I learned about Jordan Raynor’s new book Redeeming Your Time through my job. We have book clubs a couple of times a year in which we read and discuss books. There were various books to choose from, and the title of this one caught my attention. If there is one thing about my life right now, I am busy and need more time!
The book contains seven purposeful, present, and wildly productive principles. These are taken primarily from the life of Jesus, which Raynor then derives principles and practices for greater productivity. I appreciate that he begins by setting the tone that he wants Christians to have “grace-based productivity” instead of “works-based productively.” He means that our true identity and worth are not found in what we do but in who we are in Christ. He also guards against legalism by offering many different ways to put the principles into action, without saying his methods are the best. Therefore, the reader can choose how to practice the principles without feeling the burden of legalism. This review will share the one principle that I connected with most and a few practices that I found helpful. The book contains seven principles and thirty-two practices.
The one principle that I most connected with was found in chapter 4, called Prioritize Your Yeses. The principle in this chapter was, “To redeem our time in the model of our Redeemer, we must decide what matters most and allow those choices to prioritize our commitments.” My commitments in life are with my family, work, and church. In each of these realms of life, there are things that I must prioritize. For example, I often receive multiple emails each day with requests at work. It is easy to think that my priority is the newest email I receive, but that is not an effective use of my time. He explains, “Most people are reactive rather than proactive with their time and priorities.” I find this is true in my life, and sometimes it is necessary, such as when there is an urgent request. The goal is to identify what matters most on the to-do list at any given time. I found this helpful way to think through priorities that may change with each given day.
There were many practical actions in this book. The first one that I found helpful is the idea of choosing a “single commitment tracking system.” This system helps collect and track all open loops until they are closed. I currently use a tracking system (TickTick) but what I found helpful was this idea of tracking every “open loop.” He defines these open loops as “a commitment you have made to yourself or others.” He argued that our brains could not take a break when we do not track these loops, leading to anxiety and stress. I found this to be accurate as I often rely on my unreliable memory and feel a bit of stress when I remember that I forgot to fulfill a commitment that I made. Writing these down allows my brain to rest and then engage with that activity when I work through my to-do list. I often think about how many open loops I have, and I am starting to put them in my tracking system so I can complete them later.
The second practical tip was the “two-minute rule.” If it takes two minutes or less, do it right now. If it takes more time, put it in the tracking system. This concept is so simple yet so helpful. I think about this often during my day. For example, will it take me two minutes or less to respond when I check emails? If so, I respond quickly. This practice has helped me be more productive as I complete tasks rapidly instead of allowing them to build up.
The last practical tip I found helpful was saying “no” graciously. Saying “no” can be challenging because of people-pleasing and a desire to want to serve others. The difficulty is that we cannot say “yes” to everything. Each “yes” is a “no” to something else, so each commitment has a cost. One of his responses to saying “no” was to talk about how one is “fully committed” so they cannot meet, but instead could give another way to help the person. I found this helpful at my work, where I recently had to decline a meeting but offered to help answer any questions by email.
There was one part of the book that I found was weak, which was how he used Jesus’ life as an example of his principles. At times, he took some liberty in his interpretation and application. For example, he used an example from Mark 1:29-38 to describe how Jesus would say “no” to more healing because he had to preach. This verse was used to show how Jesus prioritized his life; therefore, our lives should resemble that in setting priorities. Although the observation of Jesus’ life is valid, I think we need to be careful in making those prescriptive for our lives. The connection to model our lives after Jesus for being productive goes further than I would in an application. There is an important distinction between Jesus’ life as he fulfilled his redeeming work to save sinners compared to the idea of redeeming our time.
Overall, this book was beneficial. The great thing about this book is that there are many ideas that one could take and apply without using everything. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how to be more productive for the glory of God and the good of others. One of my favorite quotes is how he ends the book, “…the gospel frees us from the need to be productive. God doesn’t need us to finish our to-do lists. He loves and accepts us no matter how many good things we do and no matter how productive we are.” This quote is a great way to remember our human limitations and rest found in Jesus.
If you read this book and want to interact with the content, my coworker Lisa LaGeorge has created a discussion guide for each chapter. You can find it on her blog here.