How to avoid shiny object syndrome

Are you easily distracted and struggling to stay focused? Do you have shiny object syndrome? Learn how to stop getting distracted AND get more done in a day!
How to avoid shiny object syndrome

Do you have shiny object syndrome? Do you get distracted by the latest gizmo, rather than focussing on what is important to your business now! Shiny object syndrome is a common problem with many entrepreneurs.

Have you ever had great intentions on completing something you have meant to do for weeks, but by the end of the day you are still no further forward. But your ironing is complete and all your paperwork is now filed in alphabetic order, or is that just me!

If you get easily sidetracked or have shiny object syndrome, then here’s a trick to try and combat the distractions and become more focused on the job in hand.

Get into the focusing habit

For me staying focussed for a whole day is impossible. There are too many things going on, with too many people, or animals, demanding my attention at any moment. I need a plan that is easy to remember but flexible when it needs to be.

Running a business single-handedly means that you have to wear many different hats and to try to do everything, every day, is a recipe for disaster.

Some areas of the business need a different focus than others. And let’s face it, some are more enjoyable than others. I bet you can guess which ones I leave in the “do it later” pile!

Plus, trying to do too many different tasks each day creates distractions in itself. And a too-long to-do list will lead to feeling completely overwhelmed. 

Under these circumstances, creating a regimented and ever-changing plan of what you must do and when doesn’t work. But creating a flexible routine does.

Create a flexible routine

What I mean by a flexible routine is something like time-blocking. 

Time-blocking is about allocating regular chunks/blocks of time to a specific activity. All you do in that block of time is the assigned activity. When you finish the activity or the block of time, you take a break and then move onto the next pre-planned block of time, with its pre-planned activity.

A short burst of more focussed concentration ends up being more efficient, and you are naturally distracted less. This also stops you being distracted by all those new shiny objects.

Creating a flexible routine takes the concept of time-blocking and makes the blocks of time, and associated activities, easily repeatable. Initially, think about building time blocks for morning, afternoon and evenings. Once you have the time blocks you want to work with defined, start allocating common repeatable tasks to each block. 

The concept is that you have a broad idea of what you will be doing on any given day, at any given time, without having to think about it. Having a set routine means you can then focus on the work area without worrying about dropping the ball somewhere else.

You also don’t need to keep thinking about what you need to do, you already know what you should be doing.

An example of a flexible routine could be to complete your order processing by midday each day. After that, you can concentrate on any other business activity that needs attention. If you finish your order processing before noon, then you can either start your next work block or take a break.

You could then build on this routine by allocating afternoons of specific days of the week to deal with particular areas of the business. Such as Mondays for marketing, Tuesdays for blog posts, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Friday for product development. Basically, whatever suits your business.

This is the start of time-blocking your days and will allow you to focus on one thing at a time, rather than trying to do everything at once.

Creating a simple routine that is always in place will soon become a natural habit. You need a routine which is easy to cycle through the activities each day, week or month. This minimises wasting too much time planning and then re-planning when you don’t follow your original plan!

7 Tips for creating a flexible routine to avoid shiny object syndrome

A workable flexible routine is different for everyone, so to create one, you need to make it personal for you.

Following these tips will help you create a routine that will work for you.

1. Know your goal and its importance to you

For you to stay focused without getting distracted, you need to understand what you are trying to achieve and why it is important to you.

There must be a compelling reason for you to spend your time on any activity.

Knowing this will help bring you back on track if you do find yourself getting distracted.

2. Make it measurable

All goals must result in achieving something. And to successfully grow your business, you need to make sure you only spend your time on activities that move you towards your goals.

The key here is to be able to measure your progress so that you know you are getting closer to achieving your goals.

Think about your goal. How can you break it down into measurable chunks that you can track to keep you motivated?

Create a spreadsheet, or document, to record your progress.

3. Create a fixed weekly plan

To create a routine, it doesn’t need to be too detailed. The tasks in it need to be repeatable. Avoid adding changeable activities, your daily plan will cover these. 

You are aiming for a routine that allows you to easily remember what you should be working on a specific day and time.

For me, this has resulted in a plan that covers different business areas on different days. I have days for marketing, product development, blog posts, social media, etc. The same business areas, or topics, repeat each week on the same day and at the same time. My overarching weekly plan is consistent and unchanging. The detail of what I do each day may change, but the overall strategy remains the same.

Our business planners all contain weekly planners that you could use to document your weekly plan.

4. Cut your distractions

Distractions are everywhere, and you know what your shiny objects are! If I’m brutal, anything that is not getting you closer to your goal is a distraction.

The only sure-fire way of not getting sucked into your rabbit hole is not to go there!

And a great way of not eliminating all the fun is to build in time for whatever distracts you. So you could schedule time at the end of each day to binge on your distraction.

Alternatively, you could allow yourself 10 mins every few hours, giving you time to relax. But make sure you stick to it by setting an alarm.

Or use it as a treat tool. If you finish a particularly nasty task, you can compensate it with a set time doing something you love.

Do whatever works for you but make sure you manage it effectively.

5. Create a detailed daily plan (if required)

Sometimes the activities in your high-level topic will change each week. On these days, create a daily plan that breaks the action down into more manageable, changeable tasks.

Make sure you work on tasks in the right order by prioritising them in order of importance.

A daily planner is an excellent way of planning your day.

6. Set an alarm to remind you to check-in

Setting a daily alarm brings back your focus to the present. If you happen to have been sidetracked, having the alarm go off will alert you to bring back your attention.

I find alarms are a great way to manage your time, but more of that in another post.

7. Keep track of your progress

You’ve made sure your goals are measurable. You’ve created a document to track your progress. So make sure you use them!

Depending on what your measurements are, track them daily, weekly or monthly (or all 3!). Taking the measures shows you how far you have come and also how much you still have to go.

Keeping track of your progress in this way is a great way to motivate yourself.

The secret to stopping distractions and shiny object syndrome 

I have found that the secret to stopping distractions or to avoid shiny object syndrome, is to create a routine that compels you to stay on track. It should contain enough depth and meaning so that you know the importance and sequence of each task.

With your weekly routine in place, it will soon turn into a habit. Before you know it, your actions will become second nature and your distractions will be more controlled.

Let me know below what makes you lose focus from your goals and how you manage them.

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