Successful people make it a habit of tracking their progress and they do it every day. Never calling it a (work)day without answering these 7 questions, and you will see massive improvements in your attitude as well as your accomplishments.
In my 18+ years of school, I never learned how to plan and set goals properly. It was something I had to find out myself. When I finally implemented it in my life, I learned there was another major thing school didn’t teach me. This was that not only do you have to plan your day the right way, you also have to end your day the right way. Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant, says this about ending your day properly: ‘This is like the last impression that holds tremendous impact on your view of your work, attitude and productivity level. The end of your day sets the stage for tomorrow.’
Pick a partner
While you can perform the 7 questions routine by yourself, the best way to do it is to have a partner. Later in this article, you will find the benefits of doing this together. Who should you (want to) pick? For us as a business duo, this is easy. As we pursue the same goals together, it was best to pick each other.
When you do not have a partner, a colleague or a fellow student, you should find another like-minded partner. When you are a lifestyle entrepreneur, try to approach another lifestyle entrepreneur. When you are a HR professional, find a HR professional at another company. When you are a graduate, find another graduate. As long as your paths are similar, it is fine, because this will enable you to learn from each other and give each other solid feedback.
Haven’t find the right person yet? Then just do it by yourself. Mail yourself the answers (you might skip 5 and 6).
The 7 questions
Now let’s look at the magical seven:
- What did I accomplish?
- Is this enough?
- What went well?
- What could we improve?
- What can you help me with?
- Which suggestions do I have for you?
- What am I going to make happen tomorrow?
1. What did I accomplish?
What are all the things you have successfully completed today? Make a list of this. The easy way to do this is to keep track of your accomplishment during your day. Every time you finish a task, write it down. There are two main reasons why you should write down your accomplishments: (1) success breeds success, and (2) reporting on your accomplishments builds in accountability. It can be helpful to note the time it took you to complete the task, in hours for instance.
‘Success breeds success’
I couldn’t have said it better, so I leave this one to the legendary Zig Ziglar. This is what he says when he speaks about daily goal tracking:
‘Yes – success begets success. That’s why it is so important as you set and seek any goal, to arrange it so you can enjoy some success of some kind virtually every day. This ‘positive feedback’ increases your confidence so you begin to ‘expect’ and ‘see’ yourself as accomplishing more and more, which means you will do and be more and more. The only way to reach your long-range goals is through achieving short-range objectives. Keep your eye on your major objective, but remember as you reach your daily objectives you are getting closer and closer to those long-range ones.’
‘Yes – success begets success. That’s why it is so important as you set and seek any goal, to arrange it so you can enjoy some success of some kind virtually every day. This ‘positive feedback’ increases your confidence so you begin to ‘expect’ and ‘see’ yourself as accomplishing more and more, which means you will do and be more and more. The only way to reach your long-range goals is through achieving short-range objectives. Keep your eye on your major objective, but remember as you reach your daily objectives you are getting closer and closer to those long-range ones.’Zig Ziglar
‘Reporting on your accomplishments builds in accountability.’
People have the need to finish things. If this doesn’t happen, then our cognitive system reminds us of it, which is not a pleasant feeling. And when we have to put this on paper, there is nowhere to hide. So the feeling gets even more unpleasant.
Yes, confronting you with your own failures does work. The famous book I use to achieve my goals is ‘Pick Four, Zig Ziglar’s legendary goals program, updated and simplified, curated by Seth Godin’. In this workbook, you will tackle what you did to achieve your plan, once each day. If you don’t do anything toward reaching a goal, you have to write ‘NOTHING’. We could have been instructed to just leave it blank. But to put NOTHING on paper confronts us. Which makes us work harder to avoid NOTHING.
When you have to report to someone – Mandi Ehman calls this person your ‘accountability partner’, you are being held even more accountable. You now play the game together, and you don’t want to let the other down. Besides, you can pull each other up. You don’t want to be left behind. And you don’t want to leave your partner behind. Commitment becomes even stronger.
2. Is this enough?
So you have put your accomplishments to paper. Now it is time for a little evaluation. Look yourself in the eye and decide if you have given all you got. Just answer with a simple yes or no. and if you feel like it, shortly explain why. ‘Is this enough?’ is adopted from Pick Four (thanks Seth).
3. What went well?
Every moment you think of ‘what went well’, directly improves your happiness. Introduced by founding father Martin Selligman, and scientifically proven. Asking ‘what went well’ makes you feel grateful, which gives you piece of mind. Excellent to end your day with. What-went-well’s (or WWW’s) are different from accomplishments. While accomplishments mostly are quantifiable and are part of to-do-lists, WWW’s mostly are based on emotions. You may compare it to sports. An accomplishment could be that you won today. A WWW could be that you stepped into the game with a positive mind set.
A recent example of my ‘what went well’ is: ‘Stepped out my comfort zone in the workshop.’
4. What could we improve?
This one is adapted from our ONE-a-day-app. The basic idea is: if you improve one step a day, you double in ability roughly every 70 days. When you adapt this growth mind set, you train yourself to get better every day. When you and your partner help each other improve, you give each other rapid feedback. According to Shane Snow, the writer of ‘Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators and Icons Accelerate Success’, this is one of the three principles to shorten your way to success. As Ivo Dias de Sousa summarizes, successful people tend to learn quickly both from their successes and failures. There are two keys to make this work. Make sure that you and your partner:
- Are constantly aware that the feedback is on the action, not on the person.
- Know that failure is part of the deal, and you are both allowed to take (small) risks.
5. What can you help me with?
If you want to win, you should plan to win. So if you need help from your partner, you should let him know in advance. Make it a habit of asking for help. Think ahead and also communicate a deadline so that your partner can integrate it in his agenda and you make sure you get it on time.
6. Which suggestions do I have for you?
Chris Ducker, the guy who wrote ‘Virtual Freedom’ and kicks ass working with virtual partners, has his virtual assistants answer this question every day. He writes that ‘it allows you to see your business through fresh eyes’.
Sheraz and I thought carefully about this question before making it part of our routine. We were in doubt, because it has similarities with our‘what could we improve’-methodology that we will elaborate on later on this blog. We’ve tested it, and found out that there are significant differences.
While ‘what could improve’ helps us to evaluate our performance of today, ‘which suggestions I have for you’ gives a voice to our wandering minds. During the day, all kinds of thoughts come to mind. Some of them are directly related to your work, others just pop up randomly. Capture the ones that could be useful for your partner. As an old Latin saying goes: ‘Teaching is the best way to learn’. So by making suggestions to your partner, you make yourself implement it in your system, too.
A recent example of a suggestion is: ‘We should get a mentor! I read it in another book, this time in Smartcuts by Shane Snow.’
7. What am I going to make happen tomorrow?
I borrowed this one from perhaps the most productive person in the world, Tim Ferriss. In Four Hour Workweek, a classic, he taught me:
‘Don’t ever arrive at the office or in front of your computer with-out a clear list of priorities. You’ll just read associated e-mail and scramble your brain for the day. Compile your to-do list for tomorrow no later than this evening.’
It works brilliantly for me. As soon as I wake up the next day, I am aware of my goals, and I almost can’t wait to start to achieve them.
The end (of your day)
Make sure to end your next workday with answering the seven questions above. You will be amazed with the massive improvements in your attitude as well as your accomplishments.