Productivity Lessons from a Spider

A spider at its work

Animals are perfectly productive creatures. They get the things they need to do done or they die, whether at some predator’s teeth, from starvation, or through exposure to hostile weather. Unproductive animals just end up dead.

One particularly productive animal is the spider, and those of you who have projects to build and big dreams to achieve could take a few tips from those creepy-crawly web-weavers.

Lay Your Groundwork

When a spider starts making a web, it sets up the spokes and then creates the spiral circles that make the best food-catching trap an arachnid could ask for. When they put down the spokes and the spirals for the first time, they use what is called “dry thread.” It isn’t sticky, it can’t catch food, and it doesn’t stay there for long. But because it helps them lay the groundwork before they set their web in something they could get tangled in, the dry thread is still a vital part of their process. After they have the main frame set up, spiders go back along the spiral and eat the dry thread while laying down sticky thread that can catch lunch.

With your work, there is probably a lot of groundwork you need to do. It’s stuff no one will see, that won’t be in the final product, and that will be thrown away. But that doesn’t make it unnecessary. You need your concept and your product to be fully conceptualized before you set it in stone (can you imagine how long movie animators spend sketching and drawing concept art before the start creating what will actually be in the movie?). Skipping your groundwork can lead to a mess of trouble down the road that can throw you behind schedule or ruin what work you have done; spare yourself the heartache and start right.

Be Patient

After a spider has put its web together, it settles in to wait. It can’t really force food to get caught in its sticky threads, but if it’s put its web in the right place something will come along. If it leaves the web after a short wait with no luck, it’s not going to catch enough to keep itself fed.

When you’ve created something great, you normally can’t expect instant results. Even if you have the greatest website in the history of websites, people aren’t going to flock to it on Day 1. Sometimes you have to wait for a bit before results start coming your way. That isn’t to say you should sit around and neglect warning signs that something’s wrong. A spider who nets no nibbles for a long time will have to reconsider its placement and may have to move. You’ll need to pay close attention to your creation to know if anything is wrong or if the timing just hasn’t hit a sweet spot yet. Being patient will allow you to reap the benefits of the work you’ve already done.

Maintain Your Work

Even though a spider is patient, it doesn’t sit idly while it waits for its web to work. Spiders replace the sticky parts of their webs regularly—those sticky threads lose their stick if they sit for too long. Spiderwebs receive constant upkeep, but regularly maintenance means the spider never needs to start from scratch (unless a passing human tore the web apart).

Once you’ve created something, maintain it. Adjust and update what you can. Check up with your client to see if they need anything; tweak your software to match technology advances; modify your designs if it will improve your product. Maintaining your work means you never have to put in the time to recreate it from scratch. That saves you time and improves your work—which keeps you fed and happy like a smart, surviving spider.

Image by arkorn via

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *