Your Personal Inventory

You wouldn’t attempt a do-it-yourself project without the proper tools, and you wouldn’t know if you had the proper tools unless you took an inventory of some kind – just to see what tools you have and what other tools you might need.

It’s the same with your efforts to be more productive and successful, except here the “tools” are your personal inventory of such attributes as:

  • Characteristics,
  • Skills,
  • Knowledge, and
  • Preferences.

The results of this personal inventory will help you recognize the various directions you might want to pursue with your work and your life, and the various steps you might want to take to facilitate your progress in those directions.

Your personal inventory should count up and consider the following:


It’s always invigorating to begin this kind of inventory by checking your core productivity and success tools.

  • What can you do well?
  • In what areas have you accumulated a significant amount of knowledge?
  • What useful skills and abilities can you bring to a task?
  • What qualities do other people often look to you for?


Strengths and joys tend to merge and blend together. Why? Because people often get pleasure from what they can do well, and because they often go out of their way to develop above-average abilities to do something they enjoy.

Start itemizing your sources of joy by recollecting where you get your pleasure:

  • Do you relish any hobbies?
  • Do certain mental, physical, or social activities attract you?
  • When and where do you most often lose track of time?


It’s more difficult, but equally important to consider any characteristics that are not among your strengths:

  • Are there situations or chores that you intentionally avoid or put off?
  • What tasks or responsibilities do you willingly leave to others?
  • What tasks or skills do you most often need help with?

Opportunities to Improve

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your opportunities for improvement are the same as your weaknesses. There may be weaknesses you’re not interested in improving. There may be strengths you’d love to boost toward even higher levels.

As a result, you can legitimately look for opportunities to improve in almost any characteristics, skills, or areas of knowledge you’re interested in upgrading.

Sources of Happiness

With luck, this can be a long list. Feel free to include as many sources of happiness as you wish. For purposes of boosting your productivity and success, however, it’s best to focus on discovering those that are mostly under your control.

Put simply, look for sources of happiness you can experience again and again, in some cases as often as you like.

Sources of Unhappiness

Same deal as above, but this time focus on discovering those sources of unhappiness you can mostly avoid without causing problems for yourself or anyone else who depends on you.

Look for Patterns and Clues

With all this information now clearly and explicitly laid out, you can more easily spot clues as to:

  • Who you are – what characteristics best describe you?
  • What nurtures you – what activities and experiences help you feel better, encourage you to new efforts, and perhaps even support your growth?
  • What starves you – what activities and experiences drive your emotions downward, sap your motivation, and perhaps even shrink you?

Don’t think for a moment that this simple quiz is all you need to leap forward into new realms of productivity and success. At best, these answers give you only a snapshot of how you’re thinking and feeling at this moment.

To get real value from this exercise, you’ll want to revisit these questions time and time again – perhaps every few weeks or no less than every few months. You’ll also want to keep the answers in mind as you:

  • Move through your work and life,
  • Make choices,
  • Put forth efforts, and
  • Generate results.

Over time, you’ll begin to see changes in some of your answers to this exercise. They will start to reflect more important parts of who you are, and they will exert greater influence over your choices of what to do, where to go, and how best to get there.

The result will tend to bring you a deeper awareness of your passions, a better understanding of your strengths, and a greater ability to increase the satisfaction and quality you obtain from your work and your life.

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