Unless you’re asking a question to learn something, a question that doesn’t lead to a change in perspective, or lead to taking action, isn’t a productive one. Taking action is necessary for improvement. So learning to ask more actionable questions is important.
All questions have a topic that they focus on. So rephrasing a question related to different aspects of a topic can lead to more constructive answers. Asking question in writing is more useful than just thinking of more questions because comparing different version can give new ideas, and you can’t hold 20 variations in your head.
For an example, let’s use How can I improve at <blank>? You can insert your own skill of interest in there. Like I demonstrated here, the first few questions asked are often the obvious types, so we’ll work up to 20 variations of this question to see what dimensions of this question we can unlock.
- How can I improve at <blank>?
- How can I not get worse at <blank>?
- How can I measure my improvement with <blank>?
- How can I measure daily progress with <blank>?
- How can I make improving at <blank> easy?
- How can I make improving at <blank>? easy and fun?
- How can I make improving at <blank> something that I want to do as part of a hobby?
- How can I use <blank> to improve how I get better at <blank>?
- How will I know if I’m getting better at <blank>?
- How can I make the process of improving at <blank> more efficient?
- What are the key parts of <blank> that if I focus on improving with affect everything else about <blank>?
- What is the minimum amount I need to do every day to get better at <blank>?
- How can I implement the ideas of it-then do make <blank> an integral part of my day?
- How can I make it so that I get better at <blank> unconsciously?
- How can I involve other people to help me get better at <blank>?
- How can I setup my environment so that it helps me get better at <blank>?
- How will getting better at <blank> improve other aspects of my life?
- What are the obstacles I will encounter while getting better at <blank>?
- How can I improve at <blank> without spending any money?
- If I only had 20 minutes a day to get better at <blank>, what would I do?
The above questions all revolve around the idea of getting better at something, but some of them lead to thinking that can impact other areas of your life in ways that the original question might not have.
Thoughts on the Variations
The questions above lead to new ideas of improving at a topic. Some of them may have come from the original question, but the new questions will themselves give off answers that the original question would not have. Below are a few comments on some of them.
- How can I use <blank> to improve how I get better at <blank>? If you happen to be learning something that contains an aspect that can be used to reinforce the learning process as a loop, count yourself as lucky. Learning how to juggle may not have this, but there are other areas that do.
- What are the obstacles I will encounter while getting better at <blank>? Difficulties may arise, so acknowledging this at the beginning is important. Thinking how you will face them can give you confidence for when they happen.
- How can I improve at <blank> without spending any money? The resources people lack can be used as an excuse for not starting something. If you look around long enough though it’s pretty easy to find stories of people who have done great things from small beginnings.
Iterating on a question can unearth new ways to think about a topic that are more constructive. More constructive questions can lead to more actionable insights. So what question is rattling in your head that you can iterate on to help you make more meaningful changes in your life?