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The mouse or the antelope

During my day, I'm often faced with the decision of whether to focus on the big things (work that needs long uninterrupted hours of focus or deep work, as Cal Newport puts it), or the small things (like email, for instance).

The small things also comprise of things that add value when done, but not enough to justify the effort that goes into it. For instance, a Product Manager can spend three to four hours querying the data to derive answers to questions that will help understand how an experiment performed or she can delegate that to an analyst and then spend half an hour deriving insights from the processed information. Her time is perhaps better spent in devising the longer term strategy for the product.

This amplifies even more when we look at it from the perspective of a team or a company. A team can focus on polishing the user interface to have an impeccable experience or invest in validating new ideas that can help grow the value for its users.

Newt Gingrich uses a brilliant illustration to explain this dichotomy.

He says, and I paraphrase, "A lion is perfectly capable of catching and killing mice for food. But the nutrition it derives from eating a mouse can barely make up for the energy it spends in catching and killing the mouse. Whereas, even though it takes a lot more energy to catch and kill an antelope, doing so is enough to feed the entire pride for a few days."

Doing busywork is the equivalent of a lion catching and killing a mouse while doing deep work is like killing an antelope.

We should always be asking ourselves which of these two we are spending more of our time on and calibrate accordingly.

The goal should be to consistently expand our appetite to move on to bigger and bigger prey while delegating away the smaller prey to others.

Inspiration - Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris

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