Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. – Albert Einstein
In my years of studying productivity, I’ve found that my greatest asset is to never stop asking questions. It’s led to some of my best work. Asking yourself great questions can do the same for you.
But what questions should you ask? Where do you begin?
Rather than have you search inward for them – or wander around the internet for them – I’ve assembled 3 great questions you can ask yourself for greater personal productivity.
1. The Magic Question
At Think Better Live Better, Scott Rose talked about the power of The Magic Question. Ultimately, it’s a question that moves you forward. No one can say what your Magic Question should be, but it should start with the word “how,” and be as specific as possible.
Here’s an example of a bad Magic Question:
“How do I lose weight?”
A better variation of this would be:
“How do I lose 25 pounds and keep it off?”
Rose suggests you put The Magic Question on a Post-It Note on your bathroom mirror – the first thing you’ll see when you get up in the morning – and that you have no more than 2 of them going at any given time. When you face The Magic Question every day, it pulls you closer to answering it. Your brain actively starts to work on it in the background. That’s why it needs to be somewhere you’ll see it every day when you start your day.
The Magic Question is a great way to start your day with a specific goal at the forefront. But what about the rest of your day? How do you keep giving your intentions the attention they need and want throughout the day?
That’s where the next question helps.
2. What day is it today?
Every morning when you wake up, you know what day it is. (Okay, most of the time you do.) But what meaning does that day have to you? If it’s Tuesday, then what does it mean beyond that?
You need to define your days by theming them. That way whenever you finish a task – or get diverted from the task at hand – you don’t get sidetracked by the question “What do I do now?” or “What do I do next?”. These questions can lead you away from where you need and want to be (or go).
Instead, when you define your days through Time Theming, you can ask yourself a question that has a more personal answer: “What day is it today?”
For example, if you define your Saturday as a Family Day, then you will direct your mind to tackle tasks that are related to things that are family-oriented. If Mondays are defined as Admin Days, then your mind is attracted to administrative tasks and work.
(Work a 9–5 job? You should still theme your days so that you have direction before and after work.)
I talk a lot more about Time Theming in The Productivityist Playbook. Besides Time Theming, it offers strategies, tools, and tactics to help you stop guessing…and start going. You can learn more about it here.
3. “What good shall I do this day?”
Benjamin Franklin did a lot in a day. Everything he did was guided by this question. He had his 13 virtues to guide him as well, but they all fell under the umbrella of this greater question.
He also examined how he did with this question with another question at the end of the day: “What good have I done today?”
One of the ways you can answer this question for yourself is to use The Magic Question as a way to answer what good you will do for yourself today. Then you can expand upon that to offer up what good you will do for others. Chronicle your morning thoughts in a journal of some sort – whether digital or analog – and then look back on your day as you “file your report” in an evening journal entry when you answer what good you did on that day. Don’t forget to share how you did with your Magic Question.
Another thing you can do is title each journal entry with the name of your Daily Theme. That also can guide you when asking yourself Franklin’s first question and can help see if your themes for each day make sense when you wrap your day with your second journal entry. (After all, you may need to shift your Daily Themes over time. This will happen based on life changes or simply because the theme is not working on the day you initially chose.)
The simple practice of asking yourself questions can direct your time, energy, and effort throughout your day. It can keep you on track by ensuring that you are making measurable progress with the things you need to deal with and the things you really want to be doing.
Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?
I have one final question for you: What are you going to start asking yourself today so that you can stop guessing…and start going?
Share it with me in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.
If you’re asking yourself, “How do I work smarter?” then I’ve got something you’ll want to check out. The Work Smarter Summit is a FREE online event running until February 25th. I’m speaking at it with some of the smartest working people out there, including Dan Ariely, Rory Vaden, Todd Henry, Carson Tate, Laura Vanderkam, Cal Newport, and more. You can check out the Work Smarter Summit here.