It’s no secret that I read a lot of books. And this is one that I’ve mentioned a couple times on Bookworm. It’s one that I received as a gift and is an advance reader copy sent to me by the author, Matt Perman. Which means I had the chance to read a book that you can’t get yet.
The official release date is about a week away on May 1. If you go ahead and pre-order it, you get a number of goodies for free. Namely, there are six chapters that didn’t make it into Unstuck that you get as well as five chapters from the book, Effective in Doing Good. You can learn more about those here:
Now, with all of that out of the way, here are some of the points in the book I found interesting:
The concept of being stuck is one that hasn’t been obvious to me in the past. I sometimes hit roadblocks, but it’s never fully revealed itself to me that I am stuck in a pattern or struggling to get past a situation.
For example, I’ve been working on a major shift in how I run and expand my web development business. It wasn’t until I read this book and asked some questions of trusted advisors that I realized I hadn’t been able to break through a pattern of repeatedly doing the same things and wondering why they didn’t magically work.
But now I’m on a path that I’m really excited about and am itching to tell the world about it. But, timing.
One aspect of any productivity book that really sets the stage is the book’s definition of productivity. This can be somewhat of a sticking point sometimes. If you think of productivity as pure efficiency, then I’m likely to disagree with much your book. But if you think of productivity as a holistic view on personal effectiveness, then I’m much more inclined to trust your thoughts in the remainder of the book.
Here’s how Matt thinks of it:
Since our goal is to get unstuck in our productivity – defining productivity holistically as living a flourishing life, not just doing better at work – we are specifically going to utilize the principles of personal effectiveness to get unstuck.
"This book is for non-Christians"
Matt makes this statement early on in the book. He’s making a pitch for who should read the book. And although I think there are a lot of non-Christians who would enjoy this book, I think that crowd is pretty small. There are a lot of Bible references in here and a fair amount of discussion about how personal effectiveness and trusting in God can help you break through the times when you are stuck. So I’m not sure I would agree with Matt here.
Pick an audience and write for them. Don’t try to be everything to all people.
The purpose of productivity
Too often, personal effectiveness is used as a tool to build the life we want, and God is left out of the picture.
I think I mentioned this in the What’s Best Next episode of Bookworm, but I really appreciate this part of Matt’s philosophy. He really has a handle on the concept of doing good for other people as a lens through which we see our reason for productivity. That is continually a breath of fresh air to me.
"…change is grown, not installed."
Here’s what I see as the fundamental flaw promoted in the productivity space and one of the main reasons the Guild exists. There are thousands of articles or listicles that explain all the things you should do to be more effective or efficient in your life. But no one really talks about it being a slow process to implement those things into your life.
Sure, there are conversations about how to develop a new habit and the like, but that’s as far as it goes. Doing a Weekly Review is something that takes practice and repeated discipline to truly develop and find value with. You’re not going to dream up all the things you need to do on a weekly basis and magically be able to run that review consistently every week. It takes time to build in that change.
"Start with your time, not your tasks"
As Matt says, “Tasks are unlimited.” But your time is not. If you start writing down a list of task for the day, it will almost always be longer than the time you have to complete them. But if you start with the amount of time and can be honest with the time needed for your tasks, you can determine how many to take on and be a lot closer to a stress-free day. Otherwise, you find yourself frustrated by the number of tasks you didn’t complete at the end.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s an easy read and I think I finished it in just a few days. So kudos to Matt on that part. Having just read What’s Best Next, I can easily see his improvement in writing books.
That said, I wish he hadn’t referenced WBN so much. I was really grateful I had read it previously and had that context. I wouldn’t say it’s necessary to understand Unstuck, but it does help.
I mentioned this on the WBN Bookworm episode, but Matt really likes to quote other people and share their systems. I think this has to do with the audience point I called out earlier. He’s writing this for Christians who are unfamiliar with productivity and the books around it. If I had no background in these books, I would maybe think this was amazing and life-changing. But since I know where the ideas come from and have read those books, I’m a little less than impressed.
Regardless, if you want a good summary of productivity books and want a single book to cover those concepts, this is an excellent choice. Couple that with the Christian angle given here and I found it to be great at giving me a clearer view of how to use the ideas we talk about in productivity with my faith. For that, I say thanks, Matt.