How to Overcome Shiny Object Syndrome

by Stacey on September 18, 2012

Shiny Object SyndromeWhen I told my husband, Doug, that I was going to be hosting a call for my Inner Circle about overcoming Shiny Object Syndrome, his interest was immediately piqued.

How DO you overcome it, he wondered. I thought if he had so much interest, you, lovely reader, might too. So I decided to make it the subject of this article today.

An article about Shiny Object Syndrome is usually filled with lots of little tactics telling you handy little tips for keeping on task. And yes, I’ll include a few of those at the end. But I want to take the majority of the article to talk about why Shiny Object Syndrome exists and why it’s such a pesky little affliction.

First, a definition.

What is Shiny Object Syndrome?

Shiny Object Syndrome is the tendency to forget about the issue or task or priority at hand and bolt off in hot pursuit of a newly presented wonderful thing.

Now, the productivity experts will tell you that it’s just a habit, a bad little habit that we can break any time, as long as we institute some ironclad rules, like disabling the alert on your email program or using a program that will block you from going online while you try to write your novel.

But I’m going to say it’s more than a little habit, and it’s more like a compulsion, and here’s my thinking:

Let’s say it’s a Thursday afternoon, and you’re writing your novel, or maybe you’re doing yoga. And while you’re doing it, you realize you were supposed to send an email. It’s a VERY important email. You can’t believe you forgot to do it earlier, but thank goodness you remember right now.

So you go to your computer and you send the email. While you’re there, you see The Gap has sent you an email announcing a 30% off sale, and you think, “You know what? Forget the novel (or the yoga). I really need a new pair of jeans.”

So you leave the novel (or the yoga practice), grab the keys, and head off to the mall. Sorry, novel or yoga, jeans you love at 30% off just won’t buy themselves.

Shiny Object Syndrome. See?

Okay, no, you don’t, because that’s a silly scenario. Would never happen, right? Right?

Let’s try a different one.

You’re creating a class, and you’re relatively confident that it will go well. Your students have liked your classes in the past, and you’re pretty sure this will be successful.

But then, you get a brainwave. This brainwave tells you that, no. There’s another idea that is way cooler.

Seriously. It’s really cool.

And now that you’ve had this amazing idea, you can’t really not have it, can you? It’s like Morpheus in The Matrix: He’s given you a glimpse of a world that is SO AMAZING that it would almost be irresponsible not to pursue it.

So you fire up the old search engine and start having a little search around. You know, for research.

Three days later you’ve got a huge new project, and the class has been completely abandoned.

Has this, or something like it, ever happened to you? (Well, it happened to me earlier this month!) If it has, there’s nothing wrong with you. If it has it probably means either you don’t have a plan for how you want your life to look, or you’re worried you’ve chosen the wrong plan.

So you just have to figure out if the shiny object is attractive because you’re currently doing the wrong thing, or if you’re hurting from the long slog towards your dream, and you think the new object will make the hurt go away.

Of course, the problem is, most people don’t ask themselves what’s really important to them and they spend their days reacting to whatever comes up.

Here’s the thing: When you see something new, it’s understandable that you have all this hope and sense of possibility. You have none of the fears, uncertainties and doubts that present themselves when you’re actually working a plan.

The new object, because it has not yet been sullied by execution and frustration and disappointment, is shiny. It hasn’t been tarnished by daily wear and tear.

So make a plan for going after what’s really important to you. (If you need help, you can get it from me absolutely free right here.)

Once you have a plan you really believe in, you’ll still get distracted, because working your plan is actually hard, but it’s much more likely that you will keep working it. (If you need help with it not being so hard, you can get help from me right here.)

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