Diagnosis: Shiny Object Syndrome

shiny object

Have you ever watched a cat chase one of those laser lights? We have cats and when they were younger we would spend countless hours watching them move from one laser dot to another. Their ability to completely forget one shiny object as soon as they see another is amazing.

You would think this susceptibility would be reserved for animals. Their little brains just not developed enough to allow them to focus on one thing for a period of time, regardless of distractions. You would think – but you would be wrong. Humans are even more prone to distraction by shiny objects than even cats. Especially entrepreneurs or those who consider themselves to be “creatives”.

Let me set the stage. You are an entrepreneur. You have no fewer than 1,000 brilliant ideas in your head at any point in time. As soon as you sit down to work on one idea, another pops into your head and you lose focus on Idea 1 to daydream about Idea 2. The next thing you know, you’ve “worked” on six projects this week but nothing was completed. Nothing ever seems to get completed because when you have too many projects at one time, nothing gets done.

You, my friend, have Shiny Object Syndrome. It’s one of the biggest enemies of entrepreneurs and creatives. And it’s a real thing.

Impossiblehq.com defines Shiny Object Syndrome as “the attraction to objects that exhibit a glossy, polished, gleaming, or otherwise shiny appearance. Something as simple as a reflection in your peripheral vision may easily distract your attention. Over time, you’ll find your attraction to said object is directly correlated to its shininess and your attention fades as the shininess wears off.”

So, how do you know if you suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome?

·       You have 10 new business ideas on paper but no new businesses

·       You have purchased 50 domain names but have no published websites

·       You have 15 product ideas but no workable prototypes

·       You have 6 great marketing strategies but none have been executed

·       You are always starting new things but never finish – books, diets, exercise programs, morning routines, etc.

If you relate to any of these, and this list is certainly not exhaustive, you have Shiny Object Syndrome. The good news is that you are not alone. And the really good news is that, while it is frustrating, it certainly is not fatal.

So, what can be done when you find yourself suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome? When I find myself or have a client stuck in Shiny Object land, I recommend taking the following three steps.

1.       Acknowledge the shiny object

If you are an entrepreneur or a creative it will be impossible to avoid new, brilliant ideas. It’s just who you are and its part of what makes you fantastic and unique. Trying to suppress new ideas and other shiny objects is just not going to work. The best way to deal with shiny objects is to acknowledge they are there but not allow yourself to become immediately distracted by them. Simply write them down and move on. I have a notebook dedicated to my shiny objects.

2.       Dedicate time to evaluate the shiny object

Set aside a block of time once per week, once per month, or whatever frequency makes the most sense for you to dedicate to reviewing and evaluating your list of shiny objects. If you are clear on your goals for your business then you know what direction you are headed. If you know what direction you are headed, you can easily evaluate each shiny object to determine if that idea or action gets you closer to the achievement of your desired goals. Keep in mind that an idea or action is not bad if it doesn’t move you closer, it just isn’t right for moving you forward. Therefore, it doesn’t warrant your time, energy, or focus.

3.       Refocus and complete

When I say that Shiny Object Syndrome is an enemy of entrepreneurs it is not because ideas are bad. Quite opposite, ideas are necessary and critical to your success. What I mean is that often times we fall in love with the idea of bright shiny objects simply because they are bright and shiny, not because they help our business. While mastering the fundamentals may not be very exciting, it’s that mastery that allows us to excel. So, in order to really crush your business, you need to resist the urge to fall in love with the idea of bright, shiny objects and instead fall in love with mastering those things that make the biggest impact.

Once you’ve evaluated your current list of shiny objects and have determined if they advance your business, you must prioritize. Those that make the cut need to be worked into your action plan. NOTE: The only way a new shiny object should postpone the completion of a current shiny object is if there is an immediate and impactful return on that investment. If it doesn’t trump your current activities in terms of ROI then assign it to your work plan to be started AFTER you complete what you are currently working on.

It’s really hard not to get distracted by great ideas. Especially when you are the boss and you have no one to answer to but yourself. But while Shiny Object Syndrome is not fatal, it can cause you to go hungry. Confucius once said, “The man who chases two rabbits catches neither.”


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