It was American naturalist and essayist Henry David Thoreau who opined that “it’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants”.

He also went on to say that “the question is – what are we busy about?”, with this famous quote the source of much debate throughout the years.

But what exactly does the quote mean and what does it tell us about the importance of productivity and focus in life? Slinky Productions is here to answer your questions below!

What Does Thoreau’s Quote Mean?

We’ve all met people who appear to be constantly busy, but are they actually productive?

How many of these people finish the day exhausted but with very little to show for their endeavours? There’s no doubt that these individuals work hard and tirelessly, but this means little without the necessary end results.

Active and working ants are also incredibly busy, usually foraging, carrying food or building. The difference is that this effort translates into relatively tangible returns, in the form of food, shelter and the creation of families.

There’s certainly very little time wasted by busy ants, who work to achieve clear objectives and aren’t distracted until tasks are completed.

This highlights the importance of productivity and focus, which enable you to work smartly and towards the accomplishment of specific goals. Without these elements, your hard work and toil mean little, leaving you feeling stressed, tired, and completely unproductive in all areas of your life.

So, the end portion of the quote poses the question of why we’re busy in the first place, and what we hope to achieve through all of our hard work.

multitasking, focus on productivity

Focus and Productivity – Making Your Effort Valuable

In simple terms, focus and productivity add value to your hard work, ensuring that you work towards a clear objective and make the most of your time.

For example, being focused on a particular result or goal allows you to steer your efforts towards a final and overarching objective. In fact, working without focus is akin to being at the wheel of a boat without a designated destination in mind, causing you to float aimlessly as your efforts deliver zero results.

In addition to focusing on the accomplishment of single, daily goals, you should also work towards wider objectives. This can provide sustained motivation over time, especially when looking to achieve life goals such as buying a home.

But what about productivity? Well, while focus allows you to work towards one or more specific goals, productivity enables you to minimise distractions and operate as efficiently as possible on a daily basis.

There are various productivity techniques that you can use to work effectively, including time blocking and the Pomodoro technique. The former asks you to set aside specific blocks of time for individual tasks, while the latter involves 25 minute periods of intensive work separated by 5 minute intervals.

By choosing the technique that best works for you, it’s possible to make the most out of your time and prioritise individual tasks effectively.

This lets you get the most out of each day, ensuring that your hard work is organised, focused and capable of providing tangible returns.