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Constantly starting new projects? It may be Shiny Object Syndrome. -
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Constantly starting new projects? It may be Shiny Object Syndrome.

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Imagine you’re building a house. You've poured cement for the basement, you spent weeks constructing the walls, and just as you're about to begin working on the roof...you decide to remodel a shiny new condo down the street instead. 

Was investing in the condo a bad decision? Hard to say, but quickly switching your focus to exciting new projects can interfere with the completion of your original tasks. In the long run, shifting your attention to something new may be a good idea, but that doesn't change the fact that your house is missing a roof, and sooner or later it's going to rain. 

What is Shiny Object Syndrome? 

When some of my clients (who already have a lot on their plate) become fascinated with new ideas, I refer to it as “Shiny Object Syndrome”.

We all have a bit of that syndrome at times. Brilliant new ideas – even if they interfere with our current tasks or aren’t sustainable in the long run – just seem so much less tedious and somehow, more manageable than the old stuff. The new idea, which can be anything from a Pinterest project to a completely new business venture, can suddenly become the center of our attention, consuming a lot of energy. As we pour our enthusiasm into excited conversations, internet research, purchasing supplies, or planning, we use up a good chunk of our available time and energy.

As a result, the less-exciting tasks and projects we are already struggling with are neglected or completely shoved aside. 

Ways to Cope with Shiny Object Syndrome

Allow Yourself Some "Pie in the Sky" Time

Take a moment and reflect on your need (and strength) to design and create things. By all means, play with the new idea and do some hypothetical work with it. Then set up a waiting period before you start pursuing the new project in earnest. One of my clients has imposed a 24-hour deliberation period on herself for major purchases to avoid impulse decisions. If you are seriously pondering a new business venture or major project, that deliberation period should be even longer, especially if you have other unfinished business to complete. 

Talk the idea over with someone you trust, and consider why it seems so attractive to you. Is your fascination with the new project associated with boredom or frustration that you may be feeling with your other tasks? 

Make a Tradeoff

If you still feel that pursuing the new venture is a good idea, consider trading off at least one finished task as a condition to get involved with the shiny object. 

Identify what you would need to do to make room in your schedule. Overbooking yourself to try and complete your new and previous work can affect the overall quality of both - potentially leaving you with a roofless house AND a condo with leaky plumbing.

It's important to consider the ultimate impact of the shiny object on time management and productivity. Although it may seem refreshing and exciting, that doesn't change the fact that there are only so many hours in a day. 

Fast-forward

Once you've considered the other factors, take the time to imagine where you will be in 5 years. Where will the shiny object be then, and what will have become of your other ventures and ideas?

What do you want to be known for? An endless cycle of enthusiastic pursuits, however exciting they may seem in the moment, cannot help you build up a solid brand or reputation. From a strategic perspective, the projects you choose should be a good fit for your brand, values, and long-term goals. "Picking your milestones and your goals [is] more critical than it has ever been," Seth Godin wrote about shiny objects.

Keeping Shiny Object Syndrome in Check

Considering the merits of a new project can be an exciting change of pace – or a sign that current work feels boring and unfulfilling. If you want some help working through your priorities (and beating Shiny Object Syndrome!), get in touch to identify personalized strategies for moving forward. E-mail me or better yet, schedule a conversation to find out more.

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