How to avoid “shiny toy” syndrome……

Variety is the spice of life. However, if you (like me) see the world as an exciting mass of opportunities to learn, try and create new things, you know that variety can be dangerous.

The challenge is that it’s easy to get distracted from the goals and plans you have already made. Rather than seeing things through to completion, you abandon the goals and projects you’ve already started to chase after whatever new thing has just caught your eye. This I call the “shiny toy” syndrome. Commonly I see this as the number one challenge stopping successful entrepreneurs realise their potential.

If you frequently abandon commitments in favour of new interests and projects, here are some techniques I’ve found helpful in evaluating new opportunities.

  1. Postpone Your Decision. It’s easy to get swept away with excitement when you stumble across something new and exciting. Try waiting a few days before making a final decision about whether or not to commit to the new opportunity. During this self-imposed reflection period, you’ll probably find that your enthusiasm declines and you’re better able to evaluate whether this new opportunity will move you closer to your goal.
  1. Use Review Board. I’m constantly coming up with new projects that I want to do, as well as being approached with exciting joint venture proposals from partners. Rather than making the executive decision in isolation, look to get your teams input and ‘buy in’. If they say that taking on a potential new project would require sacrificing a more important existing goal, the idea should be put on hold. If you don’t have a team you can turn to, create your own review board. Ask people you trust and who understand your goals for input before you commit to taking on any new projects.
  1. Forced Choice Technique. Write a list of all of the things you want to do. Then prioritise your list using a forced comparison. With this technique, you compare items one at a time, from the top of the list to the bottom. Start by asking which you would rather do – item 1 or item 2. Take the winner and compare it to the next item on the list. Then compare that winner – let’s say it is item 3 – and compare it to item 4. Once you’ve done a forced comparison with all items on the list, you’ll have identified your number-one priority.

Now go back to remaining items on your list, and start the forced comparison process again with the first two items. Repeat the entire process until you have prioritised the entire list of activities. This will help you gauge the importance of the new activity or project you are considering in comparison with everything else you have already committed to.

Finally, ask yourself the following two questions: “What is the most effective use of my time now?” and “What’s the most important thing to do today?” This will help you maintain focus in a sea of choices.

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