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I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve spent most of my life without focus.

Most days begin in disarray, with the rest of the day spent putting the pieces back together. But there have been days and phases where focus has returned. Beyond sticking to my oft-repeated mantra of doing one thing at a time with enjoyment as the key to productivity, I owe much personal focus to asking practical questions.

As Voltaire once said:

“Judge someone by their questions rather than their answers.”

Questions hold tremendous power because they prompt in us our greatest strength as humans: creativity.

Here are some questions you can ask each day to increase your focus and help you prioritize the things that truly matter:

1. What one thing will I make happen within five years that matters more than anything?

Note: See how powerful narrowing it down to a single item is? Most of us make the mistake of giving ourselves too many options, which leads to decision paralysis, confusion and less action. Singularity of focus on one thing, even if there are several other secondary goals, makes life easier and is motivating.

2. What one thing will I make happen within one year that matters more than anything?

3. What one thing will I make happen within one month that matters more than anything?

4. What is one thing I can do to start this day positively that matters more than the rest?

5. What is one thing I can do today that will simplify my life by at least 1%?

Note: while most people are accumulating more things and adding complexity into their environments, you can do differently. You can subtract with the specific intention of making life easier and thus increasing your performance and focus. For example, what could you throw out to declutter your work environment? Or perhaps you need to cancel a project stressing you out so you can focus on fewer things that bring you energy?

6. What will I ensure gets done today that further develops my primary craft/skill/mastery, which matters more than anything else in this area?

Note: Choose something that gets completed in its entirety, such as recording a ten-minute video, reading ten pages of a book, sketching a drawing that takes twenty minutes, 30 minutes of training in the gym, or 500 fiction words written to contribute to your novel.

When exactly will this get done?

Don’t forget––this is your most important task. This has to be done, so protect the time dedicated to this as a non-negotiable.

7. What are three additional tasks that must get done today, if any, that will make this day worthwhile?

List them in order of importance, starting with the most important at the top. Be aware of your longer-term goals as you do this, so your tasks align with the longer-term vision. Work through them one by one, without distractions. If you start on the hardest one, you will be rewarded with energy that can sustain you through the rest of the tasks.

8. Who are three people (or more) I will connect with today to generate opportunities in my life in the areas that matter most today?

Note: one of the most often overlooked and neglected parts of our lives is the network we build around us to not only support our businesses and careers but for additional sources of human capital in the form of guidance, mentorship, advice, and well-being. Write the names down, and tick them off as you contact them in whatever way is most effective.

9. What is one thing I could do to enrich my social life which matters more than anything else today?

We can neglect our social lives with a heavy prioritization of our work. Still, we forget that by regularly filling up our “social tank,” we are ultimately nourishing our needs and thus improving our focus on all areas of life.

10. What will I do today that scares me, takes me out of my comfort zone, that I know will improve me and my life?

Eleanor Roosevelt once said:

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

I include this in a list of focusing questions because we underestimate the value of doing more hard things as a habit. When we do things that make us tackle a challenge, we are rewarded––both in energy and relief, but also in solutions and benefits that reflect courage having been taken.

For example, recording a thank you video for a client may not immediately instill enthusiasm in you, but how might doing so improve your relationship with the said client?

11. What big ask will I make today?

Ask for something that most wouldn’t usually dare ask. What could you ask, from whom, that could lead to a significant opportunity? You might be surprised at what happens when you just ask.

Over to you.

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