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Weekly Thought Volume - 102 - Time and the Ant-Grasshopper Philosophy

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It's an obvious—yet often overlooked—truth: rich people have 24 hours a day.

And, poor people have 24 hours a day too.

The difference between the rich and the poor is simply in the management of that time. So maybe successful people often work harder and longer than most, but they almost always work smarter.

If we get more from ourselves, if we can make an hour as valuable as 10 hours used to be, we can get as much done in a day as we used to get done in a week.

Imagine the potential compounding effect of working smarter.

If you practice just a few simple disciplines every day, you can use time as the rich people do—with focus and effectiveness.

1. Run the day, or it will run you. Part of the key to time management is staying in charge of it.

Some will be masters of their time, and some will be servants. You want to become the master of your time. It’s much more rewarding than a servant role.

To master your time, have clear written goals for each day that you keep with you at all times.

It helps to create each day's list the night before. As the last action you do at the end of your day, stop and prioritize your goals for the next day and review them. You’ll come in the next morning with a purpose and a plan. You’ll be focused immediately. It really does work.

The difference in your approach to the day, having that already in place the night before can be incredibly effective.

And here's a good question to ask yourself constantly: Is this a major activity or a minor activity? By asking that question, you will reduce the amazingly natural tendency to spend major time on minor things. In sales training, we are taught that major time is the time spent in the presence of the prospect, while minor time is the time spent on the way to the prospect. If you are not careful, you will spend more time "on the way to" than "in the presence of" your goals.

Before you answer an email, ask yourself if this is a major activity or a minor activity. Before you make a phone call, ask yourself if this is a major phone call or a minor phone call. Enterprising people don't let the minor activities distract them from the major activities—the ones that hold the keys to their success.

2. Don't mistake activity for productivity. You probably know some people who always seem to be busy being busy. I’m picturing a few people in our offices that would fit that template. We KNOW how busy they are, because we can monitor their activity. They’re too busy to get ANYTHING done…..and little seems to get done.

To be successful, you’ve got to be busy being productive. Some people are going, going, going, but they're always doing figure eights. They're not making much progress. Don't get confused and mistake activity for productivity, movement for achievement. Evaluate the hours in your days, and see if there is wasted time that you could manage better.

Remember there is an opportunity cost to every single activity you do. The time you spend doing one thing is time you could spend doing something else. Before investing your time in anything, briefly ask yourself if this is the highest-leverage activity you could be doing to accomplish the most important priority on your list for the day.

And, make sure the activities on your list for the day are the highest-leverage opportunities to accomplish your short- and long-term goals.

3. Focus. The third key to time management is good concentration. You've got to zero in on the job at hand and, like an ant, let nothing stand in your way and let nothing distract you from the task. Assuming this is a major activity in pursuit of the highest-leverage opportunity available, there should be nothing more valuable to invest your time in.

This is easier said than done. Concentration takes a lot of discipline. It takes discipline to demand privacy, to not react to the minor activities that try to demand your attention, such as new emails and ringing phones or people walking in to see you all day.

If you have a long list of things to get done within one day, do the toughest one while your concentration is at its peak. If you're a morning person, get the job done in the morning. Don't wait until the evening, when your energy is all spent. Do the jobs that need the most concentration when your body is best able to handle them.

One of the greatest enemies of this sort of concentration is worry. Worrying about your future can prevent you from being where you are right now. We all have worries, and they are useful. But, don't let worry distract you. Stay focused on changing what you can change—that is the only true way to overcome the source of your worry anyhow.

Enterprise is always better than ease. Every time we choose to do less than we possibly can, we limit our possibilities—we stifle our potential. You can alter your life by doing a little more each day to work smarter, by developing a habit of efficiency rather than the habit of activity.

The Ant Philosophy

My Father taught me the story of the Grasshopper and the Ant. The unfocused, unwilling- to- put- in- the- effort Grasshopper eventually starved to death, while the enterprising, focused and willing to put in the effort Ant stayed warm and fed. When was the last time you saw ants reach an obstacle and give up with their heads down and head back to the ant hole to relax? Never!

If they're headed somewhere and you try to stop them, they will look for another way. They'll climb over, they'll climb under, they'll go around—regardless of the effort involved.

What a neat philosophy, to never quit looking for a way to get where you're supposed to go!

Here's another question. How much will an ant gather during the summer to prepare for winter? All that it possibly can. Ants don't have quotas or "good enough" philosophies. They don't gather a certain amount and then head back to the hole to "hang out." If an ant can do more, it does.

Hard to believe you can find inspiration in such a simple philosophy, but isn’t it wonderful that such a thing can exist? Want to have more? Take it from Mr. Ant. Do more.

Thanks for reading……