We can improve our productivity by asking the right questions of ourselves.
What are some productive questions you can ask yourself?
This week when searching for something on the internet, I came across a post called “The Power of Asking Yourself Questions.” The article itself is behind a paywall, so I couldn’t read the whole thing, but the “teaser” on the home page caught my attention. The writer said,
“Humans have an incredible capacity to reflect on their own self--their thoughts, emotions, habits, and relationships. It’s exactly this self-awareness that makes us so intelligent and gives us the ability to adapt to our environment so effectively.”
I agree with the concept. To me, one of the keys to a meaningfully productive life, a life that matters, is awareness. It’s so easy to go through life on autopilot, reacting to things that happen to us and around us, and then look back and think, “Well, that wasn’t how I meant to live my life!”
Anything we can do to raise our own awareness in any given moment is, I think, a good thing for those of us who want to be productive in the best senses of that word. When we are aware, we can then exercise the other key to meaningful productivity: intentionality. Choosing on purpose how to show up in the world, what to do with the precious life we’ve been given. Here are some questions that can be helpful in that process.
What am I grateful for?
As we’ve discussed before (e.g., see TPW167 and TPW270), grateful people tend to be happier, healthier, and more productive. For many of us--me included--gratitude has to be intentionally cultivated. I try to ask myself this question first thing in the morning, and then throughout the day whenever I find myself getting angry or frustrated or discouraged or down. Pausing for a moment to ask myself this question can prevent the negative thoughts from taking over and spiraling me down into a bad day.
What’s the most important thing today?
This question helps us focus. On any given day, there probably are lots of things on our to-do list, many commitments and obligations and needs and interests calling for our attention. It’s a valuable exercise to review, early in the day, our calendar and lists and make sure we have a handle on it all. But when we do that quick review, stopping just for a second to ask this question can help us evaluate, adjust, and move forward with intention and purpose. This is similar to Gary Keller’s question in his great book, The ONE Thing: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
What’s one thing I can do today to be better?
I think of what we talked about last week from Atomic Habits, the idea of improving just 1%. We’re not shooting for perfection in any area of our lives, but as long as we’re alive we can keep growing, improving, expanding our scope and abilities. Pick any area of your life: what’s one thing I can do today to be a better lawyer, writer, wife, mom, believer, citizen, friend, human? Depending on the area of your life you choose to focus on, some examples might be:
* Send a note, an email, or a quick text to a friend you know is going through a hard time, or that you haven’t connected with in a while,