Question: I have been accused of failing to maintain focus in my business – and even at home. Admittedly, I do run down rabbit trails, but it often seems to be a real necessity. What’s my problem? Joanne, Kansas City, MO

BOB: Yes, today I believe it is called the “squirrel syndrome.”

What activity do you suppose is responsible for causing 1,600,000 auto accidents in the U.S. every year, 330,000 injuries a year, and 6,000 deaths a year – including 11 teens a day.* Would you believe texting while driving?  A 2-second distraction while driving increases your chance of an accident by approximately 50%. Coincidentally, Alexander Graham Bell (the man who made cell phones and texting possible in the first place) said, “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”  Another wise man (by the name of Anonymous) said, “If you chase two rabbits at the same time, you ain’t likely to catch either one.”

Although multi-tasking in business is usually not fatal, focusing on one thing at a time often means the difference between success and failure. Studies have shown that the majority of tasks undertaken in this manner will not be done properly, and usually take more time. Maxwell Maltz stated, “You can do only one thing at a time. I simply tackle one problem and concentrate all my efforts on what I am doing at the moment.” So, how do you regain focus – and then stay focused on one thing?

Psychiatrist and author, Clarissa Estes, offers some helpful advice on how to regain focus: ‘If you’ve lost focus, just sit down and be still. Take the idea and rock it to and fro. Keep some of it and throw some away, and it will renew itself. You need do no more.” However, there is more you can do. BOB says you must 1) identify your goal, 2) be truly committed to accomplishing it, 3) decide what you must do today to achieve it, and 4) delegate – or delete –  any task that stands in your way. And ask yourself the following questions:      

  • When (and in what area) am I most tempted to multi-task?
  • Have I been convinced I can do two things effectively at the same time?
  • In what area do I need to get more focused?

BOB’s Challenge: Try this experiment right now: Begin making clockwise circles on the floor with your right foot. Now, with your right hand, draw the letter “6” in the air several times (and ignore any funny looks you’re getting from coworkers). What direction is your foot going now? Right or left? What can you learn about multi-tasking from this little demonstration? Now, take a few minutes to identify and record the specific things (see BOB’s points) you need to do to eliminate multitasking and to stay focused!  

*If you have a teenage driver in your family, give them (don’t text them) – and make sure they sign the pledge.


Step Two for Civil Conversation