Shiny Object Syndrome – do you suffer?
If you’re a lover of technology and are the first in the queue for the latest smartphone, app or gear then shiny object syndrome will be a familiar experience. Without the discipline to suppress the desire to play with new gadgets, it’s easy to wile away many, many hours which you should be devoting to your work.
The Lure of Shiny Objects
Shiny object syndrome is the tendency to be attracted by new discoveries and usually relates to technology but can be applied to any passion. If you’re a crafter, for example, there are endless websites, blogs and e-commerce stores with enticing new products which not only drain your time but also your pocket. The gardening market is always coming up with new gadgets which promise the quicker, easier solution for weeding or a lush green lawn.
Shiny objects are not always products. They may be the latest social media platform, a new online course or even a podcast by your favourite mentor. In fact, shiny object syndrome can be anything new which acts as a distraction. And we justify the time and money we spend on these displacement activities and being worthy. “I really should know how to use Tailwind to manage my Pinterest and Instagram” or “I need yo master messenger bots as they’re the latest marketing trend.” Ten hours later and you realise, that report you should have sent to a client remains unfinished and there’s no supper for the family.
My daughter and I are cut from the same cloth. A couple of weeks ago, I was trying desperately to finish the Homepreneur book and she was bemoaning writing up her thesis. We both managed to find plenty of other activities to do – I painted the sitting room and she added a second side hustle, babysitting, to her already overloaded schedule. I justified the decorating, claiming the shabby look of the room and she used the need for some extra funds as her excuse. We’d convinced ourselves that these displacement activities wouldn’t impact on our ability to get our projects finished. All is not lost – I have finished my manuscript and she will complete her Masters in the fullness of time.
Shiny object syndrome is even easier to justify to ourselves when the objects are directly related to our work. The set of presets for the photographer, the latest video editing app for the content creator and the recently launched WordPress plugin for the website developer.
The benefits of shiny object syndrome
But is being distracted by shiny objects all bad? I was browsing through some old episodes of Darren Rowse’s Problogger podcast and came across his take on the subject. He actively schedules in shiny object syndrome time into his calendar. Monday afternoons are his treat for exploring the new allowing him to investigate whatever takes his fancy. I’m sure he’s not wandering around the DIY store but allowing his fingers to do the walking.
His justification is that you never know when some idle searching might spark your curiosity and open your mind to a new business idea. And I think he has a point. In our work, we’re usually solving someone else’s problem. If you’re an HR consultant you’re taking care of clients’ employment issues. If you’re a VA you’re working on someone else’s to-do list. Rare is it that we allow ourselves the time to look for solutions to our own problems and if we do then we’re going to want to have the latest thing.
Opening our minds to what’s new in our field may result in saving both time and money. There may be a new tool or app which is just what you are looking for. Without scheduling in shiny object time, you might never have discovered it. A whole afternoon to an idle search may be considered indulgent. But half an hour during your afternoon slump might be just the boost you need although you’ll have to exercise some discipline to get back to your to-do list when the time is up!
Anyway, it’s time to stop writing as my alarm is ringing and my shiny object time awaits. So it’s off the garden centre to buy that new weeding tool. Happy days!