It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?

It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?Henry David Thoreau

Why are ants are so busy, and what are they trying to accomplish? Why are you so busy, and what are you trying to accomplish?

What does that mean?
This quote is straight to the point. It says that being busy isn’t enough. Even ants are busy. How many people do you know who are always busy? While I’m sure some of those people are incredibly productive, how many finish the day exhausted, but with little to show for all their effort? I used to be one of them, but I’m getting better.

The quote finishes by asking us what are we busy about, or what are we trying to accomplish with all this activity? Some people just run around “fighting fires” or use other important sounding terms to describe what they are doing. But without a plan and an idea about where you’re going, you might just be going in circles.

Why is focus important?  
It’s easy to be busy. Cleaning, organizing and reorganizing are mainstays of busy-work. But what does it accomplish? Sometimes it’s important and necessary, but often it is not. By being focused on a result, the completion of a plan, or the accomplishment of a goal, you can make sure your efforts support that end.

If you aren’t focused, you’re like a boat without a destination, without a port to which you are going. Any wind will get you someplace. Just as any work can keep you busy. But what are you trying to accomplish with all your work? That is the big question of this quote, and the question I put to you.

Where can I apply this in my life?
This is one of my big weaknesses. I have difficulty staying focused (part of that is my ADD, the rest is my insatiable curiosity). Almost anything can side-track me, get me busy looking at, investigating, or doing things that aren’t part of any plan that I’m working on.

The other problem I have is too many plans. To be focused on the important things, the less important things need to be set aside for the moment. I have difficulty doing that. For short bursts, I can be a mono-maniac on a mission, but usually I’m multi-tasking, which is defined as the fine art of screwing up more than one thing at a time.

Take a few moments and think of all the different things you’re working on at the moment. Projects, plans, goals, to-do list items, whatever they may be and what ever you may call them. Grab some paper and write each one down, and save a little space in-between each one.

While there will always be interruptions, and priorities will change over time, for this moment, select the two most important things that need to be completed. Put a star or some other notation next to these two so they can be easily spotted. Write down next to each the reason you MUST get these done.

For each of the rest, write down why they are important enough to remain on the list. (If they aren’t really that important, cross them off!) Now, next to why they are important, write down why they aren’t as important as the ones you chose as the most important. This will hopefully help you keep track of your priorities in the future.

Compelling reasons and a little urgency can both help us stay focused, so let’s look at your top two tasks. You wrote something down next to each, but how compelling is it? Right now, my less-than-compelling reason to get my project car done is to beat my wife’s deadline of three and a half years from now. That’s a reason, but it’s not very compelling, and there is plenty of time, right?

Think about your two top priorities and work on some compelling reasons for why it needs to be done. How will it help you get better at something, how will it improve your life, how will it help you avoid pain or gain pleasure? Make sure that it is something that grabs you, motivates you, and inspires you.

Once you have that done, add some urgency. Why do you need to get busy on it sooner rather than later? Move up the deadline, challenge yourself in a fun way. If you make it sound impossible, and you start to believe it, the urgency turns into foreboding and dread. That’s not going to be helpful, right?

It might be a good idea to write your top two priorities (and the compelling reason why and the urgent reason why) down on a clean sheet of paper, so it looks really nice, and post them someplace where you will see them on a regular basis. Refrigerators and bathroom mirrors seem to be the most common places I’ve seen lists like this.

Remind yourself each morning why you need to do these things, why you must do these things. Pretty soon, you’ll be busy working on something in specific, not just being busy. And to me, that’s what this quote is all about, right?

From: Twitter, @_Brian_Johnson
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/h/henrydavid153926.html
Photo by  anieto2k

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5 Responses to It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?

  1. Optimistic.Impulse 13 January 2016 at 2:06 pm #

    This was me in a nutshell, I will definitely take these wonderful advice and run with it. I know I’m capable of a lot of things, but I am unable to stay on task to complete long term goals. Everybody always say I’m smart, but sometimes I feel really stupid because I get distracted so easily. I’m going to take this quote and read it each morning to help me thru the day. Thank you for sharing this! Awesome!

    • philosiblog 14 January 2016 at 4:00 am #

      Thanks for stopping by, and for leaving such a kind comment.

      Yeah, this resonated with me as well. Glad you found it useful, because those of us who are easily distracted should stick togethe… SQUIRREL! 8)

  2. Mayur 17 May 2015 at 3:48 pm #

    Good explanation..

    • philosiblog 21 May 2015 at 7:12 am #

      Thanks for stopping by, and for leaving such a kind comment.

  3. Ken 14 December 2011 at 12:47 am #

    Another good one. Thanks!

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