Squirrel Moments


There is a whole universe of ways to waste your precious production time and it would waste even more of your time if I were to list a bunch of them.

I thought, however, that I would take up one kind of time waster that I find myself guilty of.  A fun doctor recently told me that she calls them “Squirrel Moments.”  (Hint:  This is the opposite of a Brain Fart which is defined as a temporary mental lapse or blankness.)

Squirrel Moment:  Going off on a tangent

This is defined as:  to suddenly start talking or thinking about a completely new subject; or to pursue a somewhat related or irrelevant course while neglecting the main subject.

You know how when you are talking to a patient or a client and you go off on a tangent because something in the conversation made you think of a funny or interesting story or incident or an example of another patient with a similar problem?  That is a Squirrel Moment.  Sometimes this just occurs in your own head but other times you may tell this to the other person out loud.  This sometimes prompts the other person to then tell a story of their own and there goes 10 minutes down the drain, albeit pleasurably.  You now find yourself behind schedule.  Yikes!

Or perhaps one staff member gets talking with another team member about a movie they saw or some news on Facebook or such and another staff member overhears and comes and joins the conversation and adds their own input.  Three peoples’ time now wasted on a Squirrel Moment.  (For the record, if they are all on lunch this would be totally okay.)

Sometimes it’s a good thing to do

Sometimes a patient or client needs to have a Squirrel Moment with you to relax and get into comfortable communication with you.  That would be a good use of it.  Other times, you can’t turn them off from telling you more and more.  Oops, opened the door on that one, didn’t you?  Helpful tip if that happens:  Cut into the person’s communication if there is even a tiny moment where they take a breath and say,  “Excuse me, Mrs. Jones, I have to interrupt you here.  (Use a big smile.)  I need you to save that story for the next time you come and I look forward to hearing it then, for sure!  (Use another big smile.)  Now, let’s get onto business here …”


Sometimes you find yourself working away at some admin stuff (Executive Time) and find yourself drifting off into a Squirrel Moment such as thinking what you are going to do to the next patient or client who, when paying their bill for today’s visit, say to you or the staff, “So whose vacation am I paying for here?” (Grrrr.)  Spending time thinking about this unfortunately is not using your Executive Time efficiently.


This is defined as the ability to give your attention or thought to a single object or activity; being able to direct your attention to a single thing.

You can actually practice being single-minded and set goals for yourself to stay focused for 2 hours with no Squirrel Moments, then try for 4 hours, etc.  Keep your attention on getting done what you planned to accomplish in that time and avoid the side trails.

Double dare you to do it and get good at it!  Say, did you hear the one about…

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