Jay Shirley

Striving to be a man of gallantry and taste

Just One Question

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Over the last few weeks I’ve changed. I think I’ve been more productive, but that’s not important. What’s important is that feeling of productivity; the joy of progress is what I seek. I feel I’ve made a breakthrough here, and it was so simple of a change.

I’m living one question at a time.

Yesterday I wrapped up a project, looked around and immediately felt the pressing weight of my full, and ambitious, todo list. I took a breath, stopped thinking about it and asked myself:

What can I get done in the next hour that I will enjoy the most tomorrow?

The answer came to me pretty quickly. I went outside, replacing the flat tire on my bicycle. Now my son and I can go for a ride later today. Without asking that question I would have forgotten about the flat tire. He would ask to go for a ride, I’d hang my head in shame because I’ve been telling him I’d fix that tire for the last 3 weeks. I’m forgetful and he suffers for it.

It’s hard to ask good questions

When I first started this exercise, I would ask some really pointless questions that amounted to navel-gazing.

What will make me the best person?

That’s a really stupid question. If I knew the answer to that I wouldn’t need to ask any questions.

Over time they’ve improved and the questions align to the 5 areas of focus in my life. When each question has a clear outcome, I’m able to answer in a tangible action-based manner. Adding these constraints is critical to asking good questions, and even more important when answering.

What I’ve been asking…

Have I written at least 500 words today?

Nope, well, better start!

Have I completed my One Thing task today?

My One Thing is a task decided the night prior to get done. When I’m wondering what to do next, that’s the first thing to do. Usually they’re small tasks that require some degree of willpower to get started on, but are easy to complete.

Sometimes, though, vague is good and appropriate.

What can I do to enjoy the next hour the best?

Asking myself this before sitting down to dinner with my family has helped me be significantly more engaged. When I ask these questions to myself, it’s easier to ask questions to others.

The space to really listen

And, unsurprisingly, I found when you ask someone a question and really pay attention to the answer, enjoyment is almost guaranteed.

Whether you are asking someone else a question or questioning yourself it’s important to give space and really listen. Don’t interrupt, don’t listen to respond, just consume. Absorb the information like absorbing good food.

And if you think you can’t interrupt your own answers, I’d wonder if you’ve ever asked yourself a hard question.