How to Resist Shiny Object Syndrome and Focus on What’s TRULY Important
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Are you an entrepreneur or a creative person?
If so, then you probably have dozens of ideas that constantly run through your head.
You get excited about these possibilities to do something fun and different. And you feel like if you don’t take action on a new idea, then you’ll experience the fear of missing out.
If this sounds like you, then you’re probably experiencing what’s commonly known as “shiny object syndrome.”
In this article, we’ll define shiny object syndrome, the negative effects it can have on your life, and six simple strategies you can use to avoid it.
What Is Shiny Object Syndrome?
In the business world, shiny object syndrome has been identified as the tendency of entrepreneurs to start projects based on ideas without properly assessing the long-term goals, feasibility, and sustainability of the projects, which leads them to not complete anything.
These business owners tend to take their companies in many different directions. This tendency has been likened to the way children chase after a shiny object, and, after reaching the object and seeing what it is, quickly lose interest and go after something else that captures their attention.
What Are the Negative Effects of Being Distracted By “Shiny Objects?”
Shiny object syndrome can negatively impact your personal success in several ways. First, it leads to an inability to complete projects. If you don't think through a project before implementing it, you are likely to run into unforeseen obstacles that you may be unprepared to overcome. In this case, you may choose to abandon the project because it becomes more trouble than it is worth.
Another reason you may leave a project unfinished is because, halfway through working on it, you get a new idea that seems even better. You may push your current project to the side to begin your new endeavor, and then never return to your original task. Unfortunately, this means that you will never see the results that may have come from your first project.
Repeatedly running into dead ends on projects and never seeing them through to fruition can lead to feelings of frustration about your unrealized potentials. Frustration stems from a failure to achieve your most coveted goals, because after starting with high hopes and aspirations, your dreams continue to be crushed.
When you have shiny object syndrome in business, you don't want to consider the obstacles that could get in the way of achieving your goals, so when you see something you want, you just go for it. However, when you are working with this kind of compulsion, the process is bound to be stop-and-go.
Shiny object syndrome can lead to wasting money. In fact, research has shown that entrepreneurs who jump too quickly into new ideas without thinking them through end up costing their companies thousands of dollars in resources, time, and productivity.
With continuously having unfinished projects that never end up making the company any money to pay back their costs, the company gains little or no return on investment. The company also suffers opportunity costs because these dead-end projects waste the time of the employees when they could be working on more productive endeavors.
Further, as employees are constantly finding themselves faced with roadblocks, their work productivity becomes disrupted. All of that momentum that people have at the beginning of projects comes to a halt on a regular basis, and employees are constantly running out of steam. Productivity is already a leading problem in the business arena, as it remains the weakness at the core of the developed world, so adding in factors that contribute to this problem only make it worse.
Finally, if a job involves too much pressure without providing any productive results in return, it harms people's loyalty to a company. The truth is, most ideas that are born from shiny object syndrome aren’t worth the necessary follow-through. Their end value isn’t evident, and when the tasks related to the idea are delegated to employees who aren't given any direction, it can lower morale because employees become frustrated by continuously changing plans.
People want to be fulfilled in their jobs and in their lives, and if they are never able to finish what they start or see results from all of their hard work, they are likely to move on to somewhere that can provide them with that.
How to Resist Shiny Object Syndrome
Realizing that you are easily distracted by new ideas is the first step to helping you find ways to resist the pull of shiny objects. Here are some strategies for how to avoid shiny object syndrome.
1. Set long-term and short-term goals for you and your business.
Goal setting is not simply a one-time thing that you do when you are coming up with a business plan. It is an ongoing process that is constantly evolving as your business grows and the market changes. Even if your business is flourishing, having goals will help you maintain the momentum you need to stay on top, and give you a safety net for inevitable downtimes.
It’s tough to make a commitment to a project if your finish line is vague or indefinite. So before moving forward, make it extremely clear what your ultimate outcome will look like. Figure out exactly what you want, how you will get there, and what your timeline is.
Even small, short-term goals that you set in the midst of a crisis could have a positive effect when things improve. Instead of mindlessly jumping around from project to project, set goals to help yourself take a breath before changing direction. Short-term goals can help keep your team focused and working together cohesively.
Your short-term goals are often the stepping-stones to accomplishing your long-term goals. Set long-term goals for all of your projects, including how long you think the project will take to complete.
If you have your goals set in stone, whenever a shiny object idea comes to mind, you can analyze how the idea may fit in with your current objectives. This may be a quick way to rule out your new idea if you are able to see that it will not help you make progress toward whatever you are working for.
2. Commit to reaching your goals without getting sidetracked.
Once your goals are set, don’t abandon your project until it is complete. This will help prevent you from wasting resources by walking away from a half-finished project before seeing any of its payback or results.
The only exceptions to this rule would be if you find that your project is beginning to cost you more money than you initially estimated, or if the circumstances within your company or in the field have changed significantly enough to diminish the project's effectiveness completely.
There are a few things you need to do in order to make a true commitment to the project at hand. First, tell yourself that you won't let anything stand in your way. Get into the mindset that you will complete this project because it will have a positive impact on you or your company in the end.
You will also need to focus on what's important (this is especially important if you feel like your schedule is constantly packed). You have to be ruthlessly selective about the things you do and the tasks you pass on. Finally, you will need to hold yourself accountable for the work that you plan to do. Keep other people in your company updated or use a weekly goals system to keep track of your critical tasks.
3. Sleep on an idea before acting on it.
Before you delegate work to your team on a new project that you are "sure" is going to be a game changer, take some time to think about it. You simply can't act on every idea that you have, so it is important to give yourself a buffer period to spare yourself from rushing into a hasty decision.
Psychologists have found that sleep improves people's ability to think of creative solutions to issues they are facing by helping the brain recognize unrelated ideas creating connections among one's current knowledge. Psychologists have concluded that REM sleep is more effective than any other state of being at promoting creative thinking. This suggests that if you allow yourself time to sleep on an idea, you may wake up with a new perspective.
4. Do more research on the feasibility and sustainability of an idea before launching it.
Do your research and think about whether your idea will make the best use of your company’s resources. Any successful business venture must have a viable business concept and a plan that is realistic.
While you may be passionate about your business idea, you can't forget to consider the costs associated with the project, the time it will take to complete, and any regulation procedures and policies that you must follow.
Adapting and incorporating new ideas into your business is one way to remove some of the inevitable uncertainties that every business faces, but if you don't do enough research and planning, your new ideas may not succeed.
If you conduct a feasibility study, you will be giving yourself a chance to get answers to important questions that will help you in the assessment of the project's potential, and to determine the likelihood that the project will succeed or fail.
5. Communicate with your team or people close to you regarding new ideas that you plan to try.
This is especially helpful if you work with someone who is skillfully skeptical, has the ability to be direct, and is talented at pointing out the potential obstacles of a new idea. Ask your team to flesh out your new idea, ask you difficult questions, and find any possible weaknesses. Doing this will allow your team to help you realize if you need to pump the brakes.
Listen to their suggestions, perspectives, and/or concerns before you make a decision. If an idea survives through this stage, it may be worth pursuing. If you do follow through with your idea, your team will be happier that you talked to them first.
If you are used to thinking of a new idea and immediately acting on it exactly how you see fit, it may take some practice to start taking a step back to get the opinions of other people. But this will always help you get a new perspective and refine your idea.
6. If you’re running a business, always consider this question: What value will your new idea/project add to the customer experience?
The success of your business begins with your customers, so the first step is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Think about the added benefits that your customers will get from your new project.
Maybe your new idea will ultimately save your customers time, effort, or money in some way. Or perhaps it will increase their commitment to your company. Start with considering the value you are adding to your customers' experience in order to reinforce the "customer first" way of thinking.
It is important to recognize that doing things that please your customers is a waste of time if it doesn't add value. For example, if your company has a goal of responding to customers within 24 hours and you do everything you can to meet that goal, your customers may appreciate this. However, doing this doesn't necessarily add business value.
While your company may be the first to respond, your customers may still have to wait to hear back from other companies for quotes before they start considering which company to work with. While responding to the customer quickly may have added a bit of possible value, the truth is that there are other larger factors that impact the satisfaction of the customer.
Summing It Up: Shiny Object Syndrome
In a nutshell, shiny object syndrome is the tendency of an individual to start projects based on ideas. The projects may or may not succeed, but they will likely be abandoned before completion because the person will start working on something else.
Loving innovation is actually a good thing. However, you should never lose sight of what’s important for your customers, your business, and you. If you find that you fall victim to shiny object syndrome, it's time to reframe your thinking and improve your business.