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Efficiency Series: Don’t Look at the Squirrel

Squirrel eating nuts
Article Highlights:

  • When something else catches your attention, your focus is out the window.
  • Learn to stop chasing "squirrels" in the workplace.

I have a two-year old Goldendoodle who is extremely intelligent. He picks up on tricks very quickly, performing them with ease… until he sees a squirrel. At that point, nothing else matters except that squirrel. He’ll run around the house, making sure not to lose sight of the little critter outside. No amount of treats or toys will get him to re-focus until it completely goes away.

The funny thing is humans are very similar. You’re focused on a task but when something else catches your attention, your concentration is out the window.

Here are a few of the most common “squirrels” in the workplace and how to stop chasing them:


If you’ve got your email up, it’s almost impossible not to take a peek at every new message that comes in. Try to add up all the minutes you use just to check email. I’ll bet it takes up a larger chunk of your time than you realize. If you’ve got an alert that pops up whenever you get a new message, turn it off. Fight the urge to check your inbox every few minutes. Instead, designate times to read email. For instance, you can check once in the morning, once at noon, and then once later in the afternoon. Anything truly urgent will come through your phone, not your email.

Social media

You told yourself you were just going to quickly check a message on Facebook. An hour later, you find yourself looking at the profile of your brother’s best friend’s wife’s uncle who made a fool of himself at someone’s wedding. Unless your job is managing your dealership’s social media accounts, there’s no need for you to log into Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter while at work.

Cell phone
Occasional personal calls or texts are fine. But unless you’re communicating with a customer, there’s no need to look at your cell phone every other minute. Try putting it somewhere not easily accessible like in your desk drawer or purse. Out of sight, out of mind.


Often, you are interrupted by people in the middle of a task. Someone stops by your desk as you’re making follow-up calls to your customers. The parts guy starts talking about scores from last night’s game as you’re obtaining a part for a vehicle you’re servicing. It’s fine to engage in small talk, but the operative word is SMALL. Keep it short and stay focused on the task at hand. Maximize the tools available to you. For instance, if you’re in the middle of an important job and need quick assistance from someone, use functions like chat instead of walking over to the person.


Now that you’re aware of the “squirrels” around you, you’ll be more conscientious about how you respond when they come up. Easier said than done for sure. But once you’ve established the habit, you’ll be able to concentrate better and ultimately, become more efficient at work.

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Angela Panganiban was a Marketing Communications Professional at Reynolds and Reynolds. Prior to Reynolds, she worked in Advertising, PR, and Marketing for top corporations in the Philippines. She received her Communications degree from Ateneo de Manila University.

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