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Top 10 Questions to Ask Yourself
By Veronika (Ronnie) Noize, the Marketing Coach

If it is true that an unexamined life is not worth living, as Socrates said, then perhaps that means that we must examine our business or professional lives as well.

While I am no philosopher, I do believe that one of the most important commitments you can make to yourself is to regularly evaluate your own actions, decisions, and needs, especially as they relate to your business.

In my Double Your Business formula, step 15 to be exact, this commitment is articulated by the question: Is this the highest and best use of my time right now?

This question has been invaluable to me, and I regularly ask myself this three times a day (at the beginning, middle, and end of my work day) to keep myself focused and on track.

In addition to that profound and somewhat provocative question are nine other questions that merit regular consideration. Not every question needs to be asked multiple times a day, although all of these questions are appropriate for daily or weekly use.

Here are the ten questions every entrepreneur should ask as part of the self-examination process:

1. Is what I am doing now/today the highest and best use of my time?

Too many of us fall victim to administrivitis (my own word for focusing on the minutiae of daily administrative tasks), wasting hours of what could be productive time on email, shuffling through piles of papers, reading newsletters, and so on.

That's not to say that those tasks are not important, but if they interrupt more important revenue-generating projects, breaking our concentration or distracting us from what really needs to be done, we need to prioritize how we're spending our time so that we get what we want faster and with less effort.

2. If I were paying someone else to do the work that I do every day, would I be satisfied with this performance? Would I believe that I am getting a good return on my investment?

It is astonishing how much slack we will cut ourselves, and how satisfied we can feel with our own performance, if there is no authority figure to report to and evaluate our woek.  But what if you were paying someone else to do your job -- what you actually do, not what you plan to do -- would you feel you were getting your money's worth?

Chances are that if you were actually paying someone else the salary you want to earn working for yourself, your expectations would be considerably higher of that other person than they are for yourself.

You might not agree with that, at first, but my guess is that if you were two people (yourself and your own boss), you would demand a higher level of both activity and productivity from yourself. 

News flash: You ARE two people for all intents and purposes, so make sure that your "worker bee" work meets your very exacting "boss" standards.

3. Are the meetings, appointments and reminders on my calendar today directly related to revenue generation?

One of the joys of working for oneself is the flexibility to take off time when needed to take care of personal errands, get some much-needed rest, or just play hooky once in a while.  That's not what I am thinking about here.

Too often, we undervalue our own time and allow it to be wasted in the pursuit of business by making networking meetings or "getting to know you" appointments that cost too much in terms of lost time to be cost effective.

I figure that lunch out costs me $750, and you might calculate what meetings outside the office are costing you.  In my case, since my hourly rate is $250 and most lunches take about an hour, I have to schedule out a full three hours for a lunch meeting to account for travel time there and back, as well as the full hour for lunch.

For me, eating lunch out is usually not worth it.  It is more important for me to fill my calendar with client work.

If you don't yet have a lot of client work, at least consider scheduling all those networking meetings in lumps so that you don't waste time traveling.

4. What is most important for me to accomplish today? The second and third most important things?  Are they the first three things on my calendar?

The measurement I use here is that if an undone task will keep me from sleeping well, it needs to get done as early in the day as possible.  Never put off what can be done (or at least started) today; you'll sleep better, and you'll find your whole day goes better.

5. Do I have a clear idea of how I'm going to find prospects?

This should NOT be a mystery to you! Check your marketing calendar to see if you know where your prospects are coming from.  If you don't really know where your leads will come from, you need to do more work on your plan.

6. How can I ask prospects to work with me in a way that is comfortable for me as well as them?

If you're not comfortable, you won't ask, and if you don't ask, you don't get.

Figure out exactly what you wish you would have said if that's the way you work, but be prepared, and carry the intention to ask for the business when appropriate.  For ideas on how to frame the the invitation, see my article on How to Ask for the Business.

This is a great conversation to role-play with a study buddy or your coach.

7. What skills of mine need sharpening? How can I improve in my relationship-building?

Have you heard the story about the two woodsmen?  Both went into the woods to chop up fallen trees. 

One woodsman chopped steadily, and the sounds of his axe splitting the wood rang through the forest like a metronome: chop, chop, chop. The sounds got slower and fainter as the day wore on, but the steady rhythm never ceased.

The other woodsman's axe was heard chopping, too, but every so often the chopping would stop for a while before resuming again. 

At the end of the day, both woodsmen returned from the forest, leaving piles of their chopped wood behind. 

Whose pile of wood was higher?

The woodsman who chopped steadily, or the woodsman who stopped to sharpen his axe and rest his arms from time to time?

Put some time into honing your skills.  Your business will be better for it.

8. What do I know I need to do but keep putting off?

Schedule it.  Preferably in small increments of time, say one or two hours a day, for as long as it takes.  The worst things aren't nearly so bad when broken up into small, doable chunks.

9. What will happen if my business fails?

If all you can think of is the flood of relief that will accompany the failure of your business, then perhaps you need to rethink your entrepreneurial dreams. 

For me, one quick reminder of all the rat-soup-eating, knuckle-dragging, low-self-esteem credit-stealing bottom-pinching rats who signed my paychecks before I worked for myself is enough to reignite my entrepreneurial zeal if it ever wanes.

10. Do I really want to work for someone else?

I don't. Do you?

Top 10 Questions to Ask Yourself 2006 Veronika Noize.  All rights reserved.

"I help small businesses attract more clients."
~Veronika Noize, the Marketing Coach

Veronika Noize LLC
The Marketing Coach
PO Box 87952 · Vancouver, WA 98687 · USA

360-882-1298 voice
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