Three Books for the Productivity Geek in Your Life

The biggest factor in building and maintaining a productive working life in the midst of the digital deluge is the ability to focus. These three books all come at this subject in different ways and each has a valuable contribution to make. 

focusFocus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence.
Daniel Goleman dedicated this book to “The well-being of generations to come,” and his passion to see us thrive is evident throughout. He argues that “while the link between attention and excellence remains hidden most of the time, it ripples through almost everything we seek to accomplish.” His thesis is “Attention works much like a muscle—use it poorly and it can wither; work it well and it grows.” His book is a work-out to develop and refine the muscle of our attention, and even rehab focus-starved brains.

Of the three books here, this one is the most technical as it deals in detail with some of the brain science behind what makes distraction so enjoyable, yet so destructive. However, don’t let that put you off. I found myself quickly scanning some of these denser passages and zeroing in on the more readable practical sections.

Some of the quotes were revolutionary for me. Try this one from Nobel prize-winning economist Herbert Simon: “Information consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Brain at workYour Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long
Leadership Coach, David Rock, follows a fictitious couple (though all too real for many of us) as they live out their lives in the maelstrom of everyday life. The author describes and analyzes each day in the couple’s busy working lives and makes lots of practical suggestions about how to change each day for the better. As Rock’s main idea is that we can improve how we work by understanding how our brains work, he also pulls in a lot of brain science, but in a more accessible way than Focus.

You’ll never take it all in on one read, but what I’ve tried to do is take a couple of chapters at a time and then try to put some of the suggestions into practice for a few weeks before coming back to the book again. I’ve found myself thinking a lot more about just what I’ll spend my limited brain fuel on every day, in the process learning to drive more efficiently and enjoyably.

elephantsJuggling with Elephants: An Easier Way to Get Your Most Important Things Done – Now!
Of the three books, this is the easiest and quickest to read (one hour should do it). The basic insight is that life is a three ring circus (the three circles are work, family, and personal life), and if we learn to think like a ringmaster, managing the various acts can be fun and easy. Some of the main points:

  • The result of trying to juggle elephants is that no one, including you, is thrilled with your performance.
  • The ringmaster cannot be in all three rings at once.
  • The key to the success of the circus is having quality acts in all three rings.
  • Intermission is an essential part of creating a better circus performance.
  • There is no shortage of acts vying for the circus.
  • Every act must have a purpose.

Although the book’s central idea might seem a bit simplistic, it’s imagery has had a lasting and profound effect on me. I find it much easier now to focus on one ring at a time, and give myself wholly to it, instead of continuing the elephant-juggling act, leaving me squashed and the elephants a little frustrated!


Worldview

Croatians Vote to Ban Gay Marriage
Worth bookmarking Croatia on Google maps as we may all have to live there soon. Now watch as homosexual jackboots from all over the world try to overturn a 65% vote to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Relationship Advice From America’s Longest Married Couple
81 years! Wow!! Lots of wisdom and humor here.

Ann: “Marriage isn’t a lovey-dovey thing, y’know, for 80 years, you learn to accept one another’s way of life…Devote your time to understanding one another, really, that’s the whole thing.

John: “We always hold hands…Well, we just take things as they come, and we’re contented, and we have lovely family to support us…Be content with what you have and what you’re doing…The key is to always agree with your wife.” (I think that’s a joke).

The beautiful picture really sums it all up.

But trust anti-marriage activist (yes, there is such a being) Cathereine Deveny to throw a wet blanket over it all. She doesn’t believe any relationship should involve “hard work.” No wonder she’s never married….and never will.

Why We Hate
Hope you didn’t get whiplash there; from beautiful love to ugly hate in just a few pixels. In this study of the Bosnian genocide, psychologists ask, “Why do humans do such terrible things to each other? What makes us capable of torture, war, and genocide?” This study answers “Evolution!” It’s not a new insight. For years Christians have been arguing for a necessary connection between genocide and a belief in evolution.

The Quest to Turn Computers into Creative Artists
“With the London Symphony Orchestra performing machine-written symphonies, Amazon selling books written by algorithms and film-makers scripting screenplays after conversations with a PC, are computers evolving from being a mere tool into becoming a creative force in their own right? For example, a new experiment by Volkswagen creates music based on a car’s speed, steering and whether it is in the city or countryside.”

It would appear that one of the main drivers of this work is the desire to create a creator. Does that not so clearly reveal the image of God in man? The Creator who created us to create has created us to create creators too.

Tongue-Controlled Wheelchair
Speaking of creativity, a new wireless device has allowed paralyzed people to drive a wheelchair simply by moving their tongues. Can’t help but think how much this imaginative ingenuity in the service of others pleases God.


Check out

Family Worship and its Benefits
Some positive motivation instead of guilt and fear.

Seven Ways Pastoring Has Changed in 30 Years
Thom Rainer has an amazing gift for looking at the big picture and offering accurate analysis.

The Part of a Speech 99% of People Ignore
Guilty. But what’s the solution?

Freedom of Conscience is a Beautiful Thing
Trevin Wax: “I believe the government should preserve and protect an individual’s freedom of conscience and seek to never violate it.”

Praying for the Sick
Brian Croft with succinct and doable advice

Did this brave hero live 92 years just to save a little girl’s life? (HT: Mike Leake)


Three Books For the Theologian in Your Life

Looking for some gift ideas this holiday season? Here are three new books for the theologian in your life.

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In Antinomianism, Dr. Mark Jones, a PCA Pastor in Vancouver, returns to the 17th Century to help us fight modern versions of antinomianism. It’s a fascinating study that has amazing parallels with our own day. I loved the author’s Christological emphasis and also his ability to demonstrate the practical importance of the truths he’s contending for. This book will make you a more accurate theologian, a more careful preacher, and a more holy Christian.

I do wish that we could market the truth a bit more attractively than those who market error! There are no prizes for the least appealing titles and covers!

Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 5.39.35 PMIt’s wonderful to see so many people from so many backgrounds discovering “the doctrines of grace” for the first time. However, not so many yet appreciate the vital historical context nor the rich and varied pastoral applications of these precious truths. Retired pastor, Neil Pronk, remedies this with a superb volume of edifying sermons on the Canons of Dort that demonstrate a unique combination of exegetical, biblical, systematic, historical, and practical theology, and all done in a friendly and accessible manner.

What is Biblical TheologyIn only 120 nicely written pages pages, Dr. Jim Hamilton answers the question, “What is Biblical Theology?” Yes, really, a Biblical Theology that you don’t need a trailer for! It’s not just a basic introduction for beginners though; it’s a refresher on the “Big Story” of the Bible, with multiple fresh insights along the way. Read this book and you’ll become a better reader of THE Book. You’ll be especially helped to see the connections between the Old and New Testaments. And there’s a prize if you can figure out the cover picture!


Check out

First Lines of Theology Books
Fred Sanders asks: “What’s the best opening line of a theology book? The worst? As I wondered, I reached out and pulled down from the shelves the best-known texts I could see from my desk. Here’s what I came up with.”

My Ministry Is Harder Than Yours (and other lies we tell)
Mez McConnell commiserates with pastors laboring among the wealthy middle class.

Calvinism: Latte? Cappuccino? Americano?
Paul Helm surveys the present smorgasbord of Calvinism that’s on offer in various churches.

Raising Kids in a Sex-Filled Culture
How to protect without overprotecting.

Stories of God’s Grace: Meet Derrick


Children’s Bible Reading Plan

Here’s this week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

The second year of morning and evening readings in Word and pdf.

The first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

The daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books.

Old Testament

New Testament