This is part one of a three-part series on how I've implemented What's Best Next in my personal life and ministry at Bethany Community Church.
If you have spent more than half an hour with me over the past four months, you've probably heard me mention Matthew Perman's What Best Next (WBN).
I'm an avid evangelist for the book and for those who are tired of hearing me mention the book (1) you'll probably want to stop reading now and (2) just be glad you're not one of my children...can you imagine being an eleven-year old and spending your summer learning how to implement WBN (kidding...mostly).
When I discuss how the book helped me refine my ministry in some profound ways, I get the same questions: how did you go about implementing it? What were the first steps?
In the book, Perman gives an "immediate application" at the end of each chapter. My first recommendation is to purchase the book for yourself and, if implementing the entire system seems overwhelming, begin with the small lifestyle changes he suggests.
What follows here, however, are roughly the steps I took to implement some of the principles from WBN. As I read the book, I thought not only about how I would benefit from these principles but also got excited by different "nuggets" for each of my co-laborers. I think they've shared my excitement, for the most part, and these are also the steps we as a ministry staff are going through here at Bethany Community.
Step One: Understanding the Why
It's important to understand why God is concerned with our productivity. The danger in reading a book like WBN is that it can become about efficiency instead of effectiveness. Such an approach misses the point of why God wants us to be productive: "More important than efficiency is effectiveness — getting the right things done. In other words, productivity is not first about getting more things done faster. It’s about getting the right things done" (43) .
So I began by really trying to understand what Perman teaches about a God-centered view of productivity. While the core principle was simple enough (determine what the best thing to do is and do it), Perman's process of determining what the best God-centered, gospel fueled best thing to do was immensely beneficial.
WBN employs the acronym D.A.R.E. (define, architect, reduce, execute). To begin even the first step, defining, it was important for me to understand the theology under girding WBN.
Step Two: Define Who You Are and What You Need to Be Doing
The next thing I did was "define." I didn't implement this exactly as described in WBN, but I did follow the general categories. I determined my mission, values, roles, and goals. While I've always felt I had a pretty good handle on my mission and values, it was helpful to list out my roles and determine what areas perhaps my current schedule wasn't addressing.
I used MindMeister to graphically illustrate my mission, values, roles, and goals. I broke my roles into three primary areas: family, ministry, and personal. I tried to keep the categories broad. Here's a sample of what I did to think through my roles:
Spending time here helped me as I began to take practical steps to implement WBN. I now had a tool to measure what was the best thing on which I could focus my time based on the roles God has given me. When it came to "reducing," I referenced my roles in order to determine which cuts to make.
Step Three: Reading About and Implementing "Architect" and "Reduce"
As I read through the sections on Architect and Reduce, I made significant changes, but I don't remember the order in which I did them.
While working my way through the architect section, I decided that I would incorporate the following routines into my routine:
Getting Up Early. Perman calls this The 5 A.M. Rule. I've done well implementing this but I need to be more disciplined with the corollary of what I call The 10 P.M. Rule (if I'm going to get up at 5, I need to be heading to bed by 10).
Daily Workflow: Every day, I look at my goals for week and decide what to do (I'll discuss this more in my next blog post).
Weekly Workflow: Every week, I look look at my quarterly actions, projects, calls, etc. and determine the goals for the week ((I'll discuss this more in my next blog post).
Quarterly Workflow: Every quarter, I look at goals, mission, etc. and evaluate what I want to accomplish in the coming months (Once again, (I'll discuss this more in my next blog post).
Prayer and Scripture: Obviously devotion time should be a part of any believer's plan for effective work and ministry.
Personal Development: As I began to architect my life, I worked in more time for personal development.
Rest: I tried to make sure there is a healthy amount of time with my family and engaging in activities like running and swimming.
Perman also suggests we "Reduce." There are four primary ways to reduce: Delegate, Eliminate, Automate, Defer. I mostly took notes in this section for future reference.
In my next blog post, I'll describe the system I put in place to help me "execute" the system. Evernote was extremely helpful and I'll show some screenshots of how I set it up. In the third and final blog post, I'll discuss the ongoing impact of WBN on my ministry and the ministry of the other staff.