When life is crazy busy it's easy to lose focus. Taking time to ask yourself some key questions can help keep life on track.
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Asking questions can make us more aware–and more productive
One practice I find important to living a productive life is mindfulness — being aware of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and making purposeful choices. It’s possible to be busy, but not productive.
A tool I use to be more mindful and intentional is to ask myself some questions during the course of my day or week, bringing my attention to how I’m living.
I tend to ask questions that help:
- Zero in on priorities
- Clarify your dreams
- Repair your routines
- Focus your efforts
And the question that drives and motivates us: the “Why” question
Zero in on Priorities
These questions help me zero in on what’s important to me. It’s not just about checking things off the to-do list, but focusing on what’s important to me.
- If I had one month (or year) to live, how would I spend that month/year?
What activities would I focus my time and energy on? This helps prioritize what really matters to us, and what we would want to rise above the noise of everything else.
- How do I want to be known by the people I care about most?
This question was inspired by Michael Hyatt‘s Creating a Personal Life Plan ebook (no longer available). How would these people (children, spouse, parents, etc.) describe you? What kind of person would they say you are, and is that how you want to be remembered?
This helps you focus on the heart of the person you want to be, and may guide you to do the things that person would be doing.
- Who is someone important to me I haven’t spent time with lately?
For me, this is my mom, and I have to be purposeful about using my time to spend with her, for example. You’ll never regret spending time with people when they’re in your life and healthy.
Clarify Your Dreams
When we have a destination in mind, we create that based on our priorities. Where do you want to go? What do you want to accomplish?
- If money were no object and I knew I couldn’t fail, what would I do?
Sometimes the answers can scare you. You may daydream about it and think it’s unattainable. Write it down anyway, and ask yourself “What if I can do it, though?” What if you can do that thing you think is impossible?
You can do some creative daydreaming with someone else to get past those obstacles holding you back from trying to achieve this.
- Brené Brown has asked this question another way: What would I try (or dream of doing) that I would do, even if I knew I would fail?
What is so worth it to you that you would still try, even if you knew you wouldn’t succeed? Maybe “failing” isn’t the right word — like, love, for example. Love is almost always worth the attempt, even when it fails. Relationships are worth it, even though they’re hard and pain can come from them.
- When I look back at my life from my deathbed, what will I wish I had done? What will I regret not having tried?This is a great way to keep perspective on what you’re trying or afraid to try.
Repair Your Routines
Is the way you’re living your life working for you? Or do you need a change?
- What’s the most frustrating thing in my life right now?
Is it an activity? Relationships? System? Tool? Living or working space?
What can I do about it? What are the steps you can take to remove the frustration? Clarify those steps and take action to remove that friction and frustration.
- What’s the biggest time-waster in my life right now?
What are you spending time on that’s taking away from your enjoyment of life? Meetings? Television or social media? Lost or misplaced items? Missed appointments or forgetting what you’re supposed to be doing?
How can you change your routine, system, or tools to help manage your time better? Some helpful tips can be found in Episode 86: 5 Reasons to Change your Productivity System (& 4 Reasons Not To).
- What activity in my life brings me the most joy?
When you look at your schedule, what do you look forward to the most? Can you rearrange appointments and tasks to do more of that, either by delegating, deferring or dropping projects and commitments?
Focus Your Efforts
- If I could only accomplish one thing today, what should it be? (And why?) Focus your energy on completing that task first.
- What step will I take today toward accomplishing one of my goals?
Have you set goals? Have you written them down? Have you reviewed them lately?
Once the first steps of making goals are completed, pick one easy task to do today, right now, that will move you closer to one of your goals.
More tips about setting goals can be found in Episode 4: Setting Goals that Matter.
- Is what I’m doing right now the best use of my time, energy, and attention?
Are you being productive in your efforts? If not, can you delegate your task to focus on another that would better serve your overall goals?
The Most Important Question: Why?
Reviewing the “why” of our actions will keep us focused on productivity and achieving our goals.
- Why am I doing the things I do?
Is it out of habit? Or is it well-thought-out and purposeful? Is it intentional?
Why do we want to do the things we’ve set as goals? Review the reasons for your goals regularly to help remind us why they’re important to us, and it will also keep us going when facing obstacles.
Why are we not doing the things we say we want to do? Are you scared? Do you think you can’t do it?
Reviewing the reasons behind setting your goals whenever you need a reminder why you started.
I hope these questions will help you keep your life on track toward making a life that matters. To help you keep them in mind, feel free to download and print these reminder cards and post them where you'll see them frequently.
What do you think?
Do you ask yourself these questions or other questions to help you get and stay productive? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this episode. Please feel free to ask your questions or share your thoughts with me by emailing me, commenting on our Facebook page or leaving a comment below.
Reminders and Notices
- I’m available to speak at your events — women’s retreats and conferences, productivity workshops, business teams, etc. Send me an email at email@example.com or call me at 972.638.0308.
- Visit the new “Resources” tab at the website. Links to resources we produce, like the project planning template, the digital toolbox, Emily Prokop’s weekly docket, and the decluttering questions tool from episode 83. I'll also be adding info about books and other resources I recommend.
- “7 Questions to Ask Yourself Every Day For Peak Performance”
- “Productivity Questions to Improve Personal Effectiveness”
- “Simple time management – 7 questions to keep it simple”
- “10 Productivity Questions to Ask Yourself Every Day”
- “8 Epic Quora Questions on Productivity and Time Management!”
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