The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction, By Justin Whitmel Earley alt

The Common Rule

Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction

Expanded Edition

by Justin Whitmel Earley

The Common Rule
  • Length: 216 pages
  • Published: March 14, 2023
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: A0693
  • ISBN: 9781514006931

*affiliate partner

Create a Gospel-Centered Rule of Life

Habits form us more than we form them. The modern world is a machine of invisible habits, forming us into anxious, busy people. We yearn for the freedom of the gospel but remain shackled by our screens and exhausted by our routines.

The answer is a rule of life that aligns our habits to our beliefs. The Common Rule's four daily and four weekly habits transform frazzled days into lives of love for God and neighbor. IJustin Earley provides:

  • doable, life-giving practices to find freedom and rest for your soul
  • expanded content including study guide questions for individual reflection and group discussion, and
  • practical, accessible resources for building habits that bring life.

"Creation is full of holy rhythms of life. There is a way to live that honors and embodies these rhythms. The Common Rule is a beautiful, inviting resource that helps us do just that. It is an important guide to living more deeply rooted in God's life-giving kingdom."

Alan Fadling, president and founder, Unhurried Living

"One of the biggest problems among believers today is their lack of discipline. Consequently, they do not live up to the expectations of Jesus as we can see in the decreasing morality in our country. The Common Rule presents a common-sense discipline that any follower of Jesus could use to become a joyful missionary disciple."

Michael Timmis, former chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries, member of the board of Alpha International and The New Canaan Society

"Habitually choosing what is best over and above what is loud and urgent has never been more difficult than in a culture of perpetual distraction. 'But where do I begin?' people ask. In this book, Justin Earley offers the answer. Follow his lead, and you will find much of your life handed back to you."

John Stonestreet, president of The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview

"It is encouraging to see a new generation of Christians wrestling with the formative power of habits and rituals. Our patterns of life shape our attitudes and actions more than we may realize. The Common Rule urges us to consider our habits in a new light and to embrace a new way of life in which we self-consciously limit ourselves in order to pursue what is best for us and for our neighbors."

Trevin Wax, director for Bibles and reference at LifeWay Christian Resources, author of This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel

"Although I'm a church leader who has known the Lord for decades, I struggle to find space in my days to actually abide in Christ. Instead, I'm tethered to the demands that barrage me through my smartphone. The Common Rule offers a practical way back—not only for individuals but also for churches and small groups."

Karen Heetderks Strong, senior director, The Falls Church Anglican, Falls Church, Virginia

"Books are not meant to be just read. The good ones move you. The great ones change you. I'm now a fan of Justin Whitmel Earley. He's done something that is not so common: he teaches us eight habits that not only change our own lives but more importantly change the lives of those who choose to follow us."

Tommy Spaulding, author of The Heart-Led Leader and It's Not Just Who You Know

"Justin Earley offers a lifeline to every busy, smartphone addicted, distracted person on earth. In his deeply personal and immensely practical book, he inspires us to find a rhythm that will support our most life-giving relationship of all—our friendship with Jesus."

Ken Shigematsu, pastor of Tenth Church, Vancouver, BC, author of Survival Guide for the Soul

"In the spirit of Richard Foster, Eugene Peterson, and so many other reflective authors, this book on the common rule is an exciting contribution to the family God. Each of us needs and longs for a path to deepen our sense of being in this world. So many Christian writers just give us one more self-help book. The Common Rule breaks that mold and serves as a call to deeper intimacy with God."

Gary Bradley, The Navigators

"Justin Whitmel Earley's honest walk through anxiety gives hope to anyone who needs a new way. The Common Rule becomes an accessible way to move forward in your walk with Christ, whether battling anxiety or simply wanting to find Christ at the center of your life. Earley's fresh look at a liturgical life comes off the page and into your daily life. This book is a refreshing reminder that community, shared meals, fasting, praying, silence, and rest all have deep effects on our lives. In a society of fast food and split families, the return to the table is more important than ever. Earley lived the fast-paced world of no margin where everyone has free access to his life, yet in the pages of this book, we see he has found another way–another way for us all."

Diana M. Shiflett, pastor of spiritual formation, Naperville Covenant Church, author of Spiritual Practices in Community

"When someone asks how you're doing and you always find yourself answering, "So busy and crazy," it might be time for a change. The Common Rule offers practical wisdom on how to slowly but deliberately restructure our lives, and it shows us that when we embrace limitations, we paradoxically gain the freedom we long for."

John Dyer, author of From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology

"I'm thankful for the Common Rule because it is a practical tool to save me from the tyranny of machine-like productivity. The book and practices remind me that I am a human being and not a human doing. Read this book and save yourself from the tyranny!"

David M. Bailey, executive director of Arrabon, coauthor of Race, Class, and the Kingdom of God

"In the present age, we are settling to be informed when the call is to be transformed. I'm no Luddite, but we must rethink the way technology and busyness are affecting our loves. The Common Rule not only has incredible practical advice for daily and weekly rhythms, it also opens our eyes to see the water we're swimming in. Every church should consider using this as a resource for formation."

AJ Sherrill, author of Enneagram and the Way of Jesus, lead pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan

"This is a wonderfully practical book. But even more, it is a beautiful one—full of glimpses of the life we were made for and the simple choices that can take us in that direction. The habits described here and the wisdom they embody are the path toward sanity in a frenetic world."

Andy Crouch, author of The Tech-Wise Family and Culture Making

"The Common Rule is an engaging, relevant, and transforming guide for cultivating spiritual discipline amid the distractions and attractions of life and the daily pressures and challenges of just getting by. The spiritual practices Justin offers are not simply habits and forms adapted for modern life but are habits and forms developed in the painful crucible of personal experience. This book is worth reading and its ways worth pursuing."

Ron Nikkel, president emeritus, Prison Fellowship International

"I love the practicality of this book. Justin Whitmel Earley understands and embodies the reality that we show what we love and value by the daily habits of our lives."

Mark Scandrette, author of Free and Practicing the Way of Jesus, and coauthor of Belonging and Becoming

"With his precise plan, Earley instructs Christians on how to create an environment for a healthy spiritual life."

Publishers Weekly


Introduction: Discovering the Freedom of Limitations

Part 1: How to Practice the Common Rule
What Is a Rule?
The Eight Habits of the Common Rule

Part 2: The Daily and Weekly Habits
Daily Habit 1: Kneeling Prayer at Morning, Midday, and Bedtime
Daily Habit 2: One Meal with Others
Daily Habit 3: One Hour with Phone Off
Daily Habit 4: Scripture Before Phone
Weekly Habit 1: One Hour of Conversation with a Friend
Weekly Habit 2: Curate Media to Four Hours
Weekly Habit 3: Fast from Something for Twenty-Four Hours
Weekly Habit 4: Sabbath
Epilogue: On Failure and Beauty

Habits in a Nutshell
Trying One Habit of the Common Rule
Trying a Week of the Common Rule
Trying a Month of the Common Rule
The Common Rule for Congregations
A Prayer for Those Trying the Common Rule Habits
The Common Rule as a Rule of Life
The Common Rule for Different Walks of Life

Questions for Reflection and Discussion


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Justin Whitmel Earley

Justin Whitmel Earley (JD, Georgetown University) is the creator of The Common Rule, a program of habits designed to form us in the love of God and neighbor. He is also a mergers and acquisitions lawyer in Richmond, Virginia. He previously spent several years in China as the founder and general editor of The Urbanity Project and as the director of Thought and Culture Shapers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the community through arts. He and his wife, Lauren, have four sons and live in Richmond, Virginia.

Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction

Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction

"When someone asks how you're doing and you always find yourself answering, "So busy and crazy," it might be time for a change. The Common Rule offers practical wisdom on how to slowly but deliberately restructure our lives, and it shows us that when we embrace limitations, we paradoxically gain the freedom we long for." - John Dyer, author of From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology

Learn the 8 Habits of the Common Rule

Learn the 8 Habits of The Common Rule

Justin Whitmel Earley explains the simple daily and weekly habits that can transform your life and faith.

Discover The Common Rule for different walks of life: skeptics, parents, the workplace, artists & creatives, entrepreneurs, addicts, and those dealing with mental illness.

Earley draws from personal experience of burnout and addiction to share what transformed his habits and brought him into deeper faith.

Discovering the Freedom of Limitations

How to Practice the Common Rule

How to Practice the Common Rule

What is a rule? What are the eight habits of The Common Rule?

Develop Daily Habits

Develop Daily Habits

Learn to recognize & break bad habits as liturgies of wrong belief:

Habit: Wake up exhausted again, because I never get to bed on time.

Liturgy of Wrong Belief: I am not a creature; I am infinite. My body will be fine. I am a god.

Develop Weekly Habits

Develop Weekly Habits

See how your habits and routines correspond to two different spectrums: Love of God & Love of Neighbor.