Like many other entrepreneurs, I suffer from the shiny object syndrome.
That’s a fancy phrase to describe the excitement I feel on a daily basis as I encounter stuff that I’d love to own, places I’d like to visit, and business ideas I’d like to pursue.
When I was younger and reading for my university degrees, this wasn’t so much of a problem. I could read about a lot of stuff and maybe try new things out here and there, but I had a clear objective every year: pass my exams and graduate to the next year of my course.
As I grew older and started my own business, I also achieved the freedom to work on whatever I want, wherever I want, and whenever I want. That sounds great on paper, but it also means that I have to take clear decisions on the what, where and when.
That’s when the shiny object syndrome can prove to be a huge distraction that has the ability to paralyze even the best entrepreneurs and lead to them only achieving modest success in life when they could have achieved much more.
I have to fight this sense of paralysis every single day as I can’t help myself from getting attracted to many subjects out there. It could be a simple email newsletter from an airline announcing some new destinations that leads to me dreaming for an hour or more about said destinations and planning my next trip. With no real barriers to me visiting those destinations, the urge to indulge in this daydreaming is high.
I could mention a thousand other examples. For example, in business, having a WordPress plugin development business leads to me coming across many small niches that could be catered for by a new business plugin. Perhaps there is already a plugin that I use for some purpose and it sucks, and I can easily see how I can improve on it. It doesn’t take much for me to start planning out a way to conquer that niche, leading to a few more wasted hours.
The shiny object syndrome as you can see can lead to a monumental waste of time as well as a depressed state of mind at the end of the day/month/year when I realise how much time I spent investigating different directions I could take but not having gone down any of those paths.
As I said, I still fight this syndrome on a daily basis, and this is just me sharing one of the things in life that I find most challenging, so I’d love to know from others who feel the same way as I do and how they handle it. On my part, I like to think that I’ve become a bit better at handling shiny objects.
Shiny Object Syndrome Antidotes
The most important change in my behavior has been my use of a virtual buffer zone. Let me explain by giving you a few examples.
I come across many interesting books that simply scream out to me and beg to be read, be it at the local bookstore, library, or recommendations from friends and peers. Rather than order them all and then get depressed due to owning a large number of unread books, I now use Goodreads to create a to-read list that I can then get back to when I’m finished with the current book or two that I have on my shelf.
Articles are another potential shiny object for me, so whenever I come across a good article I’ll simply Pocket it. I will then get back to these articles during a commute or breakfast. That was I avoid getting distracted in my productive work hours. I also never end up reading all the articles, as things that looked amazing and irresistible have a funny way of becoming the plainest and most uninteresting things just a few hours later. Funny how our minds work.
Being born with an entrepreneurial spirit and mind, I am quick to spot business opportunities. However it is impossible to act on every possible opportunity, although I’d love to do so. A good technique I’ve found is to keep a list for each month containing a number of items I want to do for that month. The first two items are the two epics (the most important achievements) for that month.
They usually are the more meaty tasks that will take some time and concentration to complete. Every feasible business idea that I get first gets listed in a list of business ideas, and at the end of each month I will evaluate the current state of things and if I want to proceed with any of the ideas in the list I’ll see where I can fit them in on the monthly calendar. You can use Trello, Workflowy, or even have a manual whiteboard process for this.
That’s about it, some insights on how I deal with the shiny object syndrome. Would love to know your experiences and thoughts on this subject.