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Time Management: Conquering the Squirrel Effect with Strategies to Stay or Regain Focus

05/25/22 | Dana LaRieal Morales

Are you constantly finding yourself pulled in different directions, struggling to manage your time effectively? If the "squirrel effect" has become a common obstacle in your personal and professional life, worry not, you are not alone. In this episode, I delve into the intricacies of time management and explore practical solutions to conquer distractions and boost productivity.

We uncover the causes behind the squirrel effect and its detrimental impact on our ability to manage time efficiently. I will share how I regain control over my schedule, stay focused on my priorities, and accomplish more in less time. My goal is to help you discover effective strategies for setting clear goals, prioritizing tasks, and minimizing time-wasting distractions. Learn how to create effective routines and develop the discipline needed to manage your time proactively. Don't let the squirrel effect rob you of valuable time and productivity.

Additionally, next week we are going to take this a step further and really dig into what a compound process is and how it's impacting your ability to complete tasks and goals you have set for yourself, your business or your household.  

Episode Summary

The squirrel effect happens in both my personal and professional life and it has got to be the worst thing ever, especially if I don't realize it until an hour or more later!

Here's a common scenario, I am supposed to be working to set up an email sequence for an upcoming launch, I log into my email system and get distracted by some new features they have released. Next thing I know I've sat and watched 30 mins worth of videos and have begun working to redesign something that has already been released instead of just setting up what I need the way I am used to doing it.

I don't HAVE to work on the new bell and whistle right now, the old way I used to do it still works and from a time perspective, I really would be better off waiting and giving the learning experience its own dedicated time.

Have you ever done that? You went upstairs to get one thing which should have taken you all of 5 minutes and thirty minutes later you are headed back downstairs without the item you went up there for and truth be told you don't even remember now what that item was!

Let's Identify A Focused Goal

So here is my recommendation and it is one that will take some practice. Before I set off to do things I try to think about or identify the goal. For the next thirty minutes, I am going to focus on XYZ. As things come up that threaten your ability to reach that goal you write them down on a pad of paper or in your electronic device (note you need to prep ahead so these things are there with you). This helps you refocus on the goal instead of that "thing" that was about to derail you.

In project management, we call this concept the "Parking Lot".  It is a place where you essentially park things that you don't want to forget or that you may need later.  It's a great tool to use to stay on track in the moment.  The key is to set up a system that allows you to review the parking lot items.  I actually just use my backlog list to track parking lot items.  I have a section called parking lot which signifies to me that I need to review those items to determine if I need to do them and if so where should they fall.  You could also use a tagging system called "parking lot" so you will know it may need to be further developed or thought out.

Using Baskets to Maintain Focus

I have systems set up in my home to help with this. They are called landing pad baskets, yeah I just came up with that name here on the spot - do you like it? Anyway, let me explain how this came to be.

My daughter is notorious for leaving her stuff in the living room. When her room was downstairs this wasn't a huge problem because we typically would just get her to take it to her room or take it there if she weren't around. Now that her room is upstairs we find this is a little more difficult and time-consuming. We have a process of placing anything that needs to go upstairs at the bottom of the stairs either on them or right beside them. This is a clue to anyone going up to take something up with them.

When my daughter was smaller, I'd have a basket on the landing of the stairs specifically for her stuff. There were so many small toys or other little things I'd find in various places of the home that it was hard to keep them all corralled to carry them up. I'd just reach through the railing and place them in the basket. She knew to check it as she went up to bed (if her arms weren't already full). Once the basket would get a substantial amount in it I'd advise her to take the items to her room and put them where they belonged.  

Focus on the Accomplishments

When you look at both of these concepts I've shared, they both accomplish several things, (1) They keep me from getting distracted which is an immediate time saving benefit, (2) they give the "squirrel items a temporary home, and (3) they set some expectations and rules around what is to happen with the items.

The battle once you get the system down that you create is to ensure you or the little sasquatch (I mean child/family member) puts the items where they belong. Listen, we tackle one thing at a time...the goal in implementing any technique is to get the items in the location/idea bucket where they belong, or at least on the level where it belongs. You can then tackle the next phase if they are in the parking lot or they get on the floor, yet not in the place where they belong. One step and one win at a time.

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The Organized Holistically podcast strives to teach side-hustling solopreneurs how to manage a successful business and life using holistic systems. I help you develop, implement and streamline unique and organic processes and organizing systems.  I do this by helping you identify the right systems and processes so you aren't spending money or time on unnecessary things and instead can spend that time and money focusing on the things that are most important to you, your family.