Is “Shiny Object Syndrome” Slowing Your Growth?

Having a lot of good ideas is great if you’re an entrepreneur. In fact, your creativity, imagination, and ability to see what others can’t is probably what got you where you are. But is there a downside to having a brain that’s constantly churning out ideas? Unfortunately, if you’re running a business, there might be: you could end up constantly chasing what’s new and exciting for your business, and your core business could fall victim to  “shiny object syndrome” (SOS). Let’s take a look at what that means, how it can negatively affect your business’ growth, and how you can avoid it. 

What Is Shiny Object Syndrome?

There are certain illnesses or conditions that people tend to be susceptible to, for whatever reason – genetics, lifestyle, etc. And, while it isn’t something that your doctor can diagnose, shiny object syndrome is something that plagues a lot of entrepreneurs, simply because of the qualities that make them unique. If you’re in this special group of people, you’re probably:

  • Highly motivated
  • Someone who craves innovation and new developments
  • Unafraid of starting new projects 
  • More likely to attempt to bring an idea to life

All excellent qualities, right? But the dark side of these qualities can lead to shiny object syndrome, which is marked by a tendency to:person with their hands on their head and with a compass in the background and the N on their face

  • Become distracted
  • Lose interest in a project and go after something else that captures your attention
  • Start projects based on ideas without properly assessing the long-term goals, feasibility, and sustainability of the projects, which in its most extreme form can stop you from completing anything
  • Feel a sense of guilt that compels you to chase something that might just around the corner, and is bigger, better, and more exciting to work on
  • Get overwhelmed and stressed out by how many projects you are in the middle of

All of the above are the essence of SOS. Suffering from it means that, instead of focusing on the big picture tasks that fuel your business’ growth, you’ll end up getting side-tracked by a new business idea or project that feels new and exciting, similar to a child who gets distracted by every “shiny object” they see. But for you, it won’t be a shiny new toy that you’re chasing, but things like business objectives, marketing strategies, clients, or even other business ventures.

How Can Shiny Object Syndrome Affect Your Business?

We’re not saying that wanting to update your business and keeping your eye out for interesting possibilities are necessarily bad goals. But uncontrolled shiny object syndrome can, unfortunately, be a real growth killer. Jumping from project to project, not completing projects, or being unable to focus can lead to some serious consequences, like:

  • Wasted resources – 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. Think about it this way: unfinished projects won’t make you the money to pay back their costs. Your business could also suffer from wasted opportunities, because these dead-end projects waste your time (or the time of your employees) when you could be working on more productive endeavors.
  • A hit to your health – Constantly worrying that you need to chase the next “shiny object”  (otherwise known as fear of missing out, or FOMO) can lead to stress, fatigue, and sleep issues.person in a suit with a question mark next to them and a sign with many directions
  • A confused and stressed staff – You’re not the only one who will be affected by constantly switching between goals or business directions. If you have a team, they won’t be able to keep up with the changes, their workflow will constantly be disrupted when they’re forced to learn new things, and they will see their goals become unpredictable and even irrelevant. This could eventually lead to stressed out employees, who are less loyal and productive. In fact, 41% of employees say that switching between goals in this way is a leading cause of workplace stress. 
  • Poor planning and directives – If you’re constantly jumping from plan to plan, you’ll never stick with a plan long enough to properly test it. And even if something does work in one of your new plans, you won’t actually be able to put your finger on why it worked. There simply won’t be enough data to model from if you’re switching things up week-to-week.

What Can You Do to Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome?

So if shiny object syndrome is so dangerous for the health of you, your staff, and your business, what can you do to beat it? Try the following strategies:

  • Understand that you’re prone to it – Yes, the first step is to know that you are prone to it. Once you’ve done that, sit down and assess the way you work, and focus on the strengths that you can build on.
  • Ditch the FOMO for proper planning – Once you’ve assessed your work style, you have to get better at assessing the potential of all of those shiny things that cross your path. Sometimes you do need to jump on an opportunity, but before you do that, stop! Assess the potential impact on your workload or business, and be objective about it. Doing so will help you identify whether the product or service will be helpful to you or your business and improve decision-making. You might also want to test out your idea, whether it’s a new product, or a new service like an online workshop. Remember: not every trend is the next big thing, so don’t operate your business based on the FOMO model!
  • Know your goals and what matters for your business – Similarly to assessing each idea to see if it’s really right for your business, you also need to assess your business’ goals to know if your new ideas fit in with them. Try using Warren Buffett’s three-step exercise for being more in tune with your goals:
    • Make a list of your top 25 goals
    • Review this list and pick your top 5 goals from the total 25 goals
    • Start working on the top 5 goals list

As for the remaining 20? Warren suggests you ignore them like the plague. This is your ‘avoid-at-all-costs list.’ 

Other experts recommend another exercise for focusing on what really matters in your business. Determine what 1% of your business produces 50% of your results and work on that for a few hours every day, without any other outside distractions.

Remember, if you’re jumping from shiny object to shiny object, you’re going to have a hard time sticking to your core goals, so be very careful how you start branching out.two hands shaking with words of communication and teamwork on them

  • Communicate with your team – It’s important to sit on ideas before you act on them, but it’s also important to talk to your team members about them before you make any moves. Ask them what they think, and listen to their perspectives, concerns and needs. Talking to them might help you realize when you’re moving too fast, and if you do decide to go through with your decision, they’ll be happier with your decision, since you came to them first.
  • Set goals – and don’t abandon them! – Every project you take on should have clear short- and long-term SMART goals, with projections on how long the project should take, and shorter term milestones that can keep you and your team focused. And unless there’s a serious change in circumstances or finances, stick with each project until you reach your goals.
  • Don’t forget the little things – There are also a few more little, practical things that will actually go a long way in helping to fight SOS, like:
    • Limit your time on social media (it lies!)
    • Give yourself a limit on the number of projects you can take on at a time
    • Make a checklist of all of your successful projects, as both an incentive and a roadmap to further success
    • Get comfortable with your niche, and know that it’s your true calling

Shiny object syndrome is a productivity and growth killer, not to mention a drain on you and your employees. While it’s great that you’re just bursting with ideas, the next time one (or two, or three) hit you like a thunderbolt, don’t rush into anything! Stop, breathe, and ask yourself all the questions that need to be asked so you can determine if the idea is worth your time and resources, and if it fits into the bigger picture of your business’ goals. You CAN take control, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed and distracted, use the tips above to help you get more focused and productive.