Entrepreneurs, Save Yourself From The Shiny Object Syndrome And Stay Productive

You are an entrepreneur. You have your bread and butter offerings and things are working out pretty smoothly. Just then, a brand-new marketing strategy catches your fancy and you jump on the bandwagon to implement it in your own business before your competitors get the wind of it.

While you are in the midst of getting that rolling, an idea for a new product you could add to your existing offerings hits you. So, you forget all about what you were doing before and set the wheels in motion to get that launched. Oh, but wait, you read about this amazing piece of technology that could completely revolutionize the way you work. You scramble to get your hands on it, and then someone tells you about … do you see where is this going?

Does this ring a bell? Are you also easily distracted by “shiny” new ideas? If so, you are not alone; most entrepreneurs are susceptible to a condition we now call the “Shiny Object Syndrome.”

Shiny Object Syndrome: A Disease Of Distraction

I don't get distracted easily, I just have a lot to....oh look ...

At its core, this is how this syndrome adds up. The reason it affects entrepreneurs more than the average folks is due to the very qualities than set them apart.  Entrepreneurs are usually highly motivated creatures; ideas-generating machines! They thrive on new developments, fertile ideas and burgeoning technology. And they aren’t afraid to create new things that could change the world and invest in new projects. They see opportunities everywhere. They constantly seek to discover new solutions to old problems.

However, a problem arises when all those new ideas end up becoming shiny objects that impede us from gaining the momentum that we need to build a sustainable, lucrative business.

When the Shiny Object Syndrome sets in, it makes you chase change after change and project after project, never content with one option; akin to a small child getting distracted by all the wonderful toys in a toy store. Once they get close enough to an object that had caught their eye, they immediately lose interest and run after the next best thing. For entrepreneurs, these objects may be business objectives, new ventures, clients, business strategies or emerging technologies.

 Here’s how SOS manifests in your business:

  • Your focus and attention is split between too many different projects at the same time, due to which you cannot focus on a single idea or project at a time.
  • You come up with new ideas but don’t ever see them all the way through because you jump ship faster than a girl changes clothes. For instance, if you invest in an SEO strategy for a while but then switch to a different strategy altogether, you will never know if it worked.
  • You end up with a bunch of unfinished projects sitting on your desk and nothing is ever launched.
  • You’re constantly buying new courses that you don’t complete or setting up new domain names and websites without actually doing something with them.
  • Just like Jim Carrey in “Yes Man”, you feel compelled to say yes to every opportunity
  • You constantly jump from platform to platform or feel a need to subscribe to all the technological tools for business that seem impressive. Unfortunately, if you subscribe to all those services, you’ll end up burning through more cash that those tools are worth.
  • You are confusing your staff by changing your business’s direction too frequently. Your teammates suddenly find their goals shifted almost unpredictably or see projects they’re working on suddenly become irrelevant when a new detail emerges. They find it almost impossible to keep up.

The Cure

“People think focus is about saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.” – Steve Jobs

If you are falling prey to the Shiny Object Syndrome, here’s how to mitigate this tendency without losing the entrepreneurial spark:

Limit Your Goals

Keeping your goals in check is the ultimate key to warding off the Shiny Object Syndrome. All this talk about goal setting is productive but know that there is actually a thing as having too many goals. When you bite off more than you can chew, your focus is diverted in different directions. You end up feeling burned out and just distracted by the next best thing without ever seeing something through.

Take some time to list down what you truly want to achieve and set clear deadlines for yourself. Limiting your core goals to 1-3, instead of a gazillion, allows you to really focus on giving your 100% to those few goals, until they are successfully completed. Choose your top priorities {aka the Big Rocks} and then say NO to everything else. Sure, shiny object syndrome tests the best of us, but if a new project venture or business idea doesn’t align with the core goals you have identified, you will be in a better place to talk yourself out of straying from the path you carved out.

Create A ‘Dump’ List

I have to confess; I get distracted by my own thoughts a million times during the day. Staying focused on my top 3 goals helps a ton, but I still have thoughts that spring from recent experiences, conversations, pieces I have read, places I have visited, shows I have watched. These thoughts can lead me down a dangerous rabbit hole if I don’t tread carefully.

So, I came up with the idea of a dump list. See, what I do is that every time I get a random thought, I type it out real quick into a digital list that I have with Evernote, so that I can get back to that thought later. I even have categories and folders for my frequent brain dumps. Sometimes, I revert to my dump list when I’m re-evaluating my goals, or I am seeking out inspiration to take on a new venture or project. This is how I leverage my shiny object syndrome for good, and stash away all my invaluable musings and ideas for later while containing to focus on the task at hand.

Take It One Step At A Time

The Shiny Object syndrome gets the best of you when you are struggling with a task or a challenge that seems time consuming or insurmountable. When you seem to be stuck, it’s easier to want to work on something more rewarding and exciting rather than drag on with your to-do list.

This is why I create a one-page quarterly action plan that breaks down my goals and projects into a manageable task list. For each quarter, fixate on one to three focus areas where you need to stay laser-focused, because these are the areas that actually matter for your business and will contribute to your success. You will love the thrill of checking things off your to-do list as you move closer to your goals.

Timing Is Everything

SOS becomes a real nuance when it starts stealing your focus from things that are critical or vital to your long-term goals. This is why, every time you feel a tug at your focus or attention, decide for yourself whether the time is right for you to focus on something new. 

Have you already got enough on your plate? Do you already have numerous pressing projects that demand your constant attention? Perhaps your current thing is not getting the enough time and focus to get the traction it needs to reach its potential. Chasing a shiny object when you already have enough on your plate can be a distraction that leads to problems on all fronts.

See If You Can Find Some Benefits Of Those Shiny Objects

shiny object syndrome

Every time you are eager to explore a new path or add something new to your business, challenge yourself to come up with a good enough reason why you want to pursue that thing. Saying that it seems exciting, doesn’t count.

Can this shiny new object increase the potential for you to sell and make more profit? Does it somehow improve the customer experience for your clients? Could this new distraction be used to hone a necessary skill or teach you something new? Will it address a problem in your business or community? Will it strengthen your partner relationships or enhance your brand image in some way?

In a nutshell, you should be able to point to a direct benefit of that activity, as with any business activity, for it to justify your focus. This simple exercise will help you weed out the frivolous shiny objects from the ones that actually move the needle for your business.

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