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“How can I be more productive?”

It’s a question that many of us ask ourselves without realizing that the question, as stated, is impossible to answer. Just as I prefer achievable goals, I prefer answerable questions.

Here are 50+ better questions to ask than “how to be more productive.” (Tweet this) Some are different ways of saying the same things, but that’s a good thing.

  1. What specific kinds of activities (writing, coding, painting, speaking) would you like to do more of?
  2. What specific outcomes do you want more of?
  3. Are you working at the right time for the right projects? (Read this piece on working at the right time.)
  4. Are you working too long or too short of a time for certain tasks? (Read this piece on work zones.)
  5. What’s the next step that needs to happen to move a key project forward?
  6. Are you trying to be more effective (i.e., doing the right things) or more efficient (i.e., doing things right)? Note: it makes no sense to get better at doing the wrong things.
  7. What 1-3 things would you like to have done (today, this week, this month, this quarter, this year)?
  8. What project, if completed, would likely have the most impact?
  9. What project, if completed, would bring in more cashflow? (Read more on the 3 goals of any business activity.)
  10. What could you do to get momentum on your oldest active project?
  11. Does the project actually need to be done or is it something you committed to in the past?
  12. Is it a project that’s really worth doing or is it another bright, shiny object? (What’s the difference?)
  13. Have you tried working on this project in a different environment?
  14. Is there someone who can help you with this project or who might enjoy doing pieces of it with you?
  15. Are you sleeping, eating, and exercising enough?
  16. What frogs are on your list and which would feel the best to have done? (Frogs are those dreaded tasks we don’t want to do; read more about the power of handling frogs here.)
  17. Are you confusing something’s being simple with its being easy?
  18. What’s the most effective thing you can do with two focused hours of creative work?
  19. What are the specific obstacles keeping you from completing the work you have in front of you?
  20. Are you beginning your action items with verbs? (Read more on writing effective action lists.)
  21. What’s on the list that you don’t care about and that others don’t care about that you can stop doing? (Hat tip to Michael Bungay Stanier and Do More Great Work)
  22. What item on the list feels the least like work?
  23. Is there a different approach to the work that might make it easier to do?
  24. Why is each item on the list important and relevant for some significant project you’re working on?
  25. If you’re being interrupted, is there something you can do to prevent the interruptions?
  26. If you’re allowing yourself to be distracted, what can you do to minimize the opportunity for distraction?
  27. Is there something you can do today to prepare yourself for a more productive work session in the future?
  28. Have you taken a real break?
  29. Are you using S.M.A.R.T. goals?
  30. Are you clear on what the priority of the work is?
  31. Which items have an external and relevant deadline?
  32. Which item, if undone, would have the biggest ripple effect on the key projects you’re working on?
  33. What’s nagging at you and is there any way to actually address it?
  34. What specific tool, information, support, or motivation do you need to do the work?
  35. Are you acknowledging that it’s time to roll up your sleeves and just get it done?
  36. What are you wanting to do with the time you gain? Is the juice worth the squeeze?
  37. Is the project sunk, and if so, what’s keeping you from letting it go?
  38. Have you celebrated what you have done?
  39. How much is it costing you to not do an item on the list, and are you willing to accept that cost?
  40. What have you done lately that was fun or play?
  41. Have you tried planning out what needs to be done? (Our planners help.)
  42. Would chunking your project down into smaller parts help?
  43. Do you actually believe that you can complete the projects you’ve committed to?
  44. Have you confused No with Not Now?
  45. Are your eyes forward?
  46. If you had your way, what would you work on right now?
  47. What completed project would move you closer to a promotion or the next level in your profession?
  48. Is there a project that only needs a little bit of your time, energy, and attention before you can hand it off to somebody else?
  49. What could you get done in the next 30 minutes that would either check an important block or make headway towards doing so?
  50. Have you grabbed a pen and paper and gotten out of your office for an hour or so to spend some time purposefully thinking rather than mindlessly doing?
  51. Have you determined what “enough for today” looks like?
  52. What matters now?

That’s 52 that I can think of off the top of my head and I’m sure I’ll think of some more.

What questions do you ask yourself that really help you get going?

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