How to Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome as an Entrepreneur

How to Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome as an Entrepreneur

By: Corey Philip
Updated: January 12, 2022

Are you an entrepreneur who is constantly looking for a new and exciting project on the horizon? While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is if you find that your productivity is suffering as a result of your impulsiveness.

You might, as we explore in this article, be suffering from something called shiny object syndrome, which can have a devastating impact on the productivity and ultimate success of your business.

Shiny Object Syndrome – Is it Real?  

Although it may sound trivial, shiny object syndrome is a very real affliction that affects entrepreneurs. If ignored, it can lead your business endeavors down the wrong path and prevent you from achieving your goals.

Fundamentally, shiny object syndrome is a distraction. It’s what happens to entrepreneurs when they crave new developments and fail to stay focused on their business goals and objectives.

It’s the entrepreneurial equivalent of a small child chasing after every new thing they can see and touch without completing the task they started seconds ago. Instead of tangible shiny objects, entrepreneurs tend to chase after new clients, business outcomes, start-ups, or anything new that distracts them from their core objectives.

Why is Shiny Object Syndrome a Bad Thing? 

One of the core traits that make entrepreneurs such a rare and special breed is their creativity. This ability to see new and potentially successful ideas is what drives them from one business venture to the next, and it’s certainly not a bad thing.

But shiny object syndrome occurs when entrepreneurs allow their creativity to abound, completely unrestricted. This typically manifests itself in the following instances:

Unfinished Projects 

The number one red flag that indicates an entrepreneur is suffering from shiny object syndrome is that they consistently fail to finish projects. The individual is likely to go from one month to the next chasing down exciting new ideas, only to start them and move onto something new before they have fully achieved the previous goals and objectives.

Naturally, unfinished projects within any business will start to prove extremely costly and will affect a company’s ability to make money.

Lack of Strategy  

Shiny object syndrome sees entrepreneurs put all of their heart and soul into chasing down new ideas and opportunities and then failing to operationalize a strategy that will enable them to enjoy the long-term benefits of the new project. Because they fail to put a tangible strategy in place, their colleagues then lack the direction to turn the idea into a practical project for the business.

Wasted Money 

A CEO with shiny object syndrome will waste money at an alarming rate. Whether it’s on new concepts, projects, or perhaps technology, shiny object syndrome causes entrepreneurs to see the huge potential in an idea and invest heavily, only to ditch it and move onto something else before it is completed and the long-term rewards can be reaped. Needless to say, such an approach is exceptionally damaging to a business.

Frustrated Employees 

Ultimately, the people left to pick up the pieces of an entrepreneur’s shiny object syndrome are the other employees within the business. It’s not easy for staff to flit from idea to idea on the whims of their boss. Asking employees to drop what they’re doing to pursue new ideas will lead to frustration and resentment, which will affect morale and productivity within the whole company.

How to Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome: Four Tips to Stay Focused as an Entrepreneur 

Needless to say, shiny object syndrome is something that you want to avoid as an entrepreneur. But how do you do it? Here are four top tips that will ensure you can stay on top of your work schedule and remain productive:

#1 – Stop Acting on Impulse 

To an extent, impulsiveness is a great characteristic to possess as an entrepreneur. It’s something that employees often love to see in a boss, as it shows them that you’re not afraid to pursue new ideas and chase down exciting opportunities.

But if you’re afflicted by shiny object syndrome, impulsiveness is your worst enemy. As ideas float into your mind, it’s so important that you note them down and sit on them for a while. Instead of launching straight into something, give yourself some buffer time to work through the idea and consult your colleagues about its merits.

Whether you give yourself a day, a week, or a month before you can commit to a new project or idea, the practice of giving yourself some breathing space will prevent you from acting solely on impulse and will enable you to focus on the tasks that are currently in your diary.

#2 – Involve Your Colleagues in Your Decision Making 

While some people think that democratic decision-making can stifle their creativity as an entrepreneur, it’s actually a vital safeguard when trying to protect yourself from shiny object syndrome.  

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with arranging a weekly team meeting to run through new potential ideas and projects with your employees. First and foremost, your colleagues will be pleased to have been consulted, but they will also help you rationalize your decisions and realize whether or not you currently have the collective capacity to take the project on.

This will reduce the risk of alienating and frustrating your staff by chasing after new ideas and will help you strategize and consider them in alignment with the goals and objectives of the business as a whole.

#3 – Develop Criteria to Assist Your Decision-Making Process 

Many entrepreneurs pursue new ideas and opportunities based on how they feel about them, nothing more and nothing less. But this is completely subjective. To differentiate between projects that add value to your business and those that merely sound great, put together a simple list of criteria that will aid your decision-making process. Consider:

  • How does this new idea/concept/product/technology align with our current strategy?
  • Do we have the operational capacity to take on new work right now?
  • What value does this new project add to our business, and how do we quantify it?
  • What are the short, medium, and long-term goals of this new project?

Asking yourself the right questions and then developing criteria that can act as a filter will help you capitalize on opportunities that will potentially add value while ignoring those that are ‘shiny’ and unlikely to truly help you meet your entrepreneurial goals.

#4 – Limit Your Workplace Distractions 

Entrepreneurs who are constantly chasing new ideas are typically inundated with distractions. In the modern digital world, it’s all too easy to let distractions seep into the workplace undetected, so you need to try and do something about them. Try the following:

  • Limit (or completely remove) social media from your work life. So many of the products, services, and new business ideas you have originate from social media platforms.
  • Stop scheduling as many external meetings. When you give your time to someone to learn about a new idea or product, it can be difficult to say no and focus on whether or not it will add value to your business. Foregoing the meetings altogether will save you from making the decision.
  • Compartmentalize new projects and assign them to particular meetings. If your office space is alive with conversations that present fresh ideas and potential projects, then it’s nigh on impossible to stay focused. Agree with your employees to discuss new ideas and projects at specific junctures throughout the workweek, so you can focus on your current tasks the rest of the time.

You will find that by limiting your workplace distractions, you will be much less likely to succumb to shiny object syndrome and will be more focused on achieving your current goals and objectives.

Final Thoughts 

Shiny object syndrome is something that can affect all entrepreneurs from time to time, but it’s so important that you do something about it if you recognize its symptoms. Neglecting to take action will stifle the productivity and growth of your entrepreneurial endeavors, which will affect your bottom line as a result.

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Corey Philip

Founder of a home service / specialty trade contracting company (think patio's and deck) with a focus on customer experience. Quantitative investor. Data driven marketer. Runner.

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