7-step method to approach any new task

I’m reading Master Your Thinking: A Practical Guide to Align Yourself with Reality and Achieve Tangible Results in the Real World. Here are seven questions to ask before you begin a task:

  1. Is this task a priority, or could I do it later?
    • If I could do only one thing today, which task would have the most impact?
    • Is this task moving me closer to my main goal?
    • Do I really need to do it right now, or can I do it later?
  2. Is this task valid, or can I forget about it?
    • Do I really need to do this task?
    • Is right now the best time? What would happen if I delay it for a week? A month? Forever?
    • Do I need to do this task, or am I doing it because it makes me feel good? In short, am I working on this task to escape from what I really should be doing?
  3. What does done look like?
    • What exactly do I need to do here?
    • What am I trying to accomplish?
    • What does the finished product look like?
  4. Am I the person to do this task, or can I delegate to someone else?
    • Is this task really worthy of my time?
    • Can someone else do it better than me? If so, can I ask for help?
    • What would happen if I simply remove/postpone this task?
    • Do I enjoy working on this task? Does it motivate me?
  5. What’s the best way to complete this task?
    • What tool(s) can I use, people can I ask, or method can I rely on to complete this task as efficiently and effectively as possible?
    • What skill(s) could I learn or improve to help me complete this task faster in the future?
  6. Can I batch this task with other tasks I need to do?
    • Can I batch this task with other similar tasks to boost my productivity?
  7. Can I automate this task, or create a checklist or template?
    • Can I create templates to reuse every time I work on this or on similar tasks? For instance, you could design templates for the specific emails, presentations or documents you need to create over and over.
    • Can I create a checklist? Checklists provide you with specific steps to follow, making it less likely you will become distracted or confused.

On Reading

Some links on the concept and practise of reading text books:


Six Reading Myths

  1. I have to read every word
  2. Reading once is enough
  3. It is sinful to skip passages in reading
  4. Machines are necessary to improve my reading speed
  5. If I skim or read too rapidly my comprehension will drop
  6. There is something about my eyes that keeps me from reading fast

3 R’s for Academic Survival

Here is a lean and wiry system containing all the essential techniques for mastering textbook assignments. This is an “exam passer”.


Read the chapter paragraph by paragraph. Read and re-read until you can answer the question: “What did the author say in this paragraph?”


Once you are able to describe what is in the paragraph, you will want to retain that learning by underlining, making notes in the margin, or making notes in your notebook.


Cover up your notes or printed page and recite aloud. Remember! If you can’t say it now, you won’t be able to say it tomorrow in class, nor write it in a week on an exam; so while you still have a chance, try and try again, until you can say it.

SQ3R Method for Thorough Study

  3. READ


Look over material critically. Skim through the book and read topical and subtopical headings and sentences. Read the summaries at the end of chapters and books. Try to anticipate what the author is going to say.

WRITE these notes on paper, in sequence; then look over the jottings to get an overall idea or picture. This will enable you to see where you are going.


Instead of reading paragraph headings such as “Basic Concepts of Reading,” change to read, “What are the Basic Concepts of Reading?” These questions will become “hooks” on which to hang the reading material.

WRITE these questions out; look over the questions to see the emphasis and direction; then attempt to give plausible answers before further reading.


Read with smoothness and alertness to answer the questions. Use all the techniques and principles demonstrated in class.

WRITE notes, in your own words, under each question. Take a minimum number of notes-use these notes as a skeleton.


Without looking at your book or notes, mentally visualize and sketch, in your own words, the high points of the material immediately upon completing the reading.

  1. This forces you to check understanding.
  2. This channels the material into a natural and usable form.
  3. This points up what you do not understand.
  4. This forces you to think.

Note: More time should be spent on recall than on reading.


Look at your questions, answers, notes and book to see how well you did recall. Observe carefully the points stated incorrectly or omitted. Fix carefully in mind the logical sequence of the entire idea, concepts, or problem. Finish up with a mental picture of the WHOLE.

Getting to Know Your Textbook

  1. Examine the title page:
    • Who are the authors?
    • What is their standing in their fields? (Perhaps you can ask your professor.)
    • Do their training and background qualify them to write a book of this type?
    • Who are the publishers?
    • When was this textbook published? What does that tell you about the book?
  2. Examine the preface or introduction:
    • Why is a preface written?
    • What does it tell you about the book?
    • Do the authors introduce any unusual features of your book in the preface and prepare you to be on the lookout for them?
  3. Examine the table of contents:
    • What does the table of contents tell?
    • How is this textbook organized? What main divisions has it?
    • Compare the table of contents with that of another book in the same field. Do the two books cover the same topics? Are these the topics you expected to find covered in this text?
  4. Examine index, glossary, other material at the back of the book:
    • How does the index differ from the table of contents? How does it resemble the table of contents?
    • What sort of topics should be looked up in the index instead of the table of contents?
    • What are cross references?
    • Is there a glossary in your textbook? Can you use diacritical markings successfully to pronounce a word?
    • Is there an appendix in your book? Why isn’t this information included in the body of the book? How would it have affected the organization?
    • What is the literal meaning of “index” according to the dictionary?
  5. Examine study questions, guides, and other helps:
    • Does the text provide study aids to help in understanding the text?
    • Are the study aids in the form of questions, exercises, or activities?
    • If questions are used, do they simply require finding the answers or must you do some critical problem-type thinking to arrive at answers?
    • Are there study aids both preceding and following a chapter? Which types of aids help you most?
    • Does the text provide suggestions for other readings or materials designed to help you understand this chapter?
  6. Examine chapter headings, sectional headings, and margin guides:
    • Look at the chapter heading and then the section headings that follow. Write them down and see if this gives an overview of the chapter.
    • How do headings help in skimming a chapter for specific information?
    • Do you find different kinds of type in your chapter? Does this help you understand the organization of your textbook better? How?
    • Does the text provide help in identifying material to be found within each paragraph? Is the topic sentence indicated?
    • Does the book use summaries? How do these help? What is the difference between giving the gist of a chapter and summarizing its contents?
  7. Examine maps, pictures, charts, diagrams, and tables:
    • Which of these visual aids is used? Do you understand them?