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Looking for Answers Online

Looking for Answers Online

    The internet is all about information, but sometimes it can be hard to sort out the answer you really need from the celebrity gossip and gadget rumors. You can email your question to friends and family, read Wikipedia articles until your eyelids droop, or even post your question to your blog. You still may not find the answer you’re trying to find. But there are some websites that are all about answering questions — it’s just a matter of taking advantage of the folks who happily hang out, just looking for questions that fall into their expertise.

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    My Favorite Places to Ask Questions

    • LinkedIn Answers — I’ve had good luck getting answers on LinkedIn Answers. While questions on this site are supposed to focus on business, there’s a little leeway. I’ve gotten much higher quality answers here than most other sites.
    • AskMeFi — The variety of questions on AskMeFi is nothing if not impressive. Today alone there are questions about water resource engineering, vacation planning and more. The folks who frequent the site seem to be able to answer just about anything.
    • WikiAnswers — This site, as it happens, is a wiki where you can add a question to a particular category. You don’t have to actually wikify either questions or answers, though. The site handles that sort of thing automatically.
    • Yahoo!Answers — Yahoo!Answers seems to just have more people frequenting it than any of the other sites I use to find answers. If I’ve struck out everywhere else, I head to this site. There’s a higher likelihood of getting an answer you can’t use here, just as there’s a higher chance of getting any answer at all.

    Beyond these four sites, there are thousands of other sites devoted at least partially to answering questions. Heck, even Slashdot posts questions on a regular basis, allowing readers to contribute ideas. By no means should you consider this list exhaustive, and if you have a site you prefer, please mention it in the comments. I know there are plenty of sites focused on particular topics as well as forums that can help lead you to the information you’re looking for.

    Crafting the Question

    Not all questions get an answer, no matter which site you post it on. It’s not always an issue of whether anyone knows the answer: you may need to tweak your question-writing technique. I’ve found, for instance, really broad questions get ignored. On most sites, question answers are only spending a small amount of time answering questions. They’ll go for the easy responses first — the questions they can answer in under five minutes. With really broad questions, there is a certain feeling that whoever is asking hasn’t done any research, and no one wants to do someone’s work for them.

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    It can also be difficult to write a question that gets the answer you’re looking. More than once, I’ve had to rewrite and repost questions because I assumed that the folks looking at my question would be thinking the same way — maybe I assumed that everyone would think that I’d already looked into the obvious answer. That’s really not the case, though. You have to state limitations if you want people to conform to what you really want for an answer. Most sites provide plenty of room in which to write your question: it can be worthwhile to make a note of answers you’ve already looked into and discounted, or other information that can help limit your request.

    Considering the Answers

    Unfortunately, not everyone who hangs out on a website and types up answers to random strangers’ questions is a reliable source. Especially if you’re asking about sensitive subjects, you might get a few ‘interesting’ answers. It’s up to you to sort out the information you can really use and set aside the rest. Depending on the importance of the question, I try to do a little research to, at least, confirm the answers I’ve received. I’ve actually found that once I have an answer, it’s much easier to Google for confirmation than it was to get Google to find an answer in the first place.

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    There are also more than a few sites that guarantee that you can have your questions answered by experts. The major difference between these and the sites I’ve been discussing is a matter of price. As long as you don’t care about the quality of your answers, you can get them for free. If you need something a little more reliable, though, it might just be worth investing in a few minutes of an expert’s time.

    Give Back a Few Answers of Your Own

    While spending all day on AskMeFi, answering every question you can, may not seem like a good time to you, it still may be worth your while to spend a little time on one of the various answer sites. It can be a good way to kill time, especially if you stick to the relatively simple questions, but some people do it for other reasons. Many members of LinkedIn, for instance, answer questions to help build up their reputations as experts in particular subjects. Other sites award points for good answers, although some points systems may be arbitrary and I’m still not sure what value most of those points have. No matter what the reward, though, I firmly believe that answering questions gets my brain going and are probably better than the many YouTube videos I could be spending my time on instead.

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    Last Updated on October 15, 2019

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

    Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

    There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

    Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

    Why we procrastinate after all

    We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

    Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

    Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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    To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

    If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

    So, is procrastination bad?

    Yes it is.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

    Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

    Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

    It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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    The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

    Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

    For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

    A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

    Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

    Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

    How bad procrastination can be

    Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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    After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

    One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

    That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

    Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

    In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

    You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

    More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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    8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

    Procrastination, a technical failure

    Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

    It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

    It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

    Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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