The world is accelerating, and there are more platforms and opportunities for expression than at any point in history. As a result, we often expect more of ourselves and others. If time is available for a project, then it seems reasonable to agree to take it on or to expect others to do so. However, as these commitments build they can quickly begin to suffocate our capacity to engage with the work. We find that we are still able to technically get around to everything, but our effectiveness is decreasing. We are sinking slowly into a sea of mediocrity.

This is why pruning is critical.

In a vineyard, the vine keeper knows that if a vine is not regularly pruned, new fruit will eventually begin to steal resources from the older, more mature, fruit-bearing parts of the vine. Over time, the unpruned vine will eventually succumb to systemic mediocrity because it simply can’t support that much fruit. There aren’t the resources available. The good fruit suffers in order to support the less mature fruit.

In the same way, it’s critical that we (both individuals and companies) get really good at “pruning” – learning to say “no” to opportunities and projects – that don’t align with the important work that we’re doing. This means passing on opportunities – even really good ones – in order to preserve the energy needed to bring our best effort to the work that we know we need to excel at.

Sit down once a month with your calendar and your projects list, and look for things that might be good ideas, but need to be pruned in order to give you more capacity to do your crucial work. This doesn’t mean that you’re saying no to them forever, it just means that you’re recognizing that you don’t have the bandwidth to do everything all the time. It’s not failure, it’s the first step toward success.

Mosquitos ruin the hunt for big game – David Allen

Time alone is not sufficient to do great work. You also need to have the focus and energy to be able to engage. The best strategy for ensuring that you are well-positioned in those moments when you must be effective is to prune relentlessly. What will you prune from your life today so that you’re more effective tomorrow?

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