"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser


Stop Wasting Your Time. 5 Questions

You Should Answer Before Starting Work

It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste. -Henry Ford

Are you wasting your time?

Launching into a project without thinking often wastes time. You stay busy doing tasks. But, you don’t get where you really want to go. Here are five questions that will help you avoid idling in place while others are getting ahead.

1. What am I trying to accomplish?

Look past the superficial. Let’s say you are preparing an analysis for the weekly sales meeting. You could focus on getting the numbers just right and producing a dozen slices and dices of the information. The result – everyone knows what’s going on eight ways ‘till Sunday. But, what to do about it?

What if you focused mainly on finding opportunities to grow revenue? Instead of a report that merely informs, you’d stimulate discussion. You’d challenge others to find answers. You’d achieve a higher value accomplishment – galvanizing action.

2. For who is this task producing value?

The task may be producing value for your boss, your customer or society-at-large. Whoever that person is, identify them. Then, ask them how your task helps them.

Find out what they want. Ask them directly. They may have not thought about it in a while. That single question may result in doing things differently and greatly increase the value you generate versus before.

3. How does this activity fit into my long term goals?

Don’t forget to think about your needs. You should be producing value for you, too. This isn’t selfish. It’s investing in your ability to give. Over the long run, you’ll become more capable, more influential and more able to produce value for others. Insist that the activities you spend time on support your long term goals.

4. If all I did today was this task, how would I feel at the end of the day?

Even if a task supports your goals, sometimes those goals don’t support your well-being. If you can’t feel good about how you spend your day, where are you? You’re probably on the wrong path. Get off that path and find the one that supports you in feeling alive and resourceful.

5. What is the best way to get the job done?

You’ve answered the first four questions. You know what you’re trying to do. You know who you’re doing it for. You know that you’re personally motivated to do it. All that remains is how to do it.

Challenge yourself to think outside the box. Is there a faster way? A cheaper way? An outsourced way? A funner way? A more scientific approach? Make getting the job done a game. Enjoy the process as much as you can.

Try these questions out before tackling any project that takes 3 hours or more. You’ll find the extra five to ten minutes invested pays off handsomely in the outcome you get.

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