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How to Overcome Entrepreneur “Shiny Object Syndrome” In 4 Simple Steps

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Entrepreneur Ideas

In Alice in Wonderland, Alice tells the Queen, “One can’t believe impossible things” and the Queen confidently replies, “I daresay you haven’t had much practice. When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Without a doubt, the Queen must be an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs are like idea machines. Churning out ideas like candy coming from the Willy Wonka factory. We are creators. Innovators. But there’s a problem that most entrepreneurs face somewhere down the line—having too many ideas.

At first, it seems like having a constant influx of great ideas isn’t a terrible thing, but when you have tons of new ideas flooding into your brain day after day, you can run into two problems:

1. You become stalled. You never take action on any of your ideas because you don’t know how to get started or even what to start.

2. You get easily side-tracked. You’re always chasing the white rabbit. You start project after project and you’re always onto the next thing before you’ve even completed the first.

The latter is what I like to call “Entrepreneur Shiny Object Syndrome”—always chasing that next “shiny” idea. Many of the entrepreneurs that I know (including myself) suffer from this “disorder”. If you’re one of these people, sometimes having only 6 impossible ideas would feel like a relief.

The issue with having Shiny Object Syndrome is that you run the risk of not using your time wisely and not being able to operate your business efficiently. Since your time and energy is money (especially if you’re a solopreneur who’s in charge of everything), your business’s bottom line will undoubtedly suffer if you can’t stay focused.

As a business owner, you need to get really good, really fast, at effectively filtering through your fishing net of ideas and only selecting the right ones to work on.

Below is a helpful 4-step process that you can use to get a handle on this “disorder” and continue to stay on track and focused every time a new idea arises…

 

Step 1: Create a running list of all your ideas

Write down every business/marketing/blogging/etc idea that you have throughout the day by keeping a running list in a journal or on your Smartphone. When something new pops into your head, jot it down and then immediately go back to whatever you were doing.

Keep in mind that just because this certain idea magically occurred to you in the moment does not mean that…

1. It is top priority
2. It needs your full attention
3. It needs to be implemented straight away

When you write everything down, you can come back and build on an idea later without worrying about forgetting it. Try scheduling 30 minutes a day for “idea time” to think through some of your recent ideas. This way, you won’t get distracted from your current tasks, but you’ll still give the necessary attention to your innovative thoughts.

 

Step 2: Pause before you start anything

This is a lesson that I find myself having to learn over and over again. When you have a new idea, take a pause. Don’t execute it right away. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small idea like “I should send a Twitter message to so-and-so” or a big idea like “I need to do a complete overhaul on my business website”—both ideas can wait.

Decide on a specific delay time between your idea conception and execution. For example, every time a “big idea” for my business occurs to me, I let it sit and think about it for 7 days before giving myself permission to consider implementing it. If in 1 week, I’m still excited about the idea and certain that it will help my business, I will make a plan to execute it. If not, then the idea falls onto the backburner and I don’t have to worry about it.

Find delay times that work best for you and do your best to stick with them.

 

Step 3: View your new ideas through the lens of your long-term goal(s)

After you’ve written all your ideas down and given them a little space, it’s time to figure out if a specific idea is worth implementing.

To do this, you have to look at your new ideas through the lens of your long-term goals. With every idea, ask yourself the question: “Does this idea take me closer to reaching my ultimate business goals?” If it does, go for it. If it doesn’t, let it sit on your idea list a little longer.

Some ideas might need to stay on your business’s backburner until you get more important things accomplished. In the meantime, if something does seem urgent (maybe you really really hate your website design), try outsourcing the task and continue to spend your time working towards your ultimate goals.

 

Step 4: Don’t make crucial business decisions every day

If you attempt to make important decisions about the long-term objectives of your business on a daily basis, you run the risk of falling off track every time you have a new killer idea (or something bad happens like a revenue dip or you receive negative feedback). Instead of making these important decisions on the fly, have a 6-month or yearly plan that spells out the direction that you want to take your business.

Think about it this way—say, for instance, you want to drive away from Los Angeles and be on the road for 2 days. Well, you have two options:

1. You could choose which way to turn each time you encountered a stop light, on-ramp or fork in the road
2. You could choose your destination to be New York City in advance which would influence every directional decision you make along the way

With the first option, you could end up anywhere in the country, or even back where you started. When you make business decisions based on the specific circumstances that you face each day—this is unlikely to lead you to your final (desired) destination. With the second option, you will arrive at your destination in 1 day and 16 hours and find yourself exactly where you want to be.

Writing out the overall plans and ultimate goals for your business will help you stay steadfast and focused in the long-term.

In the end, in order to overcome Entrepreneur Shiny Object Syndrome, you should always be filtering your ideas through these 4 steps to keep yourself and your business moving towards your ultimate goals and on target for success.

Laurel Staples runs a popular blog & podcast called Go Fire Yourself that gives you the insider secrets to successfully escape your day job, grow your own business and live life on your terms. Connect with Laurel and download her free ebook: Income Switch: How to Replace Your 9-to-5 Income by Building a Profitable (& Unstoppable) Online Platform by visiting her website: www.gofireyourself.com

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Wendie Kause

    Nov 23, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    Great article, great steps that I will apply, starting right now. But do you know what I like most about it? Knowing that this syndrome is not mine alone. It’s as if there’s a little gremlin in my brain, clicking on all these ideas all the time. I thought perhaps I was alone with these little guys! It’s good to know there are others!

    Thanks much!

  2. Pat Royston

    Jan 1, 2016 at 1:14 am

    Such good information. You pegged me!

  3. Michael Levanduski

    Feb 22, 2014 at 2:35 am

    Excellent post. This is a very big problem for anyone working online! These are great tips for everyone, especially those just starting out.

  4. Janine Gilmour (@JanineGilmour1)

    Jan 11, 2014 at 12:08 am

    I’m thinking “all that glitters isn’t gold” … and knowing I gravitate to my own shiny objects when I’m doing something difficult. Nice to know I’m in good company. Better still to working with a process that staves off starting 50 things and not finishing many. Thanks for the perspective on how to see my big goals over the finish line. Thanks!

  5. Curt

    Jan 6, 2014 at 3:47 am

    I am so glad you wrote this article, Laurel. My friends have described me as a serial entrepreneur…I thought they were just being nice. I seem to come up with a new idea with each breath I take. I own several successful small businesses. I am blessed with good employees to run each business. I have list upon list of additional projects that I am working on that are not related to my businesses: titles of nearly thirty books to be written, a producer has ask me to develop two of my ideas for TV programs, my multiple real estate projects that are in various states of completion and valued from $240K to $29M, and a list of twenty-two additional ideas that I would love to develop. To say the least, I am spread thin. The best thing I have done recently is to start working with a business coach that helped me to focus. I now write thoughts on my list and revisit the list every 30 days. Since starting this, I have not started one new project…and I have been able to finish, or make subtancial headway, on several of my pending high-priority projects. I don’t know if everyone will have the same success, but for me, I now prioritize, focus and accomplish. Without my business coach helping me to understand how I think/work, I would still feel like I had severe ADHD. I sincerely appreciate reading that others face these same hyperactive idea issues, and appreciate your efforts to assist us. Your writings are spot-on!

  6. Goodtogo

    Dec 29, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    I’m cleared, thanks Laurel.

  7. Diana Schneidman

    Nov 29, 2013 at 5:38 am

    Laurel,

    I heartily endorse Step 1, maintaining a running list.

    I keep a list in Word every time I come across another idea for marketing my business. Sometimes I simply list a website to revisit; other times it’s a big concept.

    Once I have captured an idea, I free myself up to go on to the day’s work, comforted that the new, shiny idea won’t be lost.

    I rarely look at the list, but I know where to find all my ideas when I want them.

    -Diana

  8. Micah

    Nov 28, 2013 at 2:55 am

    Great article. I love the idea of a running list. I often have to remind myself to focus on what I need to focus on right then… And spend time researching all of my “great” ideas later.

  9. Laurel Staples

    Nov 28, 2013 at 2:28 am

    Thanks! So glad you enjoyed it!

  10. Ahmed Muse

    Nov 28, 2013 at 1:36 am

    Very useful tips here. Thanks!

  11. Margaux Dela Cruz (@Margaux_Dela)

    Nov 26, 2013 at 11:54 am

    These are practical suggestions to help entrepreneurs stay focused on the more important things. True, once ideas come running in, there’s no way to stop entrepreneurs. But another thing I learned to help me focused on the priorities is segmenting. It would help if entrepreneurs learn to visualize their business on a map. By adding data by category, they can analyze each category individually and identify which is the most important. Then, they can analyze the connections between each data set – another simple and practical way to ignite more ideas but this time, in a more systematic way.

    • Laurel Staples

      Nov 28, 2013 at 2:26 am

      Thanks for your awesome tip! That’s a really great way to stay focused on your objectives. I’ve known many entrepreneurs who do that it say it works wonders.

  12. Abe Stone

    Nov 25, 2013 at 7:00 am

    Excellent… It really helps to acknowledge the issues and then create an understanding of how to fix it… So many times we don’t want to admit that some of our ways of living are problems and they never go away.. I think coaching helps in this too.
    Having someone who can objectively help you question the ideas and ask new questions you may not be thinking of…

    • Laurel Staples

      Nov 28, 2013 at 2:23 am

      Great points Abe! I think in business, we get too close to our own situation and it’s hard to see things from an objective point of view. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Jodi Barthold

    Nov 25, 2013 at 5:46 am

    Great article – I’m going to memorize these and use them.

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