Productivity lessons from ants

We don’t look down for inspiration — that’s an action reserved for our less than stellar moments, but the next time you find yourself hanging your head, take a lesson on productivity from the ants wandering below.

Productivity is about deletion (not addition).

Here’s a simple trick for establishing priorities: 

As we progress in our professional lives, a challenge arises:

Our time and energy become increasingly scarce, but our opportunity set becomes increasingly abundant.

• Time 📉
• Opportunity 📈

To manage this, we need a system. It starts with learning to prioritize your tasks.

At the start of each quarter, sit down with blank sheet of paper.

Start by writing down the 10 most exciting opportunities in front of you for the quarter.

They can be for your job, your side hustles, or your passion projects. Zoom out and look at your list.

Think deeply on each opportunity:
• What makes it exciting?
• What resources are required?
• What tradeoffs are required?
• What is success with it?
• Will it create energy?

Now take your pen and cross 7 of the opportunities off the list… 

This forced deletion feels draconian, but it’s so important.

You’re left with the 3 most exciting opportunities for the quarter ahead.

These are the opportunities that become your primary focus for the quarter.

They provide a lens through which to evaluate daily decisions. 

As you progress through the quarter, let those priority opportunities guide your daily actions.

Is this daily habit or system important for my core opportunities? If not, how can I tweak it?

Is this task going to create progress against one of my core opportunities? 

Productivity is about deletion, not addition.

When new and seemingly exciting opportunities come your way, assess whether they fit into your core priorities.

If not, just say no.

Be sure to log them for later—maybe they become a core opportunity for a future quarter. 

We’re bad at turning down opportunities. But by running for everything, we accomplish nothing. And that’s why Focus is the key.

The trick works because it forces constraints—it forces focus. 

Note: I use a quarterly system, but you could do this monthly if you prefer a higher frequency cadence.

I find quarterly to be great, but if it is too scary, start with a monthly audit and adjust from there as you see fit.

Things you can do from here:

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