Do you want to do great things? Are you struggling to complete your most important projects? Most of us experience a gap between what we aspire to achieve and what we actually execute. People occasionally ask me for resources on productivity and time management. My first recommendation has always been Matt Perman’s What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. That book changed my life. He showed me how to organize my time and responsibilities. Best of all, he did it all through a gospel-centered approach.
So, I was thrilled to see the announcement for his second book How to Get Unstuck: Breaking Free from Barriers to Your Productivity. My hopes were set very high. I am glad to share that he did not disappoint!
How to Get Unstuck is so full of wisdom and practical application. Perman began the book with a section on what it means to be stuck and what it means to flourish. He covered concepts such as personal effectiveness. Personal effectiveness is better than efficiency because you are achieving important things. You can be efficient at doing a bunch of trivial tasks that have no impact on the world. Aiming for personal effectiveness is greater. He also went over urgency versus importance and the importance of character.
In part two, he moved to the area of personal leadership. In What’s Best Next, Perman taught you to start with your vision and values. Once you establish those, then you use them as the basis for how you manage your time. That was one of the highlights of What’s Best Next for me. He did the same in this section as he built upon the foundation set in part one. The third section of the book was about managing time. This part was my favorite. Perman addressed a fundamental confusion regarding task management. He showed that people who achieve great things start with their time rather than their tasks. If you start with examining how much time you have, then you can prioritize the most important projects. In this section, he also covered the topic of deep work. Deep work is a game changer for those who want to make progress on their most significant, most ambitious projects.
The final section of the book touched on several problems that get us stuck. Perman wrote on basic approaches to getting unstuck. He included chapters on adaptive time management and getting projects unstuck. Every chapter of How to Get Unstuck concluded with “The Unstuck Clinic.” These final segments of the chapter would provide the core point, an exercise for applying the section, and further resources. I loved this book and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants to escape average!
10 Quotes from How to Get Unstuck
“The encouraging and surprising truth is that it’s okay to be stuck. Being stuck can be a mark that you are doing important things, because important things are often hard. And when things are hard, we are likely to get stuck. Further, God meets us where we are stuck. In fact, it’s when we are stuck that he often meets us most deeply” (16).
“Too often, personal effectiveness is used as a tool to build the life we want, and God is left out of the picture…. So we aren’t truly unstuck unless Christ is at the center of our lives. For Christ to be at the center of our being unstuck means that we do all that we do for him and in his power” (41–42).
“Being unstuck is not only about having momentum and moving along with minimum friction. It also has to include the ability to endure difficulties and even hard slogs” (43).
“When urgency is dominant, then once the urgent things go away, instead of choosing to move back to important but not urgent items, you start to invent more urgent but not important items. You are driven by a quest for what is urgent rather than being driven by a desire to do what is important” (75).
“If you want to do more than simply make money in your life or be well liked; if you want to live a life that makes the kind of difference God wants you to make; then you need to have a vision” (101).
“To be missional means being the kind of outwardly focused Christian that is necessary now that our society has become post-Christian. It means going into the culture to reach people, not making ourselves distinct through Christian trinkets and tactless presentations of the gospel but through love serving others” (117).
“In sum, with practice and preparation, what at first requires lots of energy and attention needs to become automatic. Learning your field really, really well enables that. Your mind is freed up and quicker to focus on the extras that really make a difference” (142).
“Practice doesn’t mean just doing something a lot. It means working deliberately to improve. That is, as you practice you observe your actions and make course corrections. On the other hand, if you are just doing something a lot, you could be reinforcing bad habits” (146).
“Instead of starting with our plans and then arranging our time to sync with our plans, we need to set the table with our time so that we can then put our plans into it” (167).
“A leader needs to take time to step back, get up on the balcony, and reflect. All good leaders do this. They process what has happened, ponder new and better ways to do things, make sure they keep their eye on the big picture, and just plain think. Leadership has a significant reflecting component, and the best leaders tend to be the best thinkers” (253).
How to Get Unstuck: Breaking Free from Barriers to Your Productivity by Matt Perman. Zondervan (2018). 284pp. $13.59. Purchase at https://amzn.to/2rdslHr.