I have a confession to make. It seems this year I have come down with Squirrel Syndrome. You may have heard of it of late under various different names; however, I like to refer to it as the “SQUIRREL!” Syndrome.
The symptoms are usually easy to recognize. It’s that inexplicable pull when working on a project (business or personal) to investigate the myriad possibilities of brainstorming, presenting, producing, completing, and delivering the project. Before you know it, you’ve come up with 20 different ways to handle your project and are now having difficulty in choosing one path to start.
The Squirrel Syndrome is having your eye caught by every shiny object that comes along the way. Deciding to invest in the shiny objects and learn all the ins and outs of working with these new tools. Before you know it, you have a nest full of shiny objects, half of which all do the same thing. The sad thing is either you already had a tool to begin with that did what you needed or only one of those shiny objects would have sufficed, not five.
Sometimes you lie to yourself, saying mitigating circumstances prevented you from starting or completing the project. Yes, there are times personal or business “wrenches” are thrown into the works that clog things up — slowing things down or making everything come to a complete stop.
However, these mitigating circumstances are just moments in time. If you have the Squirrel Syndrome, it seems easy to let these wrenches last much longer than what their shelf lives should actually be.
The result of this Squirrel Syndrome is your projects can be significantly delayed and sometimes never even completed.
I am happy to say I am nearly recovered from this bout with Squirrel Syndrome by following seven steps that are helping me move forward. If you recognize you too are suffering from this syndrome, these steps may help you. We can recover together!
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7 Steps to a Cure for Squirrel Syndrome Sufferers
- Commit Yourself to Recovery: Nothing in life happens until you recognize the necessary steps needed to achieve your desires, aspirations, and goals. If there is something preventing you from achieving what you want, you must commit yourself to recognizing the problem and finding appropriate solutions.
- Stay Healthy: It is hard to stay focused if you are not healthy. Get plenty of sleep; the usual recommendation is a minimum of six to eight hours (preferably eight). Drink at least eight, 8 oz. glasses of water a day. Eat for good nutrition, heavier on the fruits, vegetables, and fiber. Have some type of exercise regimen for a minimum of three times a week, preferably five times a week, with a minimum of 60 minutes a day.
- Clearly Define the Project: What is the objective of the project? What are all the steps involved? What is the estimated time from start to completion? How will you complete the project and what tools are needed (software, hardware, labor [yours or others])? What tools do you currently have? Do you need to purchase any tools? Do we need to do further research before starting the project? How much time should be allotted for research?
IMPORTANT: Once the project has been clearly defined, move to step four and don’t look back. You’ll have an opportunity to look back after the project is finished.
- Schedule Everything: Once the project has been clearly defined, open your calendar, and make an appointment for each step of the project. Some steps may require several blocks of recurring appointments. Everything must be blocked on the calendar, from the time needed to define the project, start of the actual project, to after completion of the project. When estimating the time for each step, add at least 30 – 60 additional minutes from what you think is needed. Estimates of time are so rarely on the mark, it is safer to add additional time.
Scheduling time reduces stress. Less stress reduces the desire to escape into distractions.
- Turn Off Distractions: At the appointed time for each step, turn off all distractions. Shut down your calendar and e-mail system. Close all open browser windows. Close all software except for what is needed for the project. If working on a project that does not require the computer, turn off the computer, and remove everything from the area other than the tools needed to work on the project. Turn off; operative word here is off (not silenced), phones, tablets, TVs, and any other devices that would be a distraction.
With all unnecessary programs turned off on your computer, you could be distracted by constantly looking at the clock to see if you’re close to the end of your allotted time for the step. Free Alarm Clock is easy to download, install, and use. You can set multiple alarms and never have to open any other piece of software, other than what you are currently working on.
If you have your computer turned off and all other devices are off, have a clock in the room, set the alarm, and turn the clock so it is facing away from you.
- Reward Time: Don’t forget to reward yourself at the end of your project. If the project is large and has multiple steps, reward yourself many times throughout the project. The rewards can be as small as taking a two-minute break to walk away from your desk for a moment to clear your head and get a refreshing glass of water. Or, once a step is fully completed and the alarm has rung, opening social media and reading for 5 – 15 minutes (set an alarm again, don’t get trapped and lose track of time). The reward could be large for when the project has been completed, such as dinner out, the movies, a weekend away, a weeklong vacation, or whatever is appropriate for the size of the project.
- Evaluate: After the end of your project, look back and determine what worked and what didn’t. Depending on the size of the project, a review may be appropriate a couple days after. You may need to wait 30, 60, 90 days if it was a large project. You need to allow some time and distance, so you can evaluate with a fresh pair of eyes.
By evaluating everything, what worked and what didn’t, you will be able to become more focused on future projects. You’ll have a better idea of what worked for you, what kept you focused and on task. You’ll know what projects to keep but give to someone else to handle because you found them too difficult to perform or stay on task. You may even determine which future project ideas to throw away because those types of projects do not help you achieve your goals.
Ultimately, by evaluating everything, you’ll soon be able to quickly decipher those successful projects that help you achieve your desires, aspirations, and goals.