The Most Productive Question (You Sure Can Use This)

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Hey everyone, Kosio Angelov here, founder of High Performance Lifestyle. In today’s training, I’m going to give you the most productive question ever. It’s a question that’s going to force you, in a positive way, to be more productive. It’s a question that’s going to make you think in a more efficient way, in a more action-oriented way, which is going to boost your productivity.

But before we get to the question, I want to give you a little background story so you understand exactly what the logic behind the question is and how you can implement it to boost your productivity and boost your success.

Actions vs Projects

It’s almost common knowledge that if you want to be more productive, more efficient, more effective, if you want to be successful, you have to have a to-do list. It’s almost a minimum requirement, if you want to call yourself “productive”, to have a to-do list.

The problem comes from the items that we sometimes add to our to-do lists. Sometimes we add items on our to-do lists which are not really actionable. They’re not doable. Sometimes we add what I call “projects,” and there’s a very, very big difference between projects and actions. One belongs in your to-do list; the other one doesn’t.

Let me give an example. Let’s say that you’re in business for yourself, you have a website, and you need to redesign it. You come to the conclusion, “I need to redesign my website.” You take out your to-do list and you add “Redesign website.” So far, so good.

If you think about it, though, “redesign your website” is not really actionable. It’s not something you can physically do. You can call your buddy from college who now designs websites; that’s an action. You can get a quote from a couple of design companies to see how much it’s going to cost; that’s an action. If you’re going to design it yourself, you can go choose the color palette, figure out what theme you’re going to use; these are all actions you can take. “Redesigning your website” is not an action. That’s a project.

And there are all sorts of problems when you start adding non-actionable items to your to-do list. It can cause distractions, it can cause procrastination. It causes all sorts of negative effects. That’s why I think this is the most productive question ever, because it’s going to eliminate that problem. It’s going to make you think in an action-oriented way. It’s going to make you think in an efficient, effective way that allows you to make decisions very quickly.

The Most Productive Question

What’s the question? The most productive question is “What is the next action?” It looks simple, it sounds simple; it really is simple. But it’s very powerful. If you force yourself to always ask yourself this question, especially before you add anything to your to-do list, it’s going to revolutionize your productivity.

#1. It Provides Clarity

Once you start asking yourself this, it’s going to provide you a lot of clarity. You’re going to know exactly what goes on your to-do list, and also it’s going to make your to-do list more clear. You know exactly what needs to be done, in what order. It provides clarity. It provides mental clarity, it provides practical clarity, and it makes you more efficient.

#2. It Eliminates Procrastination

A second benefit of asking yourself this question over and over again, especially before you add anything to your agenda, is the fact that sometimes it can eliminate procrastination. Why do we procrastinate? Usually we procrastinate because there is some sort of a negative feeling associated with taking that action.

Or maybe it’s confusion; maybe you don’t know what the first step is. You have “Redesign website,” but you don’t know where to start. It seems overwhelming, it seems too much, you stress out. At the end of the day, you’re like, “I’ll do it later.” Not because it’s not important, but because you don’t know what the action is. You don’t know what the first step is.

Asking yourself this question is going to literally force you to think in action-oriented terms, to only add things on your to-do list which are actionable, which is going to help you eliminate procrastination. Once you take the first step, once you start taking action, you’re going to see things happening. You’re going to see change happen, and it’s going to compound. Procrastination is going to just fade away. Asking yourself this question can absolutely eliminate procrastination.

#3. It Clears Your To-Do List

A third major benefit: it clears out your to-do list. When you look at your to-do list, if you ask yourself this question and you only add actionable items, it makes your to-do list more clear. It’s not going to be cluttered with projects you cannot accomplish; it’s not going to be overloaded. There’s not going to be any distractions. There’s going to be actions. It’s going to be very focused. You can take out your to-do list, you can actually start doing it.

These are some of the benefits of asking yourself this question over and over again throughout the day, and especially before you put anything on your agenda on a to-do list.

What’s YOUR Next Action?

Now, what is your next action? I want you to take out your to-do list, whether it’s a piece of paper, whether it’s on your computer, whether it’s on your phone – take it out, take 5 to 10 minutes, and figure out if the items on your to-do list are actions or projects. If they’re actions, great; leave them there and do them. If they’re projects, I want you to break them down into actions.

Ask yourself this question: “I have this project. How do I turn it into actions? What is the next available action?” And not only break it into actions, but break it into sequential actions. What needs to be done first? What needs to be done second? What needs to be done third? And so on.

Sometimes you’re going to figure out that some projects are easy; you look at your to-do list, you’re like, “Yes, that guy told me this is a project. I need to break it down,” you break it down immediately. Sometimes it’s not that easy. Sometimes you’re going to see a project, and you’re going to be “Okay, I know this is a project. I know I need to break it down, but I don’t know how. I don’t know what the next action is.”

That’s what I want to show you here. I want to show you a very easy technique that’s going to help you break down any project into actions – and not only actions, but actions in a particular sequence, in an actionable sequence.

Productive Visualization

What is this technique? Let me show you. It’s a technique that I like to call “productive visualization”. Visualization has a lot of benefits, but today we’re going to use it with a very particular purpose, and that is it forces your mind to think in specific terms. When you visualize, you cannot just visualize nothingness. It’s literally not possible. You visualize in specific terms – specific people, specific places, specific times of the day. If you have a project and you don’t know where to start, productive visualization is going to make it very easy.

Let me give an example. Let’s say that you take out your to-do list right now, and over there you figure out that there is an item called “Change the oil on your car.” That’s a project. It’s not an action; you cannot literally change the oil of your car – unless, of course, you’re a mechanic. So what do you do? How do you break it down into actionable steps if you don’t know where to start?

Visualize the process. Take a couple minutes and just visualize yourself: you exit the office or your home, you get into the car, and you do what? Where do you go? You might realize you have no idea where you’re going, because you cannot just visualize yourself going “somewhere.” You have to visualize yourself going to a specific place.

So as soon as you realize that that’s a roadblock, that’s something that you haven’t figured out, your action becomes “figure out where’s the place you’re going to go to change your oil.” That’s your first action, because if you don’t do this one, nothing else matters; you cannot go and change your oil.

Then once you figure out that place, you visualize yourself, you’re in the car, you drive to that place; what happens when you go there? You might visualize there’s a lot of people, or maybe the place is closed. So your next action would be “Call the place, check what their open hours are; schedule an appointment.” Because if you go there on a Sunday or you go there and there’s 34 cars waiting, it’s not very productive. But if you schedule an appointment, you’re going to know exactly where you need to go, how you need to get there, and everything’s going to be clear.

It might sound a little cumbersome right now but it’s literally going to take you 30 seconds. You figure out “I need to change the oil of my car,” you visualize yourself, you’re like, “Okay, I don’t know where I need to go. First action: figure out where I need to go. Second action: call the place and see when they open.” It is so easy.

It might sound a little complicated because I’m walking you through it step by step, but if you get yourself into the habit of visualizing the entire process, it’s going to force you to think in specifics – and once you’re down to the specifics, you’re going to figure out what the action is. You’re never going to be confused for Step #1, Step #2, Step #3. That’s how you do it. That is why this is the most productive question ever.

Over To You Now

Now, I want you to take out your to-do list and ask yourself this question: “What is the next available action?” If it’s an action item, leave it on your to-do list. If it’s a project, break it down. If you don’t know where to start, use the productive visualization. Force yourself to be specific about it, and you’re going to see how what actions you need to take are going to become very clear, very fast.

Take massive action, make things happen, and I’ll see you next time.

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What are some other ways to break down a “project” into actionable items? Share in the comment section below: