for instance, he nearly launches into a discussion about building a railway from one town to another, and I thought we’d get an interesting vignette, ala Malcolm Gladwell. Instead, it turned out to only be a vague analogy, which was fine, but there were a few opportunities to capture my imagination that went untaken.

    The book itself was, quite frankly, helpful. Essentially, Tim highlights three tools that can be utilized to manage a system that will work consistently to make our work, life, and development more effective, more productive. The tips and suggestions he makes aren’t particularly revolutionary or new, but he shows us his model, and he explains how others might incorporate his method. The benefit of the book is that his system is so transferable to so many. Each of the tools he uses is free (todoist, Google calendars, and Evernote), and his system could be built around nearly any need or stage of life.

    Tim also does a great job explaining exactly how his system works for him – realizing that it will be different for the reader, but also recognizing that specific examples are helpful, and the average reader is smart enough to take his suggestion and adapt it to their own needs. Here is another place where there is a bit more detail given than may be needed, but it’s hard to fault him for being too helpful here; some of these pages are skim-able, and it will likely be a reference that can be referred to as different scenarios arise for different readers.

    The biggest drawback to the book is the heavy reliance on these three specific tools, which are exceptional at what they do, but are only tools. Perhaps if Tim had explained the premise behind his method and model a bit more (ultimately, a consistent method of organization across different platforms), and used the finals pages of each chapter to suggest what it might look like using these tools, it may have been a bit more helpful and applicable to a wider base. Even still, Tim is up front with his bias, and spends, at least, some time in each chapter explaining how these ideas can carry over to any platform the reader might be using.

    Finally, Tim never leaves the theological underpinnings of why we want (and need) to be productive, chasing out both the idolatry of self-serving goals, and emphasizing that work (any work) done in the service of others is good, and glorifies God. Our goal then, in being productive, is to glorify God to the best of our ability with the best of our time, the best way possible.

    Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and while I wouldn’t add it to a “must-read” list for everyone I know, many of my friends and family may benefit from reading it, and I’ll likely pass it on. If you’re looking for a good, short book on a way to be more efficient, I’d glad recommend Tim Challies’ “Do more better,” and think you’ll gain much more than the time you spend reading the book. For a few dollars and a few hours, it’s likely worth your time to read it, and I think you’ll enjoy.

    A large thank you to Cruciform Press and Tim Challies for the review copy of this text, which was under no obligation to provide a positive review.

  19. Aaron Lee

    Especially with the stay-at-home orders during the Coronavirus, it’s easy to become slothful this summer season. In Do More Better, Tim Challies provides a practical guide to productivity.

    A Call to Action and to Character

    In just over 100 pages, Challies shares his work system and shows how you can create your own. First, he lays out a theological foundation for why we need to know our purpose and how we need to answer the two-fold call to action and to character.

    The middle of the book is intensely practical as he introduces us to his workflow using Todoist, Google Calendar, and Evernote. He details his steps and gives real-life examples. He allows you to see how you can apply these tools to your own life.

    On Goals and Doing Good

    Interestingly, the book takes the time to briefly talk about goals and doing good. These sections help ground the book so we don’t get lost in the tasks themselves. A bonus section on taming email rounds out the book along with a final reminder to steward our gifts of talents and time.

    With the Fall season approaching, I want to make sure that I am ready to end the year well. This book is the remedy for my procrastination and the key to my productivity.

    I received a media copy of Do More Better and this is my honest review.

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