This week I came clean to everyone at Dog is Good. Although it may have been quite obvious to the dedicated team I surround myself with daily, I finally confessed. I suffer from SS (Squirrel Syndrome). Unlike BOLO, to whom all the world’s distractions disappear the moment a spherical object is in sight, I am the proverbial dog who’s energetic stance moves into action the moment something captures its attention.
Nine years ago I did not have this problem. Life was a little bit simpler. I look back on days gone past when I was fortunate enough to be a stay at home mom who treasured every adventure with her daughter, fulfilled her love of dogs with dog training and volunteer work at the Museum of Tolerance in LA, and could just chill out during the day with a walk on the beach or read a book under a tree with my dogs napping next to me.
Now, the growth of the Dog is Good brand and its expanding requirements as the manufacturer of the BEST gifts for dog lovers, technology that keeps us connected 24/7, and innovations in social media, has me behaving like a puppy placed in a room filled with a variety of treats and toys. I want to interact with it all. I do interact with it all- the texts, the phone, the email, the books, the webinars, the podcasts, the interactions with employees and friends, the open windows on my internet browser, the newsletters with cool information, internet based training, my books, the radio, the magazines, business projects, OY- my brain hurts!
In order to protect my sanity, put some calm back into my life, and for once, be able to check off items on my “must do- high priority” items, I decided this week to go back to basics and retrain my ability to focus and concentrate on one thing at a time. As always, a dog provided me with the “wake up call”.
Walking one morning with BOLO and Henry on trails through a wooded park, we encountered a delightful Golden Retriever who was faced with a dilemma. He had been carrying a ball in his mouth but suddenly wanted to also carry a rather large stick. As he opened his mouth to gather up the stick, the ball would fall out. Not to be deterred, he would then try to pick the ball back up only to discover it either would not fit in his mouth or the stick would end up falling out during the attempt. This went on for a few minutes until he noted the arrival of BOLO and Henry. Now he was distracted by the ritual dog greeting dance. As BOLO and Henry ran around the woods, the Golden went back to trying to get the ball and the stick. I was trying to watch the scene and talk to the owner at the same time. I was so infatuated by the Golden’s problem-solving to get both items in its mouth that I found I was not really listening to the person right in front of me. Meanwhile, the Golden was now also alerted to some dogs barking because BOLO and Henry were roaming around the fenceline that separated the trails from the adjacent neighborhood. When he finally returned his attention to the task at hand, he discovered his ball had rolled down the hill. Despite never accomplishing his mission, he seemed happy to go after the ball and then follow his owner, leaving his stick behind. Then again, he was a Golden Retriever. As he trotted away, my brain started ticking away on all the tasks I needed to add to my own “to do list”, and then it hit me…I was that Golden Retriever all day long. The only difference between us (besides the obvious species difference) was that he happily went along while my stress level and frustration grows with every distraction and interruption.
So, it was time to get serious. I decided to go on a distraction deprivation. I had to take bold action and since my modus operandi is “If it’s worth doing…it’s worth overdoing”, I went all in to get the SS (squirrel syndrome) under control. Here is what I decided to do:
- Told my team that I would work from home for the first part of my work day: This is huge because I am easily pulled off tasks when the phone rings, when people ask me questions, when I hear conversations in the next room, when I hear texts going off in other rooms, when the dogs run down the hall, when someone enters our building, when I need to take the dogs out to potty.
- Listed all the things I need to do and then picked only 3 that I would focus on through completion: I always have a gazillion things on my to do list and I do try to get them all done. I have failed miserably at multitasking. It just doesn’t work…so why keep doing something that doesn’t work?
- Closed all windows in my internet browser: This prevents me leaving a page on the internet that might be taking too long to download to go visit another page just to “fill the wait time” and possibly get something else completed. (which of course I don’t complete)
- Turned off my phone and put it on the washing machine, in the hall just outside of my home office: Even my eyes are always pulled to my phone when a call or text come through often compelling me to respond immediately in the moment.
- Walked away from my computer once every hour: I would go drink a glass of water, throw a ball for BOLO, and only check social media when the overload of water resulted in a trip to the bathroom.
I realize this is work in progress. “You can’t expect a dog to stop chasing squirrels overnight”. It requires discipline combined with a little training to get focused and stay focused even when distractions race by.