Pick the Right Rabbit Hole

We think of rabbit holes as these topics that excite us, where we can spend hours jumping from one link to the next, driven by curiosity. But that’s not the only kind of rabbit hole.

When we sit down to work and open a certain application, that too can be a rabbit hole. As soon as the window appears, you might “get lost” in your inventory planning for an hour or more. The same applies for particular web browsing profiles, bookmarks, or creative applications, like Word, PowerPoint, or a folder of Google spreadsheets relating to a distinct project.

In corporations, they use a term called “workstream.” A standalone activity, like “Marketing on Twitter,” or bigger milestone of a project, like “Testing Process Implementation,” could be a workstream. Often, multiple people have to spend long amounts of time contributing to one workstream until it can be closed or automated. If you’re a solo creator, “Write Novel” might be one workstream, and so could be “Pitch Media Outlets.”

The word “stream” as in “river” is a good way to think about it: As soon as you jump in, you’ll keep floating for a while. The stream could be calm one day and tumultuous the next, but regardless of whether you’ll have to paddle aggressively or can just drift along, it’ll take you a while to get back out of the water.

In a bad case scenario, you’ll pick the wrong workstream — the wrong rabbit hole — each morning and get lost in the wrong direction for hours. Then, after lunch, you’ll be scrambling to get back on track. Ideally, you’ll pick your workstreams deliberately each time. “What most needs my attention now?” Open the right door, and then, feel free to lose yourself in the task.

It is worth taking five or ten minutes each morning, just to sit and think about which stream to jump into, which rabbit hole we should be approaching. It is marvelous how singularly focused our minds can become — let’s make sure we direct their lasers at the right targets.