Exploring Hope: Spiritual productivity

I'm a fundamentally disorganized person. My dad is an artist. Everyone in my family is an artist. So, I wasn’t known for being structured and methodical. However, I went through a crash course in productivity when the Presbyterian Church in America sent me out to plant a new congregation in Garnet Valley. And as every business owner knows, starting anything new is difficult. It takes time, commitment, sacrifice and, yes, organization. Thus — partly out of necessity — I began reading books on productivity and found them quite helpful. I’d like to share some resources I found helpful.

First, I would start your study of productivity with a great book called “What’s Best Next” by Matt Perman. Writing from a Christian perspective, Perman shows that getting things done isn't simply about checking tasks off a list. We structure our time and energy intentionally so that we can better love others and serve God. In other words, we need to see the day-to-day details of life in light of God's glorious plan of redemption in Christ.

Second, once you've read Perman, the second book I would recommend is “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. This book isn't written from a distinctly religious perspective, but it is probably the most famous book on productivity. I'll bet that many of you have already read or benefited from the material. But for me, it literally changed the way I structure my daily life. It is simple, clear, practical, and indispensable.

Finally, I would recommend a book called “Deep Work” by Cal Newport. We spend so much of our time on email, social media, and other mediums that never lead to true productivity. Newport helps his readers work toward true focus in a distracted age. He encourages us to set aside regular blocks of time for uninterrupted “deep work” which is the key to creativity.

Now, you might be thinking that this is a strange article for a religious column. Did I simply get bored this week and decide to write about productivity instead of religion? Well, no. I firmly believe that we can learn a lot about the world from reading books like these. A good productivity book can't tell you how to have a happy marriage or how to find a relationship with God. But they can help you better structure your life so that you can find time to study the “big questions” while also loving others more effectively.

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About Will Stern

Originally from Colorado, Will Stern is the pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Garnet Valley. He majored in violin performance for his undergrad and taught violin for a number of years before being called into ministry. He studied theology at Duke University and Westminster Theological Seminary.

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