Shiny Object Syndrome and how to overcome it
Shiny object syndrome is the tendency to be distracted by the latest fad or fashion. You could be lured by the latest social media feature, a new tool or app, or seductive product.
Shiny object syndrome is not just a problem for business owners and entrepreneurs, it can drift into your personal life too. Are you tempted by every new diet or exercise regime? We are continually bombarded by ‘the new' as ever-more tempting products and services are launched, giving us the impression that the grass is always greener on the other side.
Shiny object syndrome, alongside its bed-fellow ‘imposter syndrome‘, are probably two of the most damaging ‘diseases' suffered by today's homepreneur, and when you work on your own they can become crippling for your business growth. Being distracted results in taking your eye off what is truly important.
So, let's take a look at:
- the symptoms of shiny object syndrome
- how to solve it, and
- the potential benefits
The Symptoms of Shiny Object Syndrome
Examine the following symptoms to see if shiny object syndrome is affecting your life.
- Do you have multiple unfinished projects? If you have ever bought a handful of domain names over the years and still haven't built their respective websites or if you have half-finished products sitting on a shelf then that is a warning sign. I'm guilty of this myself. The burden of all these incomplete projects is that they clutter up your mind as, although they might not be physically on your to-do' list, they remain on your mind. There's a balance to be struck between being an ideas person who likes to innovate and someone who spends all their time on the non-urgent/unimportant tasks which make up the bottom right-hand quadrant of the Eisenhower Matrix.
- Do you keep changing your processes? Although I'm a great fan of implementing improvements to the way I do things, it takes time to fully embed them into your daily routine. Switching email service providers, using new accounting software or downloading yet another time management app without giving them the chance to make a difference to your business are just distractions which eat into an already overstretched day.
- Are you easily distracted? Do you find your concentration waning when a task gets difficult or boring? In an information-overloaded environment it's easy to flit from one activity to another. When you work on your own without peer pressure even household tasks can become an unwanted distraction.
- Are you a social media addict? Social media platforms keep us on our toes by rolling out new features on a regular basis. The shiny objects just keep on coming. Facebook and Instagram Stories and Chatbots for example.
- Do you have a fear of missing out? FOMO is usually the preserve of the young who want to be seen at every party but this symptom lingers into adulthood particularly when it comes to marketing. It leads us to think, ‘I won't grow my business if I don't [fill in the blank].
- Do you put ‘busy work' at the top of your to-do list? Most successful business people are masters at concentrating on just a few key tasks.
- Have you switched niches several times? Sam Ovens of Consulting.com has built a multi-million dollar business on determination and ‘stickability'. He has been tempted by numerous business ideas such as cryptocurrency trading but has remained steadfast in his vision.
- Are you constantly dissatisfied with your current situation?
How many of the above questions did you answer ‘yes' to? It's quite normal to experience these situations from time to time. It only becomes a problem when the symptoms become pernicious and prevent us from being clear about our vision and goals. So how do we overcome shiny object syndrome and accept that the grass isn't greener on the other side?
How to overcome shiny object syndrome
If you've examined the symptoms and recognised the impact they are having on your business, it's time to make some changes and fortunately, there are some straightforward solutions. Yes – it's going to take effort but the results will mean that you'll increase in confidence and the enjoyment you get from your chosen career path.
1. Revisit your goals
Having a clear, written down goal is essential for running a business which matches your vision. Ask yourself if your actions are in alignment with your goals. Is adding in a new product or service a distraction or is it adding value to your value proposition?
2. Schedule a planning session
In a ‘company of one' it's easy to keep all your plans in your head. Allocate time at least monthly to review your numbers and assess what needs to change and what is working well.
3. Identify your MIT
Following a planning session, your most important task or MIT will come to the fore. “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Joe Paspasan is an easy to read guide to focusing on what matters.
4. Employ the Pareto Principle
The 80:20 rule or the Pareto Principle suggests that 20% of what we do yields 80% of our results. In other words, it's not necessarily something new which will provide results, it's focusing on a small number of things and doing them really well.
5. Slow down
We live life at such a pace that snap decisions are almost forced upon us. Slowing down and allowing ourselves the time to reflect on whether a shiny object is really worth our attention will stop knee-jerk reactions.
6. Sleep on your ideas
As well as slowing down, sleep on new ideas – let them marinate for a day or so before acting upon them. What seemed like a good idea at the time may fade as the days pass.
7. Let others test new tools and apps first
If you are always the first to download a new app, stop! For example, when Periscope, the Twitter video social app, came out I pounced on it and found myself wasting a lot of time on a platform that turned out not to be useful for my business. Read reviews of new tools before diving in yourself.
8. Focus on value
Concentrate on activities which align with your value proposition. An idea which enhances your existing products or services is much more useful than developing something new in a completely unrelated field. Niche hopping is one of the symptoms of shiny object syndrome you need to avoid.
Easy to say, but less easy to do – commit to a single task is the key to success.
10. Use the KISS principle
KISS stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. A simple business idea well executed is more likely to be successful than a complicated one poorly delivered. Go back to basics and improve on what you have rather than jumping onto another ship.
11. Banish comparisons
Social media means we appear to know how successful other people's lives are 24/7. But how much of this is true and what is the reality? Is it just an illusion? I take most of what I see on social media with a pinch of salt.
12. Do more of what works
Focus on revenue-generating tasks which move your business forward. If one marketing activity works well, double up. If networking brings you a positive return on investment, do more; if Facebook advertising drives leads increase your budget.
The Potential Benefits
Despite the negative impact of shiny object syndrome, there are a few benefits. Firstly, it demonstrates that you are open to new ideas – a growth mindset. Secondly, new ideas lead to innovation and creativity which are necessary for any successful business and finally, you never know when this might lead a ‘light bulb moment'.