Imagine you're on a treasure hunt, but instead of sticking to the route you've set, every glint in the soil turns you off course and completely derails your focus. If this sounds all too familiar, you might just be a magpie in disguise. Yes, you heard that right— a magpie, those birds famously attracted to anything that glitters and shines, but instead of shiny wrappers and trinkets, you're drawn to shiny new ideas and projects.

Today we’re diving into the heart of SOS (Shiny Object Syndrome), where the grass always looks greener on the next project!

If you’re ready to find out how to keep your inner magpie in check and focus on what truly matters, you’re in the right place, let's find out how to turn those distractions into directions.

Understanding Shiny Object Syndrome

Definition and Symptoms

Imagine walking into an all-you-can-eat buffet, but instead of food, it's all ideas, hobbies, and projects. Your eyes widen, your heart races, and you want to try everything. That's Shiny Object Syndrome in a nutshell – an enchanting distraction from your main course, leading you to bite off more than you can chew. Symptoms might include a graveyard of unfinished life projects, a restless mind constantly on the lookout for the next big thing, and perhaps a mild identity crisis as you oscillate between roles: baker today, app developer tomorrow.

Psychological Roots

Why do we fall for the allure of the shine? It turns out, our brains are hardwired to notice new and shiny things because, from an evolutionary standpoint, new could mean food, mates, or danger. In the modern technology-oriented jungle, shiny objects translate to new gadgets, services, ideas, or ventures. Dopamine, the brain's reward chemical, plays a big role here. Each time we embark on a new project, dopamine spikes up, saying, "Good job, keep going!" But, there's also decision fatigue – our mental stamina drains after making decisions all day, making it harder to resist those glittering new projects by the evening.

Neuroscience backs this up, showing our prefrontal cortex (the decision-making part of the brain) tires like a muscle, leading to poorer choices as the day progresses – hello, late-night online shopping sprees for hobbies we'll never start. And let's not forget the paradox of choice; the more options we have, the less satisfied we feel with any decision, perpetually leaving us to wonder about the paths not taken.

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Impact on Productivity and Personal Growth

Here's the kicker: while chasing after new projects feels exhilarating, it often leaves a wake of unfulfilled potential, success and fragmented focus. Imagine trying to water a hundred plants but only having enough water for ten; they all end up wilting. This is what happens to our projects and goals when spread too thin. Over time, this can stifle personal growth and lead to a portfolio of half-baked business ideas rather than a few well-cultivated talents, and let's be real, a nice dollop of guilt. It's like being a jack of all trades, master of none, except the trades are all hobbies and side projects we've barely scratched the surface of.

This constant cycle of excitement and abandonment is the hallmark of SOS. It stretches us thin, dilutes our focus, energy, takes up too much time, and, ironically, can keep us from achieving the very growth we seek.

All in all, when you start chasing that new shiny object, whether it be that new business project, a blog post on a blog you haven't even started, or inventing a brand new product that will revolutionize whatever industry, you're cluttering your mental space and affecting your mental health.

By understanding the shiny allure of SOS, we can begin to arm ourselves with the knowledge and strategies to tame our magpie tendencies.

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Taming Your Magpie Tendencies: Strategies to Combat SOS

Forging Your Anti-Shine Armor

The first step in our strategy for combating SOS and avoid getting easily distracted by new things, is to develop awareness and detect a potential shiny object. Start by acknowledging the dazzle without automatically giving chase. Here are some practical strategies to help you stay focused on your current treasures instead of getting distracted by every new sparkle:

  • Mindful Reflection: Take a moment to reflect before diving into a new project. Ask yourself, "Does this align with my long-term goals?" and "Am I considering this because it genuinely interests me, or am I just avoiding something else?".
  • The Priority Matrix: Borrowing from the Eisenhower Box, create your own Priority Matrix for Magpies. Divide a simple square into four quadrants labeled Urgent, Important, Both, and Neither. Place your current and potential projects into these quadrants. You'll quickly see which shiny objects are worth your time and which are merely distractions and not worth pursuing.
  • Pick One Idea(!): Yup, I can almost hear your sigh from here, but we knew it was going to boil down to this all along, didn't we? There's no way around it; the key is to decide on one project (only one!) from our Priority Matrix for Magpies list.
    (Pro tip: Ask yourself which of the projects or business ideas sounds the most exciting to complete and simultaneously shows progress the quickest. When you pair these two qualities, you'll get the most out of those jolts of dopamine your brain craves and will also be able to cultivate this decided mindset!)
  • Celebrate Small Wins: Break your main goal into smaller, achievable tasks and celebrate each completion. This creates a series of positive feedback loops, reinforcing your focus and commitment.
  • Keep a Victory Log: If you're working with our app your coach is already doing this for you, if not, creating a log of your progress and setbacks. Writing down your wins will track your growth, and give you tangible proof of real progress. It reminds you of how far you've come and to keep pushing chasing your goal because you are progressing!
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Implementing Your Anti-Shine Measures

Ok, you got your top priority goal in mind (hopefully an exciting one at that!), now what?

The aim of here is to strike a balance that allows you to appreciate and explore the next shiny object while keeping your eyes on the prize, a trade-off. Here's how to manage and overcome shiny object syndrome in the long run:

  • Committing & Understanding Resistance: Acknowledge that the perfect moment to start is a myth. The right time is now, as later will feel just as daunting! Understand that the resistance you feel from your brain is natural, it'll beg for more time to research for "the perfect strategy"; it's an inbuilt mechanism to conserve energy and avoid risk. Recognize this, appreciate it for its protective intent, and then move forward with your plans, you decide what you will pursue.
  • Anticipating Bumps: Prepare for obstacles as part of the process. Each challenge is a lesson, and opportunity for growth and learning opportunities, so when setbacks arise, see it as a cue to use and strengthen your resilience muscle rather than doubting your choice. Every entrepreneur knows that obstacles are an opportunity to add value, they are a new opportunity to refine your strategy.
  • Managing A New Idea: The trick to beating SOS isn't about stifling your curiosity; it's about directing it. When new shiny objects catch your eye, don't say no! Make sure to jot that idea down with a future revisit date. This isn't about rejecting new things, but rather creating space for them by scheduling a future chat with yourself to explore these possibilities and assess the potential value.
  • Staying the Course: As you start making strides, beware of your brain's tendency to underplay your achievements! As soon as you feel that little voice in your head (AKA shiny object syndrome creeping in) saying "This is not happening fast enough", "Maybe I should've chosen another idea", "This was the wrong path" go back and open your Victory Log. Showing your brain tangible proof of advancement will quiet any second-guesses about your capabilities and choices.
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Practical Tips for Staying on Track

Goal Setting and Tracking

Setting goals isn’t just about deciding what you want to achieve; it’s about breaking down those dreams into bite-sized, manageable tasks. Think SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. If you set better goals you are setting up a recipe for success—each ingredient needs to be just right.

And don’t forget about tracking! There are tons of apps out there that can help you keep an eye on your progress.

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Accountability Partners

Ever tried telling someone about your goals? Do it. Having an accountability partner is like having a workout buddy, but for your productivity. They’re there to give you a nudge when you’re slacking and high-five you when you’re soaring. Plus, it’s harder to bail on a goal when someone else is watching- no one wants to be the flake, right?

You can do this with a friend, a family member, or if you want an extra boost and someone to simplify all of the previous steps and support you along the way, an accountability coach can lend a very helpful hand.

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Reward Yourself

Here's a reminder to not wait until you’ve reached your big goal to celebrate. Set milestones along the way and reward yourself for reaching them. It could be as simple as treating yourself to a coffee or as fancy as a day off. Celebrating milestones helps keep motivation high and Shiny Object Syndrome at bay. It’s like dropping breadcrumbs along the path to success, keeping you on track.

Food For Thought

  • When was the last time you chased a new project or hobby, only to leave it half-finished? What pulled you away?
  • How do you react when faced with a new opportunity? Does the thrill of the new overshadow your current commitments?
  • What's one goal you've set but haven't achieved yet? What shiny objects have distracted you along the way?
  • Reflect on a time you successfully resisted a shiny new distraction. How did that decision impact your progress toward your goals?

FAQs on Shiny Object Syndrome

How do I know if I have Shiny Object Syndrome?

If you find yourself constantly starting new projects, hobbies, or tasks but rarely seeing them through to completion, you might be experiencing SOS. Key signs include a lack of focus, difficulty in completing tasks, and a perpetual chase for the next exciting thing.

Can Shiny Object Syndrome be a good thing?

In moderation, yes. SOS can be a sign of creativity and a curious mind. The challenge is to harness this energy positively, ensuring it doesn’t scatter your focus but instead contributes to your growth.

How can I stop getting distracted by new ideas with Shiny Object Syndrome?

Start by acknowledging the value of the ideas without letting them derail your current focus. Write them down for later review and set specific times to explore these shiny objects. This way, you’re not dismissing them; you’re scheduling them.

What strategies can help manage Shiny Object Syndrome?

1. Prioritize Your Projects: Focus on what aligns with your goals and promises quick, visible progress. This strategy keeps you motivated to continue the chasing.

2. Set Small, Achievable Goals: Break down your idea into smaller tasks to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

3. Use Time Management Techniques: Methods like the Pomodoro Technique can help with controlling feeling distracted and improve both focus and productivity.

4. Minimize Distractions: Create a workspace that reduces the temptation to switch tasks.

Are there any tools to help manage Shiny Object Syndrome?

There are several tools and bits of technology designed to help manage here, so you're not just left to talk yourself out of chasing every new idea. Beyond classic methods like priority lists and goal-setting apps, our accountability coaching app offers a direct way to help define your strategy and stay on track every day. It comes with a free trial, so you can see if it works for you without the commitment.

How can I improve my focus and attention span?

Improving focus and attention span involves practice and patience. Mindfulness exercises, regular breaks, and a disciplined approach to managing distractions (like turning off notifications and blocking social media means) can significantly help. Also, dedicating specific blocks of time to deep work can enhance your ability to concentrate on tasks for longer periods.

Why do I lose interest in things after the initial excitement?

Losing interest on your once shiny object and exciting idea can be due to several factors, including a lack of clear goals, the realization of the hard work involved, or simply that the project doesn’t align with your passions or strengths. Reflecting on why you started and setting small, rewarding milestones can help maintain your interest and avoid shiny object syndrome.

How long does it take to overcome Shiny Object Syndrome?

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to overcome shiny object syndrome, as it depends on your commitment to practicing focus and discipline. However, with consistent effort and the application of strategies like goal setting, prioritization, and mindfulness, you can begin to see improvements in a matter of weeks.

Can Shiny Object Syndrome affect my career?

Yes, SOS can impact success by leading to a lack of completion on business goals, which can affect your reputation and new opportunities for advancement. Overcoming SOS and showing consistent, focused work can enhance your professional development and that of your business.

Addressing these questions not only offers a clearer understanding of Shiny Object Syndrome but also provides actionable steps for individuals to harness their enthusiasm and creativity in a more focused and productive manner.

How do I know if I’m pursuing a genuinely good new idea or just falling for SOS?

Think big picture, ask yourself, “Does this shiny object fits my long-term goals?” and “Do I have the bandwidth to take this on without sacrificing important commitments?” If you hesitate, it might be SOS throwing you bait for distraction.


Overcoming Shiny Object Syndrome isn't about ignoring the allure of shiny things; it's about steering your focus towards what genuinely aligns with your long-term benefits and successful projects. By distinguishing between fleeting distractions and meaningful pursuits, you're better equipped to channel your curiosity constructively. Remember, not every shiny thing is worth chasing. Define your goals clearly and let that clarity guide you towards new opportunities that promise more than just immediate gratification but lead to meaningful results in your life and business. Here's to transforming potential distractions into deliberate steps toward your most cherished achievements, making every moment and choice count towards a fulfilling journey.