It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day and just do everything as if on autopilot, without much thought for the bigger issues at stake. I have personally been in hyperbusy mode the past few weeks. In addition to this thrice-weekly column and producing a weekly radio show, I have been driving a major initiative for a new client and readying for teaching three interactive sessions at GrowCo.
There have been lots of 18-hour days. The hard work is lots of fun and very productive, but it can often feel a bit crazy as well. I keep my priorities straight in times like this with 6 simple questions that keep everything on track, including my sanity.
Throughout each packed day, I reference this list of questions and recenter to make sure I am working at my best and accomplishing in a highly productive manner. Asking yourself these questions in busy times will help you stay focused, humble, and on target.
1. Why am I here?
This isn’t a big, abstract existential question. I mean it in an immediate, practical sense. What brought me to the place(s) I am today? Motivation is key when times are hectic. I want to remind myself why I am excited to do this work and stretch myself. There are many motivating factors at play. Money, people, accomplishment, and fun all motivate me to work hard and do great work. Keeping these motivators at the forefront of my brain makes me smile and provides satisfaction with each completion. Understanding clearly how the choices I make in the heat of the moment lead to my preferred destiny helps me drive through the most challenging of times with purpose and resolve.
2. What more should I do?
It seems odd to ask what more you can do when things are already hectic and jammed. But this question helps me identify what I might be missing in my current plan. There may be additional places where my skills and abilities will make the most difference to a project’s getting done successfully. Perhaps there are issues I have been ignoring in which my attention is needed and for which I can make a positive impact. It is actually more important to ask this question on the days that I feel overworked, because it will help me analyze where I should possibly change the force of my efforts.
3. What can I let go?
When things are moving fast, priorities can change in a day or even an instant. It’s important to reassess and make sure the tasks on my plate are the right ones for me. Some tasks that were high priority may be less important now after new data. Or others on the team may more efficiently accomplish them. Any time I can remove tasks from my list, I free up time and energy for more productive use. I can take that energy and put it toward something worthwhile. This is also a good question for clearing my head emotionally. I use this question to isolate any stress or frustration I am feeling during the day. Letting go of unproductive thoughts and feelings clears the way for a better flow of mental energy.
4. How can I be more efficient?
Necessity is the mother of invention, and I often create my best management and productivity routines when I am crazy busy. During the brief lulls of the day, I will often step back and try to find shorter, more efficient ways to complete my to-do list. Much of my creative energy is used on this question. I have no sacred cows when it comes to process. If I can find a better and faster way to accomplish something, or someone else can show me one, I will quickly change over. I love to get things accomplished, and each new efficiency creates a mental high and a smile.
5. Whom should I thank?
I am constantly aware and appreciative of the dedicated and talented people around me who do great work and contribute to our overall success. But when things are going fast, I sometimes forget to tell them how much I am grateful for their contribution. It doesn’t matter if they are people directly on my team or outsiders who stepped up to contribute. I must prioritize making them feel appreciated for their efforts. They deserve the thanks and acknowledgment more than I deserved the support.
6. How should I start tomorrow?
I generally don’t wait until the end of the day to ask this question. It’s true that every day brings its own unique challenges, and too much forward thinking can distract from the current day’s needs. But a little forward planning can ease your mind and allow you to set up structures that may make tomorrow even more productive. Waiting until 8 p.m. might prohibit having everything ready to go on a new initiative or getting others involved first thing. That being said, I will ask this again at the end of the day as I make my to-do list for tomorrow, so I can free my brain for a great night’s sleep.
You don’t have to be crazy busy to get value from these daily questions. On the slowest of days, they will help you center your mind so you can be confident, mentally free, and fully appreciative of the things you, as well as the people around you, do.