During my school days, it was a popular idiom, but for years I could not understand what it meant, ‘All that glitters is not gold.’ Maybe because I had not seen much gold by then!
Now, with a better understanding of why shiny objects distract people, I thought, ‘Why not discuss something that affects several of us?’ Called shiny object syndrome, it makes us behave like a child who moves from one shiny object to another. Many of us also tend to move from one technology or product to another, never settling with one thing.
To know if you are its unwilling victim, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I get easily distracted by shiny new objects and ideas rather than staying focused on what I was supposed to do in the first place?
- Am I prone to jumping from one idea to the next as soon as it gets hard?
Yes? Then you have a syndrome that will keep bothering you till your last breath! OK.. OK.. don’t worry. It definitely won’t but it can make you feel constantly busy, and you end up achieving not much either.
The Problem with the Shiny Object Syndrome
Distraction. That’s the problem. And when you are constantly distracted:
- You are always on to something new, cooler, more promising (that’s what you think!) but you forget to complete what you are currently working on.
- You get lost in the noise; new ideas and fancy tools rather than getting the fundamentals right. You don’t spend enough time to get good at something. Switching focus means learning things from scratch and remaining at a beginner level. This hurts your chances to have the edge over others.
So how can you stay focused and avoid the shiny object syndrome?
See Beyond the Hype
In this world, there are new things, new products coming in every day and several disappearing simultaneously. The whole dynamics make it look very appealing to jump in and follow what others are up to.
You must have seen scores of people bragging about how a product changed their lives forever and ever, or how a service boosted their business sales by 300%. Learn to see past the buildup, the hype.
What several people are using may not be something you really need. Fancy tools and ideas (thanks to aggressive marketing) look so promising at first glance that most of us just tune into our impulsive mode and believe that ‘the tool I had been waiting for is finally here and I am not going to let this chance go.’ Ever felt this way?
If you did pay for a new, fancy tool, the chances are that it lost the ‘buzz’ it initially promised. Before jumping headfirst into something, weigh its pros and cons and see if it fits with your priorities.
Start and Keep Going
When do most of us feel most energetic? Mornings, don’t we? And as the day begins to take a toll on our body, our energy levels drop, and we wish for a large bed to appear where we can just dump our lethargic bodies.
Similarly, don’t we start with so much fanfare and high spirits, be it starting an online business or writing a book? Few weeks down the line – we ask ourselves, ‘What have I gotten into?’
As the enthusiasm drops, we find it difficult to keep making progress, and unfortunately remain at the start. ‘I will begin this weekend.’ And when you begin, you choose the easiest thing. And when you’re done with it, the next step just never materializes. You jump to something fancy and start again.
You get caught in a spiral of starting things, over and over again. Pick something and keep going with it. Stick with it. Things won’t always be easy.
Embrace The Pain
What sucks – getting up early or sleeping until late? Most of us just dread getting up early because it is hard.
Another thing we find hard is getting off social media. If you are spending around 30 minutes every day on social media sites, it is OK but if you are one of those who believe in digital overkill, try limiting the time.
Even such a simple thing will need so much willpower. If you are addicted to something and it is harming your body, killing your precious time, do what has been on your mind, towards your goals.
Now, when you think of what you ought to be doing, the thought ‘It is hard. Actually, it is impossible so what’s the point of trying, and there are so many other things I need to take care of’ magically comes into your mind. And one of those things happens to be checking emails (a big round of applause for you!).
They are not goals if they are not hard. Take one step and then another and then another…you must embrace the pain to beat SOS.
Improve Your Signal-to-noise Ratio
Rewind how a typical day pans out. Study, work, play, commute, sleep, social media, TV, breaks, rest, unrest, self-care….they comprise what most of us do. Estimate how much time each takes up. See if you end up spending too much time on something that does not align with your goals.
In this digital age, social media feeds, email subscriptions, and newsletters that we receive daily create a cognitive load and we are drowned with a feeling that we are missing out on so much that is important.
Save your energy and seek information that is useful and relevant. If you are an art enthusiast, you are probably not interested in a new smartphone launch. Unsubscribe from newsletters and groups with a high proportion of (noise) vs. with relevant suggestions (signal).
I had this problem where I would just type in my email id whenever somebody would claim to help get a million readers in xxx months. I would read all of them, make half baked attempts at implementing them, and then have nightmares of walking down a dimly lit road to nowhere!
Those days are over thankfully.
Adopt a “Wait and watch” Approach
My website has been created with WordPress. When I had begun building it, I would read about ‘Things you should be doing when building a WordPress website, Plugins you can’t do without.’ I chose certain essential plugins. If you try going through the plugins that are available, you will just end up confused, and many of them are not that useful.
When you come across something that promises heaven, but you are unsure if you really want to use it, adopt a ‘wait and watch’ approach. Many tools remain relevant only for a year or two. Like I was reading about a WordPress plugin for including Google Ads. In the comments section, someone said that the plugin was outdated and there are a few others that can be used instead. And he was right. Even the author of the blog thanked him for pointing it out.
Before using a new tool, preview it, go through the user reviews, use a trial version for some time. Most online tools come with their own baggage of bugs and integration issues. Unless it is something you can’t do without, hold your horses and watch.
Do you get distracted by shiny objects? Well, if you do, it is time to get your focus right. Concentrate on your priorities and pursue ideas that bring a real change.