Question to ask to help you hone one of your most important instincts
Does that matter? Is that really worth doing? These are important questions that you should be considering often. Getting the right work done is almost always about creating less work to do.
Creating less seems like an oxymoron, but it’s absolutely possible, and often preferable. When you decide not to hold that meeting, or not to go down that path, or not to cover every edge case, you’re creating less and making more room to work on what remains, the stuff that really matters.
Being able to see what matters, to know what’s worth doing is an instinct you can hone, a skill you can build. I’d consider it a top requirement for anyone tasked with making key decisions.
Which questions to ask?
Here are some of the questions I ask myself when considering if something’s worth doing:
- Why? Why are we even considering this? You better know this answer.
- Why now? Why isn’t enough. Why now is critical. Timing plays a part in everything. Is this the right time?
- What other work will this create? Whenever you choose to do something, you’re always creating the possibility of additional work. Is that worth it? Is it worth it right now?
- Who needs to be involved? Sometimes you want to do something, why and why now is clear, but you need someone’s specific skill to pull it off. And you may not have it available right now. What would it cost to take that person off what they’re already doing? Or to find someone else with that skill? Is any of that worth it right now?
- How many people will this affect? Does this help 25% of our customers? 75%? Or just 3%? Or less? It’s not just the raw number that matters. Sometimes that 3% could be 30% of your business, so make sure you know what the numbers mean.
- How will we feel about it/them? We could line up this partnership or that partnership that could drive this or that number, but how do we feel about the association with that brand?
- How long will it take to see if it was really worth it? Oftentimes something is worth doing if you can get a sense of success (or not) quickly. But sometimes it could take months to see the results. If we don’t know for a long time, is it still worth it? Anything we could do to shorten the time to knowing?
- What variables aren’t in our control? This one usually comes up when discussing partnerships or integration with the outside world. What parts can’t we control? What are the chances something changes materially that could radically alter the trajectory of the project? Is that risk worth taking? How do we feel about the outside party? Is their interest in line with ours, or are we small potatoes and likely to be tossed aside as a priority?
- Will it be fun, satisfying, stimulating? Work that isn’t fun is rarely worth working on for an extended period of time. Not everything is fun all the time — even things you mostly enjoy — so that’s OK. But if you dread it going in, you better watch yourself closely.
There are of course more questions than that, but these are some I’ve asked myself recently. Out of all of these, “why now?” is the one I think deserves the most attention. Timing plays a significant role in everything. Be sure you know why now.