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Pragmatic approaches to deal with Shiny Object Syndrome

Are you afflicted by Shiny Object Syndrome? Your desk and office is littered with projects that you started, want to start, and will get to "some day". Your to-do list goes out the window as you surf to the next internet site or another fascinating topic grabs your attention when you try to focus on the task that you should be working on today. 

Remember when you needed to study for the final accounting exam, and instead had the sudden urge to clean the bathroom? Was that Shiny Object Syndrome, or an avoidance technique? 

Is your Shiny Object Syndrome really the problem, or simply an symptom of an avoidance issue? I also suffer from Shiny Object Syndrom, and here is what I find works for me. 

Let's assume that I have a task which must be done - such as writing a new book. It is not particulary pleasant, has no immediate payback and I would rather be brewing than pounding words on a keyboard. It is part of my long term marketing plans, but not attractive in the present time. What can be done?

1. Observe when Shiny Object Syndrome kicks in. Does it happen in the early morning, late afternoon, or whenever I sit down to write? (In my case - it is as soon as I sit down to write)

2. What is the exact thought pattern / behaviour pattern that occurs. (I walk into my home office, sit down to write, see the notes on my desk and start taking action on them. An hour later, my desk is clean and no progress is made on the book. - Solution - keep desk clear of notes.)

3. Realistically look at what else is getting in the way. (In my case, I am involved in a civics club, church, work, reading, professoinal speaking, fathering. There are already a lot of demands on my time. No progress on my book could be attributed to spreading myself too thin, and not Shiny Object Syndrome. Hence, jettison demands your time if they are truly getting in your way.)

4. Throw out unfinished projects. I find that projects started, but never finished, are a source of aggravation for Shiny Object Syndrome. If you have to-do lists that remind you of what you did not do, books that you started to read but never finished, then put them in a box and forget about them for now, or throw them out. You can't get out of Shiny Object Syndrome land if you are constantly distracting yourself. 

5. Look at your diet and exercise routine. Don't laugh at this one - too much coffee, not enough sleep and zero exercise aggravate the effects of Shiny Object Syndrome.

6. Work in short, defined sprints. For example, instead of saying "I will sit down to write a book", I say "I will write for thirty minutes today, and then stop." I write it down on a notecard on my desk that says "Working on: Writing from 6 PM to 6:30 PM". 

With the above suggestions in place, try to work on the task you want to get accomplished again. Take careful note again of your behaviour pattern. "I sit down to write, read an email then go to Amazon to look for a new brew kettle." Hmm! Try to change your setting, such as write at the public library.  Or find a place that doesn't have Internet access. Can you remove shotcuts from your "Favorites" bar?

You have more control over Shiny Object Syndrome than you think. Ultimately, you are the only person who can monitor your behaviour and then setup your universe to support or destroy Shiny Object Syndrome for yourself. 


p.s. If you suspect that you have ADHD, then get a formal diagnosis. I have witnessed how medication can drastically improve life for a person diagnosed with ADHD.

Or you can change your line of work to better utilize your talents and benefit society. For example, if you sit down to write a book, and suddenly have the urge to brew award winning beer, then perhaps it is time to pursue a career in the craft brew industry? 

Copyright 2018 Wayne Botha Email Wayne Cell: 860.214.4897