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It’s better to be looking at it…

Ellen Goodwin


When it comes to productivity rules to run your life by, one of my new favorites is: “It’s better to be looking at it than looking for it.”

I recently learned this from my podcast* co-host, Lee Silber, who is an efficiency expert. As Lee describe it, it’s better to be prepared and have what you need, either physically or mentally, available to you than to find yourself in a situation where you need something, and you don’t have it.

Lee used the example of going out boating. Before he goes out on the water, he takes a moment to think about what he’s going to need, like life vests, food, water, and gas.

He also takes some time to think about what might go wrong and what would be required to fix the situation, like tools, oars, or replacement parts. If he’s out on the boat and something goes wrong, he’d rather be looking at what he needs to correct the situation, than wishing he had it with him.

Now obviously, this rule doesn’t just apply to boating.

It applies to all areas of our lives.

Sure there are times where you might feel a little foolish for being over-prepared, but there is always going to be that time where are you are happy with yourself for being prepared with an extra charger, a print out of a digital file, or a back-up thumb drive that you brought with yourself “just in case.”

Being prepared doesn’t just apply to physical items.

It can mean having a plan to fall back on when an obstacle throws a wrench into your carefully planned day. When you already know how you’re going to react to a meeting that runs long or a potential client canceling an interview, then you can’t get tripped up.

You’re already looking at the answer, you’re not looking for it.

You don’t have to take the time to figure out what to do next, you already know. And knowing what to do next can mean the difference between your day being a success or being one where the obstacles destroy your productivity (and your mood.)

“Better to be looking at it…” means that you have taken the time to look forward and make educated guesses about what could happen and what you’d need to have available or be able to do to get you through any situation you might encounter.

The idea of planning ahead can seem a little counterproductive, but it can be as simple as quickly thinking of 3 situations or obstacles that might show up and then thinking of 3 ways you could react and respond to each one.

With that information in mind, you can gather what you are going to need, whether it’s something physical, like having an extra charger for your phone, or mental, like having a go-to plan to get your day back on schedule. Now you are fully prepared to be looking at what you need, rather than be looking for it when things don’t go the way you planned.

The good news is that most of the time you aren’t going to encounter problems. Your day is going to go just as you’d hoped it would. But on those odd occasions when things go south, you’re going to be prepared. You’re going to know not only what you need to do, but you’re also going to be equipped to do it.

You’ll be looking at it, not looking for it.

*The Faster, Easier, Better Show

Learn more here: Being in Action is the #1 skill all Action Heroes possess when it comes to getting things done. Not sure what kind of Action Hero you are? Take the Action Hero quiz here.



Ellen Goodwin

Productivity Consultant, TEDx Speaker, Podcast Co-host, Author of DONE: How To Work When No One Is Watching. Learn more at