Magic Questions to keep you on track all day

by Lisa Rothstein on 12/21/2010

questionsIt’s so easy to get distracted and let the day get away from you. You’re busy all day and at the end of it you’ve gotten nothing meaningful accomplished. Worse, you didn’t even have any fun. In C.S. Lewis’  The Screwtape Letters, a demon gleefully describes a soul newly arrived in Hell lamenting “I now see that I spent most of my life doing neither what I ought, nor what I liked.”  Sounds like last week to me.

The best way to get yourself on track is not push, but pull — with the right questions. Questions fly in under the radar of your resistance and the true answers present themselves in stark contrast to the false and murky haze of negative thought habits and what’s right in front of your nose.

Morning questions: First thing, before you get caught up in the whirl of to-dos and the demands of others, ask yourself any of the following  questions. What would make this a great day? What are the three most important things I’d like to get done today? What am I most  looking forward to today? The great thing is, your mind will come up with an answer. If you can’t think of anything, ask “What could I look forward to if I wanted to ?”  Your mind will be set up to focus on what matters.

During the day: Alan Lakein, the author of the 1973 How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life is credited with coining the classic question, “What is the best use of my time right now?”  It’s so famous, it’s known as Lakein’s Question. Ask yourself this one often during the day. When I ask it when I’m farting around on Facebook, lingering on the phone with someone I didn’t want to talk to in the first place who just won’t say goodbye, or brooding over past woulda coulda shouldas, it’s an instant wake-up call.

The surprising thing is, the answer isn’t always necessarily more work. It might be to get out from behind the computer and take a walk, hug your spouse or pick up your guitar from behind the couch and strum a few chords.

Can’t remember to ask? Set up an anchor — everytime you see the color red, or hear a car pass outside, or even (ahem) take a bathroom break.

End of the day: Time to take stock and celebrate.”What did I learn today?” “What did I accomplish today?” “What am I proud of today?” and most importantly: “What did I enjoy today?” This will take you mind off what didn’t get done and refocus you on the things that are most important to you.

Activity: Pick your favorites of these questions and add any of your own. Then put them on index cards or Post-its where you’ll see them. Decide on an anchor that will remind you to ask them thorughout the day.

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