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I met with a consultant to review some problems that I was having with one of my passion projects. Thing just weren’t working out the way that I had envisioned … I had done what I believe God was telling me to do … done it His way … and the results were not what I, this human, thought would be the outcome. While understanding that part of entrepreneurship was trial and error … I still did not feel good about what was happening.

He knows me … so I didn’t have to give lots of background. I concentrated on this particular project and told him what had happened … what was happening … and I expected him to tell me how to ‘fix it’. (That’s why we all hire coaches/consultants … right?)

What happened was unexpected. He told me the story of Apple. I didn’t know that Apple had actually invented the I-Pad before the I-Phone. But a decision was made to focus on only one thing … and wait to bring out the other at a later date. And this was relevant to me how?

It was relevant because I am one of those people who can see opportunities – what someone can be – what something can be. As this type of person, there are “lots” of good avenues to pursue. But I had fallen into the trap of chasing too many avenues at one time … in essence going down a handful of rabbit trails (of good / great things) and not focusing on only the best at this time. His advice … at this time … decide on the best … and shoot the rabbit … to avoid going down any other trail.


The phrase ‘going down a rabbit trail’ typically refers to going off on a tangent that leads us away from what we had originally started to do. I think most of us think of and see rabbit trails in these types of common situations:

  • At home you are cleaning something, spy something to put away, take it where it belongs, only to see something else that needs attention. Hours later … you return to see the cleaning supplies for the original project waiting for you.

  • You are working on a project, go to the internet to research a specific point and a reference catches your eye. You click on that and then see a link to a somewhat counter claim. You click on that. And on and on. Two hours later you emerge from the web, bleary eyed, and probably still without the information you had originally wanted.


It's important to see that the things that you went and did – the putting something away or the investigation into a counter claim – are not bad things. But what they are is a detriment – a detriment to your productivity. For while you have been very very busy, you didn’t get anything on your “to do” list done.

“Don't slide down the rabbit hole. The way down is a breeze, but climbing back's a battle.” Kate Morton, The Clockmaker's Daughter


There is a direct and straightforward technique to use to keep from rabbit trailing.

  • RECOGNIZE YOUR PARTICULAR VERSION OF THE TRAIL. Yours will, in all probability, look different from mine. So examine those times you know you have been “busy” but did not get done the “stuff” you had planned to do.

o For me one rabbit trail that I know I have is reading Anne Perry’s mystery series. Each part of the story builds on the next … and I just want to get to “x” point and then I will stop … I promise. And an hour or more later … I am still reading and still wanting to just get to that one more point.

  • FIGURE OUT THE TRIGGERS. Now that you know what your particular rabbit trail looks like, the next step is to figure out what gets them started … what triggers you heading off on the trail. It might be anything … could be a particular action, website or place.

o For me one of my triggers is my frustration with technology. (And “yes” I admit it. At this point in time I am technology challenged.) So when I cannot make happen what I want on the computer / on LinkedIn / on FB … I know I need to take a break and just walk away. So I walk away to a book … and easily get lost in it.

  • STOP THEM BEFORE THEY GET OUT OF CONTROL. Lastly, now that you know what they look like and know what triggers them, you have to figure out how to replace that first step with something else and be intentional about doing so.

o From the examples above – as you face a cleaning project and see something else that needs to be done, you write down the “something” on a pad of paper to serve as a reminder but you then don’t have to do it right then and there and can concentrate on the task before you.

o As you go to the internet to conduct your research, you can note down the other references, counterclaims, etc. but not click on them. You now have a list of potentially interesting articles that you can look at a later time.

o For me and my rabbit trail of reading, I set a timer for how long I am going to give myself to decompress; and when the timer goes off, I close the book and get back to task.


Rabbit trails and going down them have a place in our lives. That place is when we need to … want to … be intentionally creative about a specific task/project. We are faced with a task … doesn’t really matter what it is. We have the option of just diving in, using what we know or are conscious of at this moment, and coming up with a solution / the result. And that solution may be a good solution.

But what if we aren’t willing to settle for just “good”. What if we want something new – different – something that is the “best”.


That is where the creative side of rabbit trails comes in. Allowing ourselves/our minds to do down a rabbit trail or two will open us up to exploring many more possibilities. And it is during that exploration that we might stumble across …

  • A new way of doing what needs to be done.

  • Uncover a bit of information that clicks with things we have been thinking about and completed the picture we’ve been developing in our mind.

  • Something new altogether.


While both aspects of rabbit trails can be seen to look the same … you are wondering off of the specific task. But there is a difference.

  • The “bad for us” side just happens and has no relation to the task at hand.

  • The creative side is an intentional one – you make a decision to start the expedition to explore possibilities centered around a specific task / project / goal.

And one of the best ways that I know to start that exploration expedition is by accessing the alpha state of our minds. The “alpha state of mind” is what scientists associate with “right brain” activity. It is a “relaxed” state of mind that allows you to be more receptive, open, creative, and less critical.

And “yes” we can all do this. And “no” this is not some new age way of thinking. This technique has been around since the mid 1800’s. Edison, Einstein, and many other brilliant thinkers considered a daily ritual of accessing an alpha state of mind essential to their work.

So my challenge to you is: shoot your rabbit that takes you off task; and turn your mindless rabbit trails into exploratory rabbit trails. Learn more about intentionally entering into the alpha state of mind …

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