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A steady flow of fresh ideas usually comes with the territory of being an entrepreneur. We love the chance to get creative, experiment and jump on an opportunity when it pops up. A good proportion of us are also multipotentialites with a bundle of varied interests and skills up our sleeves.

These are all great qualities, ones that are essential for the growth of our business… as long as we can channel them purposefully and not be enticed by the lure of the Shiny Object.

What is a Shiny Object?

Shiny objects are sneaky, they’ll often turn up in disguise. At first glance, they may look like just another brilliant idea, project or path to growth. It’s only when we’re a little way down the track of pursuing them that we realise:

  • They’re not a good fit for us
  • They might be a good fit in the future, but not right now

But by then it’s too late, and we’ve already been pulled off course, wasting an awful lot of time and energy on something that’s at odds with our bigger picture business vision.

Where Do Shiny Objects Pop Up?

Honestly? Almost anywhere! They could appear in the form of a new course, membership or mastermind that seems like the answer to your prayers, a variation of a business format you see from someone else in your space, a suggestion from a well-meaning friend or colleague, or that brainwave you have at 3 am when you’re lying awake with a whirling mind, trying to block out the (gentle?) snoring of your other half. (Keep a notebook by the bed just in case though, those ones often end up being the spark of something amazing.)

Tackling Shiny Objects

I’m guessing that you’ve already spotted the problem here. When inspiration strikes, how do we know if it’s something we should explore further, or simply another Shiny Object scattered in our path to trip us up? And that’s the tricky bit. The true answer is that there’s no definitive way of knowing.

But there are a few things you can do to minimise the risk of your head being turned by the siren of the Shiny Object:

Be clear on your vision

What’s the big picture vision for your business? If you’re clear on where you’re going, it’s much easier to make decisions with intent when you come to a fork in the road, so you can filter out those diversions that won’t serve you well in the long run.

Have a plan

Once you’ve got the vision, you need to translate that into an actionable plan. Break it down into the small steps you need to take every month, week and day to get closer to where you want to be. If you know what you’re doing next, and make sure to review and tweak your plan regularly,  the chances of ending up down an unrelated rabbit hole are greatly reduced.

Put your blinkers on

To create some decent momentum in your business, sometimes you need to put your blinkers on, get your head down and just do the work. No more courses, no coaching, no webinars…nothing! Keep plodding along, keep knocking off the tasks in the next stage of your plan. It might feel like it’s turning into an endless slog without progress….BUT…you need to give your actions a chance to bring you some results.

Build in some accountability

Whether that’s from your team, a mastermind group, a business friend, coach or accountability buddy, go public with your goals. Even just letting someone else know your intentions can often be enough to keep you focused, but you get bonus points if your chosen confidante(s) will do their best to rein you in if it looks like you’re veering off track.

Focus is a matter of deciding what things you're not going to do - quote from John CarmackSo… that’s a few preventative measures you can take against Shiny Object Syndrome. But what happens when you come across an idea that really looks like it could be a winner?

Enter The Shiny Objects List

Next time a brainwave strikes that you seriously think is worth considering, don’t act on it immediately, park it on your Shiny Objects list.  A simple list of all your great ideas that you’ll review regularly  – once a month is usually good. I keep mine on a Trello board, but a notebook, your project management tool, or the notes app on your phone will all work perfectly, just stick to the same place and make it somewhere that’s relatively close to hand.

When it’s time to review the list, ask yourself two simple questions:

Does this idea fit into the vision I have for my business?

That could be now or down the road, but the important thing is that it’s a match for your vision, values and purpose. If you’re not sure, then go back to your “why”. (And if you’re not sure about your “why”, then check out what Simon Sinek has to say about that here.)  If the answer is a definite “no”, then that’s that. Strike it from the list and move on. If it’s a “yes” or a “maybe” then you need to examine it a bit more closely. Poke some holes in it, tease it out a bit further and see if you still think it’s a possibility.

Then ask yourself:

Should I pursue this idea now?

If the answer really is yes, then you need to find a way to work that seamlessly into your plan. If it’s something that’s not a priority right now, but you’d like to explore it more in the future, then decide when that’s going to be, mark it down in your plan and then move on for now. If after a bit of contemplation and hole-poking, it’s still a “maybe”, then put it back onto your Shiny Object List for now and revisit it at a later date.

Stay Connected to Your Purpose

This is not a fail-safe system of course, sometimes you’ll have to make a snappy decision on whether or not to take a shot- but even then, asking yourself those two simple questions on your vision and timeframe will help you decide.

The brilliant thing about the Shiny Object list is that it provides a buffer between you and over-hasty business decisions and gives your ideas time to percolate. It gets you into the habit of examining your ideas more critically, pushes you to think strategically,  and makes it easier to dodge distractions, But most importantly, it helps you stay connected to your business purpose, so you can keep progressing steadily along the path to your own version of success.

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