‘You will encounter many distractions and many temptations to put your goal aside. But if you hang in there, always following your vision, I have no doubt you will succeed.’
Entrepreneurs by nature are ideas people. We are the innovators of world who dare to think big. We see the world through a different lens, see opportunities where other don’t and are willing to take risks and put our plans into action.
While these qualities are gifts this love for new opportunities and innovation can distract us from our goals and ultimately your success.
When a business is brand new we have so much belief in our idea that nothing can distract us. The excitement knowing that our idea is becoming a reality consumes every thought and we charge at it like a red rag to a bull.
However, there comes a time, typically when a business starts to grow and becomes more visible, when new ideas and opportunities present themselves. For the idea loving entrepreneurial mind these new opportunities are like an industrial strength magnet pulling you in their direction.
I call this phenomenon Shiny Object Syndrome.
Shiny Object Syndrome can take hold when the initial excitement of start-up begins to settle and the cold hard reality of building and operating your business sinks in. Most entrepreneurs will do anything at avoid operational tasks, so the first chance to explore a new idea, we’re in!
The other time Shiny Object Syndrome can rear its ugly head is when your business is not growing as fast as you thought it would, which is typical for even the most seasoned business builder. You start to question your strategy and perhaps even your entire concept. Then, someone or something comes along and presents what could be the solution to all your challenges, distracting you from staying focussed on your strategy.
Don’t let the gentle name fool you, Shiny Object Syndrome is extremely powerful and dangerous. It’s the entrepreneurs Kryptonite!
Have a Game Plan
To stay on track and achieve your goals you absolutely must have a game plan. Without a game plan it’s like trying to navigate a foreign city without a map. You may reach a destination but it’s unlikely the destination you were trying to reach (I actually love getting lost in foreign cities but you get the point). Without a plan it is highly likely that Shiny Object Syndrome will strike, taking you off track.
When I talk about a game plan I’m not talking about a long list of goals without any structure around them. You know, the type you write at the start of each year and never look at? You need to have a strategic plan for your business which clearly outlines the yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily goals for your business. This plan needs to be reviewed daily.
I could write an entire blog posts on how to create your strategic plan. In fact, I already have. You can check it out here.
Focus On Your Top 5 and Top 1 of 5.
In Verne Harnish’s must read book ‘Mastering the Rockefeller Habits’ he explains why every business and every person within every business must establish their top 5 goals and top 1 of 5 goal regularly.
For an early stage business the top 5 and top 1 of 5 goals need to be reviewed weekly as the business evolves and grows quickly.
At the start of each week, write down your top 5 and top 1 of 5 goals. Starting with your top goal, get to work until it’s complete, then move to goal number two and so on. If you get interrupted and have to deal with something other than your top 5, simply deal with the interruption then review which of your top 5 you were working on and get back to it.
By focusing on your top 5 and top 1 of 5 you will be constantly reminded what is important and will find it easier to avoid Shiny Object Syndrome.
Since implementing this strategy my productivity has increased and I reach my goals sooner. Try it.
Get an Accountability Partner.
One way to protect yourself against Shiny Object Syndrome is to get someone in your corner to keep you accountable to your strategic plan and goals.
At Elevate I built a board of highly skilled and experienced directors to help guide the company forward. I often use the board to float new ideas and opportunities that come our way. For ideas that come with little risk, cost or time investment the board will talk through the idea or opportunity then agree to give it a go or not. For opportunities that come with more risk and cost I’ll develop a more formal business case to show I’ve really thought it through and to present accurate information.
If you are starting out or don’t want a board (they can come with a number of challenges, believe me) find yourself a mentor or coach to keep you accountable to your goals. This person should be experienced in your industry or niche but still opened minded enough to be open to new ideas.
If hiring a mentor or coach is not within your means find a fellow entrepreneur and agree to meet (in the flesh or by phone/Skype) each week to run any opportunities that have come up as well as your goals. A word or warning when teaming up with another entrepreneur – they too may easily affected by Shiny Object Syndrome and have a tendency to back you when new ‘shiny objects’ show up.
Take Your Time Assessing New Opportunities
While new ideas and opportunities presenting themselves can be a curse they can also be a blessing. In fact, if you were not open to new ideas and opportunities you would never start and build a successful business.
While in this post I’ve focussed on putting strategies in place to avoid distractions and the dreaded Shiny Object Syndrome, we must stay open to new ideas and opportunities. You just need to take your time assessing any new opportunity that comes your way before diving in.
Whenever I am presented with a new idea or opportunity that I’m attracted to I can instantly feel myself getting excited and I want to jump straight in. Ever been in that situation? After being burned a few times, these days I’ve learned to take in all the information and think about it for a week or so without taking any action – no matter how much I want to.
It’s important to be mindful of why you may be attracted to this potential opportunity. Find a quiet place where you can sit alone then close your eyes and ask yourself what attracts you to this opportunity. If the answer is because you are not achieving your goals quick enough or because you are simply bored then this is a red flag that you probably should not proceed.
If you decide that an opportunity will help you execute your strategic plan then schedule some time to explore it in more detail and bounce it off your accountability partner.
If you decide to take up the opportunity find a way to de-risk it. This may be running some sort of pilot or asking your customers what they think (if appropriate).
At the end of the day we must be open to new ides and opportunities however we must avoid Shiny Object Syndrome by taking our time to assess new opportunities ensuring they will deliver a desirable outcome and not distract us from our core business strategy.