Q is for Questions.
Okay, I'll admit it: choosing a productivity topic for the letter Q wasn't the easiest of tasks.
However, when trying to pin down what you need to do, or how you should organize your work, it can be helpful to think through any of a number of generic questions. They don't always give you the answer directly, but help you to frame the issue differently and hopefully gain a new perspective on it.
So here are seven questions to get you started. If any of them strike a chord, then you might want to scribble them down on a post-it note or a 3"x5" index card and stick it somewhere where you'll notice it when you're next staring into space trying to work out what to do.
- What is the next action?
- When you're thinking about what you need to do for any of your projects, the most important task is the one you need to do next. What's the next step that you need to make to move things forward? Don't worry about stuff further down the road, deal with that when you reach it.
- How do your everyday tasks relate to your long-term goals?
- This isn't a question to ask yourself every day, but one to revisit every few months (maybe around the time you're having a read through your latest productivity report). Reaching your peak productivity is very nice, but if the things you're busy completing don't take you towards where you want to be then getting there quickly doesn't help. Take some time out to think about what you really want to do, and then start to align your projects with that direction. Sometimes directing your life can be a bit like steering a supertanker: you can't always change direction instantly, but need to think ahead and start moving towards your new direction whilst you finish up your current commitments.
- What is the most important thing to do next?
- This sounds like an obvious one, but it's easy to overlook the most important items if they aren't also the most urgent. Some tasks might need to be done today, but it wouldn't be a catastrophe if they weren't done, whereas there might be tasks that aren't due for a week or two, but are vitally important and you need to get started on them now in order to have them finished in time.
- Must this task be done on a specific day?
- When you're writing your list of things to do, there's a strong temptation to assign tasks to specific days. In theory, you plan out your days and then you'll know what needs to be done when. In practice, something new and urgent will crop up and disrupt your best laid plans. That then has a knock-on effect on the rest of your plans. So only write something into your diary on a specific day if it can only be done on that day. Everything else goes on a more general list, so you don't have to waste time every day rewriting the days on which everything will happen.
- What am I avoiding doing?
- This was covered in more detail last week with Procrastination, but asking this question will help you spot the things you're subconsciously avoiding. Attacking the tasks you've been putting off before you move onto anything else is a great way to get your day off to a productive start.
- What are the top 3 things you MUST get done today?
- This helps you focus on the important things you need to do. If you feel that you're getting distracted, then asking this will help you get back on track.
- What do I need to do this task?
- Think about the information you need before you can start this task. Or the tools or materials you'll require. Maybe even the people you need to discuss the task with. This can often unearth other tasks that you need to complete before you can get stuck into this one.
Do you have any questions that you use to help your productivity? Leave them in a comment if you do.