Shiny Object Syndrome, or SOS, is the tendency for someone to get distracted by new thoughts and ideas, their own and others, and never focus or complete anything. SOS is a HUGE problem for entrepreneurs. One of the curses and blessings of being an entrepreneur is that you constantly have new thoughts and ideas going through your brain. A little bit of Shiny Object Syndrome is to be expected, and probably won’t hurt you. But when it starts to take over, it can have some pretty serious consequences, like lost productivity due to distractions that take too much time, lost money due to the cost of tools or services wasted on dropped projects, lack of patiences for the time it takes a project to take off, lack of investment in any one thing, and the appearance that you are a flake.
I hope it’s clear that SOS is usually a very BAD thing! But there’s good news: SOS can be managed! Following are six strategies for kicking SOS to the curb.
1. Have a flexible schedule for the day
At the beginning of the day, sit down and come up with a rough plan for the day. What do you hope to get done, and by what time? What are the main tasks you hope to have accomplished by the end of the day? How will you know you’re “done” work for the day?
Try using a free or low-cost app to help you plan, and to keep you accountable. Some great scheduling apps include Schedule Planner, Todo, and Any.do.
2. Try the Pomodoro Technique
While it’s great to have a schedule and plan in place, it’s also important to build in small, scheduled breaks throughout the day. The Pomodoro Technique can help with this.
When you start working, set a timer for 25 minutes. Commit to working like crazy during that time. Once the timer goes off, give yourself 3-5 minutes to do whatever you want. This can include checking email or social media, stretching your legs, refilling your coffee, etc. Once your break is up, set the timer for 25 minutes again. After the fourth 25-minute period, give yourself an even longer break, like 15-30 minutes. This is a great time to have lunch or go for a walk. Now set your timer again, and go back to 3-5 minute breaks.
This is a great strategy for making sure you stay on task, and still get some valuable time to recharge and clear your head!
3. Turn off email and social media notifications
I suggest turning off email, social media and even text notifications while working on a specific task.
Tim Ferris, author of The Four-Hour Workweek, recommends having a set schedule for checking email. Set up an autoresponder on your email that lets people know what times you check. This ensures you stay on task, while also remaining accessible for important, time-sensitive matters.
4. Set short-term goals
Setting short-term goals will usually also include weekly or even monthly tasks you want to accomplish, as well as outcomes you’d like to achieve. Some examples of short-term business goals might include: making $5,000 in revenue by the end of the month, posting 5 times to social media over the course of the week, getting three new clients in the next three weeks, getting 1,000 visitors to your website by June, or organizing your office by the end of the week.
While this doesn’t ensure you won’t get distracted by shiny objects, it does give you something tangible to work towards. And if you find you’re consistently meeting your goals, you know you have a pretty good handle on staying focused! Check out apps like Strides, GoalsOnTrack and Objectiveli.
5. Build in time to try new things
Instead of squashing all the great thoughts and ideas you have, build in some time each day to let yourself think about them and flesh them out. Use a tool like Evernote to jot down thoughts and ideas as they happen. Then when you have your pre-scheduled “idea time”, you can pull up your list and dive right in.
6. Put your social media posting on autopilot
Automate your social media as much as possible. Build in time once or twice a week to plan and implement your social media for the week, and then stick to it.
Also be sure to build in set times for checking your social media so you can respond to questions, comments or concerns in a timely manner.
Some of the tools I recommend for automating your social media include Hootsuite, Buffer and AgoraPulse.
In my experience, the vast majority of entrepreneurs suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome to some extent. So you’re definitely not alone! But I hope the strategies above have given you some hope that you can manage it and learn new ways to focus and stay on task, while still pursuing your ideas and passions.