A Squirrel is anything that keeps us from Doing What's Most Important right now. If you're going to beat Squirrels you have to see them coming and know what they're after.
Some Squirrels are well known and easy to spot - Facebook, E! online, Star Wars vs. Star Trek debates. But a lot of times they sneak up disguised as harmless, even productive uses of our time like email, phone calls and impromptu discussions in the hall.
What makes Squirrel spotting hardest is that they are shape-shifters. Something might be a Squirrel now but not later, because What's Most Important can change from one moment to the next. Answering a text is a Squirrel when you're just about to start your workout, but not when you're just hanging out.
In fact many of the most powerful and damaging Squirrels are also Most Important Things. A call from an important client is a huge Squirrel to a business exec sitting down to spend scheduled time with her management team. That's a tough Squirrel to beat because it's a Most Important Thing most of the time.
The key to spotting Squirrels is to be clear on what your Most Important Thing is at any moment. A big part of it is just being focused. What are you trying to accomplish right now? If it's something Important, most other things are probably Squirrels.
Squirrels are singularly motivated. Laser focused. All they ever want is to keep us from Doing What's Most Important.
They don't care how or when they win. Delay, distract, create doubt, instill fear. Stall us with procrastination. Grind us down with fatigue. They love it when we don't even start, but if we come up just short, that's fine too.
Squirrels are in it for the long haul. They are completely confident and eternally optimistic in their ability to win against us. And they have really short memories. We can beat them back a hundred times and they'll feel not a bit of discouragement. They'll be back next time, as ready as ever to scamper into view and pull our attention their way.