The single most important question I ask myself to be productive

I often get asked about my philosophy around getting things done. To the outside, it often seems that I’m uber-productive and constantly doing stuff. While I certainly am, I noticed that it’s really dangerous to fall into the trap of being in a state where it "feels productive to be busy." Busy in itself doesn’t get anything done. When you say you are busy, you can either find yourself in the state of achieving a ton, or in a state where you are not achieving anything at all. So how do you make sure you are actually productive?

One of my approaches actually being productive lies in a task and a question that goes with it. 

The task is simple. I make myself aware of the key task(s) at hand. The emphasis here is on “key.” I might be working on a gazillion projects, but each project is at a different level of importance. As part of this task, I make sure I’m aware of the projects that are important and really need my focus. These are often the ones that are a bit more advanced and have thus taken shape. While I keep nurturing the lesser important projects, I make sure the more important ones are on top of my mind! 

With that, I then ask myself a very simple question. "What have I done today to reach my goal?"

I remember a partnership that I was renegotiating at work. Just by itself it was an important partnership. What made it even more important back then was the fact that we were working against a deadline and that there were a lot of technical details I had to consider. I was running against time and became increasingly worried about my ability to succeed. In order to ensure that we were making progress, I woke up each day wondering what I would do on that very day to ensure that we made progress. By the end of the day, I would then ask myself in retrospective what I had done for us to be successful. 

It is a simple question (and a simple task that goes hand in hand with it), but the task helps you put your attention to the right projects and the question helps you make sure not a single day goes by without you doing a step into the direction of success. 

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