I know what it’s like to be appallingly scattered and distracted.
When I’m not clear on exactly what to do, I procrastinate like it’s my passion.
I find ways to escape.
Sometimes it’s with videos. Others, it’s through meaningless ‘busy’ tasks like planning my future, even though I’ve ‘planned my future’ several times in the last week.
When I’m not productive, it creates a spiral of inaction. Seeing fewer results and wins reduces my motivation even further.
We’ve created a system in which nothing matters. We want to do everything. So we assign equal value to everything we want to do.
Viewing all our tasks as equally important means nothing happens because nothing matters the most.
All is not lost. Things can change. We can change how we do things by asking the right questions.
“A prudent question is one half of wisdom.” ~Francis Bacon
Questions help because they dig straight to the root. They expose the truth and guide you with clarity.
Knowing what we’re doing, and why, will make doing things easier. Without clarity, things are muffled, and you are swinging in the dark.
We can all refine our process, no matter what level we’re at. It always starts with asking the right questions.
Here are 17. Some will overlap. All will help.
Feel free to use these as spurs for your own questions. Comment below on anything you might add.
With regards to your working/creative life in general:
Q) What are some moments in the past where I found myself immersed in the work, in a state of flow, losing track of time?
Q) What was it about the nature of the work, environment, or the state you were in at the time that contributed to your energy and focus in those moments?
Understanding the things that bring you to life; that engage you, is crucial.
How might you bring these conditions to future projects?
Q) What are three to five topics about which you consistently get fired up or emotional?
Might these things be areas you could bring into your work?
Q) You currently have several projects, tasks, hobbies, activities, habits, and areas of focus that take up your precious time and attention. If you had to cut one of them out of your life entirely, at least for the time being, what would it be?
What gets the chop?
Be ruthless here. This is your life we’re talking about here — a life of energy and focus.
Feel free to list out all your main areas of focus first, to get a sense of what’s on the table. Remember, when cutting things out to improve your attention, you can always come back to it down the line. Many of these might just be taking up real estate in your mind, and are equally worthy of elimination.
Q) Is there anyone who consistently sucks the energy out of me or negatively impacts my ability to reach my full potential?
What can I do to limit or cut out interaction with this person/people?
This might merely be the commitment to limit your interaction and to allow that person to drift away from you subtly, or it might be a firmer cut through a conversation.
This isn’t always easy, but if they are affecting your well-being, it is one of the most important things you can do. Rather than trying to satisfy everyone, find those people who improve you.
Don’t dwell on those who can’t help you. Focus on those who add value to your life and see how you can add value to theirs.
Q) Could I cut anything else out of my life that I could live without, even if doing so would initially be painful?
It’s not ‘quitting’ if it helps you put more time and energy into the things that matter the most.
Perhaps it’s another project that you’re working on, like building a website, that is not essential right now, or that can be delegated, watching too much Netflix, or spending too much time at the gym.
Keep doing this until only the essential is left.
Q) If I had to choose one project, business or career specialisation that I had to put at least 80% of my working time into, what would it be?
This way, you stay predominantly focused on one thing — your main dish — while allowing you time if needed for side projects, like writing a children’s book, making short films — allocated to the 20%.
Q) What are some of my successes over the past year, no matter how small, to which I can refer for motivation?
List them out, and get into the habit of noting your wins each day. Knowing that I can get results encourages me to build on them through productive work. This awareness makes a difference.
With regards to specific projects or tasks:
Q) What is today’s highest priority task, that must get done?
Q) What are three other high-priority tasks that get done today?
(Try out my planner: ‘Book of Lift,’ which helps you write down answers for at least these two questions each day)
Q) What are three of the best reasons for doing this task?
Q) Why does this task/project matter more than the others right now, and if not, is this worth doing at all?
Q) What is the most significant impediment to me completing this task (or my work in general)?
What can you do to address this issue, most effectively?
Are there other things that hold you back from completing the task efficiently? If so, can they be eliminated or reduced?
Q) If I had to decide on one key goal (Apex Goal) that I will complete — no matter what — within three months, even if I achieved nothing else in that time, what would it be?
Q) What is one thing I can do every day, to move a step closer to that goal?
How will I ensure this ‘step’ gets done, no matter what?
Q) What is a bad habit I can replace with a good habit that would improve my focus, energy or productivity the most effectively, starting today?
Q) What is one challenge I could take on every day for the next thirty days that would make a significant impact on my daily productivity?
By challenge, this can be something that stretches you a little or a lot, such as writing three hundred words each day, at a particular time, to a timer, without fail.
Something small is excellent because it will often lead to continued momentum into other things (like a page of writing).
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To get laser-focused on what matters to you daily, get your Book of Lift here — my unconventional planner book.