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How to tame the squirrel in your brain

June 8, 2022

I was minding my own business digging a hole in the ground for a delicious treat I’d found earlier while swinging from the pine tree. 

That’s when I saw it. 

It was the most beautifully crafted, slick-sided, oval-shaped piece of nut with its tan color perfectly distributed around its surface and I could see myself sinking my gargantuan front teeth into that ball of bliss like it was a still-warm chocolate chip cookie. Ahh… an acorn.

I ditched my treasure, vaulted over the fallen tree, dove under the bush and grabbed my sweet baby acorn into the loving embrace of my soft furry little arms. 

“I love you till the snow falls down… and then I’ll eat ya.”

But that’s when I heard something falling down from the spruce tree, through the needle-covered branches and sinking head first into the ground. 

Thump. 

The most drool-inducing, eye-catching morsel I had ever seen. A perfectly brown and evenly patterned spruce cone that would serve as a winter snack for approximately 5 seconds, possibly longer, or possibly shorter, but not too short, and not too long, but definitely at least 5 seconds. Maybe even 10. I had to have it.

Through the pile of leaves, up the oak tree and a huge leap to snatch that cuddle-ready cone of my dreams. “Come to papa!”

Isn’t this the game we play all day? 

We sit in front of our computers, a minimum of two hundred tabs open (that’s why you need the newest Mac), ten different workspaces, dual screens plus our phones all ready to serve the squirrel in our brain.

And then at the end of the day, we wonder why we feel exhausted, unproductive and disappointed at our lack of accomplishments.

You’ve read a hundred productivity articles, and tried another dozen methods and you know exactly what I’m about to tell you to catch that squirrel and put it behind bars.

This is the fine line between you and bliss. Well, maybe not bliss but at least some peace of mind and feeling a bit better, more productive and proud of yourself at the end of the day.

Here are three methods to get the squirrel off your back and clock some serious productivity time on your time sheet.

1. Self-Control your nut addiction

This app blocks you from accessing your chosen websites for a period of time you choose. It’s like handcuffing yourself and throwing the key away.

Download the Self-control app for Mac (Don’t blame me, that’s what the app is really called). Install it. Add nuts (social media sites etc.) to the blocked website list that you know frequently steal your attention. 

Next, you set the time for focused work. It could be just a few hours or a full workday, mind you. 

You’re all set.

Now focus on work knowing you can comfortably forget about your nut addiction.

2. Focus on one nut at a time

The Pomodoro method is a great way to do this. 

Here’s how it works. 

First, grab an egg timer (or for iOS use the “Focus” app) and crank 25 minutes on it. Next choose a single task to focus on until the timer rings. Do not do anything else. I mean it you beautiful fur ball. 

When the timer rings set it for 5 minutes and take a break. Look outside. Do pull-ups. Let your mind cool off and do not check your emails or phone. Do nothing. 

Once the five minutes are up set the timer for another 25 minutes and focus on one task. 

After that take another 5-minute break.

So the pattern is 25-5-25-5-25. You can adjust the length of the focused time and the break to what works for you best. Also when you work in these sprints they’re quite consuming. So make sure you take 25-minute breaks a few times a day.

Beware of the feeling that you need to check your phone when it arises. Just don’t act on it. 

3. Login your nuts

Ah, the good old journal. Use something like The Five Minute Journal if you want to get fancy.

Step #1: At the end of the day write 3 things you will get done tomorrow. If the tasks are too big to get done in one day, divide them into smaller tasks.

Step #2: Choose which task is the hardest problem to solve or the most repulsive for you to do and do that first tomorrow morning.

*BONUS NUT

We, earthlings, tend to set too high expectations for short-term goals (like daily to-do lists) and too low expectations for long-term goals. So draw a dashed line between your most important to-do item and the next one. Once done with the first give yourself permission to be done and proud of your achievements. 

Trust me, this is the shit.

I know you’re whining on that side of the screen right now. Stop it. 

I know you know this shit. But just like me, you ain’t doing it. And if you ain’t doing it, you ain’t getting the results and you’re going nuts. You got to do it. Knowing is not enough, silly.

Now beat it and go put your nuts in order.

A black and white photo of the author Jussi's smiling face with shortcut hair and a short beardJussi Tarvainen

Former pro snowboarder. Author at night. Multi(failed)-entrepreneur. And mostly an awesome designer (said, my five-year-old son).

plenty more loot in the vault

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