December 13th, 2018 | Personal Growth

Excerpted from Chapter 3 of “Just Ask the Right Questions to Get What You Want” by Ian Cooper

Without wishing to bore you with the innermost personal workings of the “Cooper household”, my wife has quite ruthlessly just interrupted my writing to come and complain to me,

‘I’m frustrated … I can’t find that document … we MUST sort this stuff OUT!’

What I did was take a deep breath. (I wonder whether John Grisham puts up with the same problem?) Then I agreed with her, and asked her a key question:

Ok.  When?

We now have a plan for ‘sorting the stuff out’, and a day set aside in the diary to deal with other related ‘things’.

Why is it so important? There are two reasons. Asking ‘When…?’  helps with:

  • Stress-busting.
  • Getting things to happen.

‘When…?’ as a stress buster

At one fell swoop, asking this question sets you on the road to dealing with one of the great personal barriers to success and the maintenance of good physical and mental health.  I’m referring, of course, to stress.

Have you ever had that feeling of ‘things’ piling up? Before you can finish one ‘thing’, other ‘things’ get added to the pile. In fact does the ‘things pile’ ever disappear? Some people live their entire life, feeling more and more anxious … worrying … “how am I ever going to get through it all?”  I’d like to show you a way you can improve matters, no matter how simplistic this may seem.

First, make a list of all your commitments. Regardless of whether they are business or personal, important or trivial, put them on the list and then ‘When..?’ them!  In other words go through each one and ask yourself ‘When can I do that?’  (Bear in mind that, contrary to what we are often told, procrastination is not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, there is nothing wrong with putting things off, so long as you know when you are going to do a certain thing, and you do it when you reach that moment.)

Having now gone through your entire list, and given each of your ‘things’ the ‘When…?’ treatment, you’ll now have a diary full of actions to perform at set times.  The trick now is to forget about them until that times comes.  Then, when it does, do them!

What has happened is that you’ve now dealt with the stress-creating issue I mentioned earlier: ‘How am I ever going to get through it all?’  Well, now you know you can because there is a ‘When…?’ plan in place.

I accept that there are cynics out there who will say,

‘This doesn’t always work.’ or ‘My life is too complicated,’ and so on. They are probably right some of the time but, equally, this method does work most of the time.  In fact, I guarantee you once you have used this ‘When…?’ approach to dealing with your ‘things’ will give you an immediate and immense sense of relief.

By the way … let me ask you another question:

When are you going to make this ‘to do’ list and apply this principle?

Try it now!  If you can’t do it now, then when? At the very least, answer that question now and put it in the diary!

At the end of each day, repeat the process. Ask yourself what else should go on the list and then just ‘When…?’ it!

Ask ‘When…?’ to Make Things Happen

Life has a tendency to just happen! However, to make it happen in the way we want, we need to apply the same ‘When…?’ it rule to questions we ask.

Once we have fixed a time for something, more often than not it happens. The mere act of fixing a ‘when’ either in your own head because you asked yourself this question or because you have arranged the ‘when’ with someone else triggers and commands real action.

Let’s take a look at a range of situations and let me ask you a few questions so you can see how this really works:

Have you ever bumped into someone you haven’t seen for a while and said,

“We must get together properly sometime”?

In future don’t just say this and leave it, but ‘When…?’ it! If you are sincere about meeting that person again, respond with,

‘You’re right! When would be a good time for you?’ Then fix it!

Have you ever had a conversation with someone about some possible future business which ends with them saying,

‘Sometime we should be able to do something together”.

You know what to do … ‘When…?’ it! Ask them

‘When do you have in mind?’

Is it the case that a significant chunk of your business comes from your existing clients and customers? If so, ask yourself these questions:

When were you last in touch with them?

Do you know when you are next going to have some contact?

If you can’t answer these questions, then apply the ‘When…?’ treatment. Create a plan of ‘when’ you are next going to be in contact with your most important customers and clients. This is particularly important in the service industries and those sectors where personal relationships are key.

When are you next going to read this book? ‘

‘When…?’ it!

Ian Cooper


Professor Ian Cooper has been described as a ‘serial achiever’, London based, he is an international author of 15 books with in 55 countries and 13 languages, including the successful and influential ‘Financial Times Guide To Business Development’, recently shortlisted for the best management / business book of the year award. In addition to advising hundreds of businesses and organizations of all sizes for over 30 years, Ian is also a successful entrepreneur who has created and run a number of successful businesses. With approximately 1000 professional speaking engagements Ian has inspired thousands of businesses and individuals with his light and engaging style to improve their own performance, get better results and make things happen.  You can connect with Ian on his website.


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