6 Ways to FOCUS in a Dug Syndrome Society


We have a serious problem in our society. It’s called Dug Syndrome. And no, that’s not its official name, but it certainly is an apt description of what it’s like trying to focus in today’s world.

In case you’re unaware or don’t remember, Dug was the name of the talking dog from Pixar’s UP! When grumpy Carl and boy scout Russell first met Dug, he explained that his master made him a collar that allowed him to speak English. But midway through a sentence and without warning Dug’s head whips around as he shouts, “SQUIRREL!” (Watch this clip.)

And that is just like us. Mid-sentence… mid-project… mid-thought… mid-study… mid-research… mid-anything… then suddenly: “SQUIRREL!” – we get another notification. We wonder who commented on our Facebook photo. We have to see if any new emails arrived in the past five minutes. And then we go back to whatever it was we were doing, only to rinse and repeat moments later: “SQUIRREL!”

And here’s the problem with Dug Syndrome:

  1. It’s a huge time waster. It’ll take you at least three times longer to complete your task with Dug Syndrome.
  2. It’ll kill your quality. With Dug Syndrome you never focus long enough on your task to put out good content.
  3. It’ll eat into everything else. If you have Dug Syndrome it means you have less time for your family.

As I write this sentence I have my iPhone in front of me, my iPad beside me and three browser tabs open on my desktop in front of me. I must be having a good day. Usually it’s more like twenty tabs open at once!

I am a stereotypical person with Dug Syndrome.

I’ll spend twenty minutes on my phone (not talking to someone), checking Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Email, THEN Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Email… and I’ll repeat this until I actually catch myself – 20 minutes later!

What a waste of time.

But I’m no slouch. I get a lot done. My friends often marvel at how much I accomplish in such a short period of time.

I know how to hustle.

If you look up the definition of the word hustle, it’s not pretty. In fact, it’s more negative than positive. And I’m going to talk about that in a future post and ask if “hustle” should even be in our vocabulary.

But for the sake of this post I’m defining hustle as “developing laser vision to accomplish a goal fast.”

In other words, where focus and action collide hustle is born.

And so with that definition in mind, I’m going to tell you how I, mister Dug Syndrome that I am, am able to focus and accomplish so much so quickly.

1. Acknowledge the problem.

I have Dug Syndrome. There’s no denying it. The first step to solving a problem is recognizing it. This step will play out in the following steps. But the first thing you need to do is acknowledge that you have Dug Syndrome. And I don’t mean acknowledge it as a badge of honour, but as the problem that it is. With Dug Syndrome you’re wasting time, putting out sub-par content and missing out on valuable opportunities.

2. Realize your strengths.

We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Some people are “type A” personalities. They use calendars and scheduling and journals and go to bed at 8pm to wake up at 5am. If that’s you, awesome. But that’s not me. I work best under pressure. So having a deadline with consequences helps me focus and suppress my Dug Syndrome. Don’t try to be someone else, find your own strength and work within that framework.

3. Work on the go.

Working between trips, sitting at the doctors, waiting for your friends to arrive… working on the go is one of the best ways to accomplish a task fast. Especially if it’s a task that by its nature will take a lot of time to finish. For example, are you trying to write a book? Carry your laptop with you and pull it out between stops. Do you have a goal to read 25 books in a year? Carry a book with you everywhere you go and read a chapter every idle minute.

4. Take intentional breaks.

Give your brain a rest. This is probably the most counterintuitive hustle advice I could give you. But it works. You’re brain needs to rest. Nothing will help you rejuvenate, revitalize, and get your energy and creativity flowing like a good R&R. Spend time in prayer or simple meditation. Spend a day or two with your family. Watch some television. Listen to some music. The goal here is to stop thinking about your project for a day or two and then go back to you.

5. Find your groove.

It’s always easier to swim with the current, and you’ll find that true as you hustle as well. When you “get into the zone” you won’t want to be disturbed. Allow your fingers to move along the keyboard in a rhythm. Get your thoughts out as quickly as they come. Tell your story in one motion. Ride the waves of your flowchart. Find your groove and you’ll find your hustle.

6. Look at your “dead” line.

Above I suggested that you find a deadline with consequences. But what if there are none? Even if you don’t have a deadline, you have a “dead” line. There are only so many things you get to do in this life because you only have so much available time. The more your procrastinate, the more quickly you’ll spend the valuable time you’ve been given, without accomplishing your goal. Work with an eternal perspective. This is one of my greatest motivators.

I “spent” too many years in my twenties accomplishing almost nothing. I refuse to allow another year to be “spent” on nothing.

Question: So those are my five strategies for finding focus and getting things done fast in today’s Dug Syndrome world. How do you find your Focus? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Thanks for helping to keep the conversation focused and for being courteous.

  • Deb Ling

    Hi Derek, One of the things that I have done that really helps me, is I get notified on my desktop of what email is incoming. That way I do not have to run and check my email all the time (which I used to do). However, if the incoming email is important I have the choice of stopping what I am doing or looking at it later, depending on how important it is. Usually if I have an email that I need to attend to, I wait until I have a good breaking point in what I am doing, and then go deal with it.

    • That’s a great strategy for filtering out the non-urgent emails so you can continue to focus. Thanks for sharing Deb.

  • Hmm, I’m wondering, Derek, if this all-to-relevant post came from one of our conversations. 🙂 I love your last point. If we work with eternal perspective, it gives urgency to our work.

  • Love this post. Squirrel…