Asking These 4 Questions Helps Me Focus On What Really Matters

Asking yourself these questions and writing them down can work wonders.

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As a writer, I tend to give myself excuses when I don't get things done:

  • “My time has been consumed by other things.”
  • “I went out too much and glugged one too many beers.”
  • “I need to feel great to write a great article.”
  • “I got a migraine.”

I took my eye off the prize, and I lost that excitement I had for my daily practice. When that happens, I ask myself specific questions.

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Here are 5 questions that help me focus on what matters:

1. What is the one thing that must happen within five years that matters more than anything, and how will I do it?

2. What is the one thing that must happen within one year, that matters more than anything, and how will I do it?

3. What is the one thing that must happen within thirty days, which matters more than anything?

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4. What one thing that must happen every day to take me a step closer to making the above happen, which matters more than anything?

Bonus questions for extra hardcore daily butt-kicking:

5. When will this daily thing be done today?

The article will be written today (and every day), between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. I will write the article from scratch no matter what, with some music and a cup of coffee, no other distractions; phone off. The drawings for the article will be done between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.


6. What will be your work process for that daily thing? Describe the outline:

  • I brainstorm at least five hundred words of free flow.
  • I find the nugget — the central idea — and continue exploring everything I can think about that thing through writing, including the problems and the solutions.
  • I order the main points in the text according to one of my ‘writing ladders,’ starting, for example, with establishing the problem, disproving the alternatives, and showing the solution.
  • I write out the first draft.
  • I edited and tightened up draft two.
  • I add color, detail, extra research, and any humor or voice that might have been lacking in earlier iterations.   

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7. What things can I incorporate into the day that can 10X the results of this one daily process?

  • Meditate for ten minutes before writing.
  • Write notes with a notebook throughout the day and take the best for the next day.
  • Exercise daily and eat better.
  • Reach out to at least three influential people to tell them about the post.
  • Use the Pomodoro Technique to work more intensely and more quickly, in 20-minute sprints, with breaks.
  • Study the top 1% of best article writers out there, and put my twist on what is successful.

8. Which of these matters the most, that I make sure gets done every day?

The Pomodoro Technique, because it means that I get more done, in a more intense flow, more quickly, and I gain the skill of speed. I can, therefore, spend the rest of the day doing other things — in my case, writing a fiction novel. Just by asking myself these questions and writing them down physically, I feel better. All it takes is the commitment to do something and the clarity of how it breaks down. When that’s there, you just do the thing.

Will I miss days doing this? Very likely. Will I allow myself some days off for breaks, holidays, and adventures? Of course. But the focus — both long-term and short-term — is established in a short exercise that shows me what is important right now. And doing what is important every day is a game-changer.

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Alex Mathers is a writer and coach who helps you build a money-making personal brand with your knowledge and skills while staying mentally resilient.