I have a confession to make and it’s probably fair to accuse me of bragging. But I take a nap every day, sometimes two. My inbox is always at zero. I can’t remember the last time I used an alarm clock, and outside of the time I spend writing this column, I would classify a four-hour workweek as being slammed.
Yes, I understand my business is more flexible than most, but for the longest time I still didn’t understand why everyone else was so busy. Then about a year ago I was talking to a friend of mine who was complaining about some awful lunch meeting that she had to attend and I asked her, “Why the fuck would you agree to that meeting?” As we kept talking about her busy schedule, I found myself asking her again and again, “Why the fuck would you do that?” Until finally it dawned on me that you could streamline your entire life by asking that question before you do anything. It was the ultimate productivity tool.
Some jackass you met at a networking event wants to meet for lunch? Ask yourself “Why the fuck would I do that?” If you don’t have a good reason, don’t go.
New entrepreneurs will often ask me to download their unfinished alpha app. “Umm, why the fuck would I do that?” I can just wait until Scoble reviews it when it launches.
People will sometimes say to me, “You need a pet.” and the little voice inside my head asks, “Why the fuck do I need a pet?” I have yet to come up with a good reason that would offset the hassles of picking up dog shit or vacuuming up cat hair, so no pet for me.
My friends who are much more forgiving than I am will often suggest I meet some random smanker, but fortunately I catch myself by asking “Why the fuck would I want to meet a smanker?” and politely decline.
Every time I see a new email management tool, I think to myself, “Why the fuck don’t people just unsubscribe from lists they don’t read?” Isn’t cleaning up the mess, better than reorganizing it?
When someone says “Let’s schedule a conference call” which you know will be useless and horrible because all conference calls are useless and horrible, just ask them “Why the fuck would we do that?” Voila! No conference call.
By applying the “Why the fuck would I do that?” technique to people you’re dealing with, you can even save them time, which ultimately will make you more effective. For example, before you email Sarah that press release, announcing that your underwear delivery company now offers boxers, ask yourself, “Why the fuck would Sarah cover this stupid shit?” If you’re being honest, you’ll realize that she wouldn’t, and then you don’t have to bother her. Later when you have a legitimate reason for contacting her, she’ll probably be more receptive.
The “Why the fuck?” technique can even help you become more introspective and be a better person. For example, one of the most valuable and personal things that you can ask someone for is an introduction. You’re basically asking them to put their name on the line for you. So before you send that email asking for an intro, put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, “Why the fuck would this person vouch for me?” If you can’t come up with some seriously good reasons, you might want to consider why you’re not worthy.
The key of course is being honest with yourself when you ask “Why the fuck would I do that?” If you’re not honest, you’ll come up with bullshit answers which puts you right back at square one. But if you are honest and really make an effort to come up with legitimate answers, I think you’ll find that asking the question clears away a significant amount of clutter and noise. Not only will you find yourself much more productive, maybe even enough to take daily naps, but it’s also just kind of fun to give people an incredulous look when they suggest something stupid and ask them, “Really? Why the fuck would I do that?”
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]