What would you say is one of your biggest challenges when you take up any new project?
It’s lack of focus and lack of discipline when it comes to seeing the task through to completion.
The reason for this? It’s shiny object syndrome.
Shiny object syndrome is exactly what it sounds like: Everything that is attractive and pretty, lying by the wayside, that distracts you from your true purpose and makes you change your course, qualifies as a shiny object.
Net result? You barely make any progress on the path you’ve chosen because you’ve allowed all those distractions to steer you wrong.
So, today, I am going to share exactly how you can defeat this problem and bring focus back into your life and your work.
*The tips that I share here, will be illustrated with reference to blogging, but you can easily extrapolate them to any situation where you are facing the challenge of distraction.
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Visualize your goal
Most of us start off by being very vague when it comes to our goals and dreams.
For instance, we say things like ‘I want to be a successful blogger’, but don’t define it any further.
So, you need to determine what success means to you in this situation.
Do you want more traffic to your blog?
Would you like to earn more money from your website?
Are you keen on being recognized as a thought leader in your space?
Notice that ‘success’ can be defined in so many different ways.
Keep a very firm, simple, SMART goal in mind when you set out on your task.
Doing this is the first step to making sure you tackle focus from the get go.
Read this post on how to set actionable 90-day goals
Create a Schedule
Once you have your goal in place, you need to create a routine to actually help you achieve that goal.
I know how tough this may be for most people, especially when it comes to sticking with something beyond the course of a week, but hear me out.
Routines bring regularity and a rhythm into our lives.
You know that myth about creativity? That we should just write when inspiration strikes?
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Every creative artist will tell you that the truth behind their success lies not in just creating when they felt like it, but creating on a day to day basis.
In other words, show up and do the hard work if you want to see growth.
In fact, it was only when I created a structured 7-day calendar for my blog and social media goals that I began to see significant progress in terms of actual results.
Here’s how you can create your own weekly blogging calendar
Pick a focus for each day
I call this day blocking and the reason this works is because it helps you narrow your focus down to the most important task in your day.
Focusing on one core task each day is perfect to combat shiny object syndrome because you’re not being pulled in 10 different directions.
If you think that setting aside a day for just writing blog posts sounds odd, trust me, you won’t feel that way after a super productive day of writing high-quality content.
How does day blocking help?
When your mind is cluttered with too many ideas and too much stimulation from a variety of sources, day blocking helps you narrow your focus to just one key area that is relevant to your business or project.
Does day blocking sound too intimidating for you?
Try hour blocking instead.
If you can decide which hours of the day are the most conducive to your focus and attention, pick those hours and focus on one task at a time.
In this time tracking sheet I share how you can use a hour blocking routine to actually get more work done effectively!
Find Uninterrupted Work Time in your Day
I know what you’re thinking.
If you could do that, you’d be a productivity ace, right? And what if you have kids or pets or family that needs your attention?
How will you possibly find time to focus on what matters?
I hate to break this to you but you have to make your goal a priority.
If that means you wake up an hour earlier to get work done or stay up an hour late to make your work happen, then that’s what it takes.
Okay, that’s all cool. But how does this help me with shiny object syndrome?
Once you find that hour of time, start working for 5 minutes on your project.
Just 5 minutes.
Before you know it, 10 minutes would have passed. Then, 15 and 20 and 30.
And the good news? You’ve naturally found a focus rhythm that you never had earlier!
When you only have an hour of time dedicated to your focus activity, your brain goes into high gear and intuitively shuts out distraction.
Try it right now, if you have 15 minutes.
Close this blog post (really, I won’t mind!) and start writing something on your notepad or your laptop about something you’ve been meaning to do.
Tell me what happens after 15 minutes.
Open one tab at a time
So simple and yet so many of us fail spectalularly in this area.
Our minds have been conditioned to believe that the more we multi-task the more efficient we are.
Again, this is a huge myth and one that needs to be dispelled ASAP.
When I began to follow the ‘one tab’ rule while working, I observed how my productivity quadrupled!
Instead of constantly switching between tabs, you will notice that just having one tab open will significantly improve your focus and keep you laser-focused on your task.
By the way, if you must multi-task, there is only one way to do it effectively.
Keep your phone switched off
Ah, another tough call to make for most of us.
Our phones are like lifelines, am I right?
Phones are the number one reason for distraction and diversion when it comes to getting work done.
If it isn’t a Whatsapp message, it’s the latest news bulletin or an e-mail alert.
One thing after another keeps us glued to our devices.
The simplest way to break free of your phone is to switch it off (or at least turn off the Wi-fi access), put it in another room and get down to work.
Out of sight is truly out of mind when it comes to your phone.
Phones and the notifications remind you of everything that you are missing out and take you away from the job that you decided to work on.
Start by decluttering your phone and cleaning it up so that it doesn’t act as a shiny, tempting object.
This post has effective tips on cleaning up your phone for good!
Avoid checking social media
I confess that for the longest time, this habit was my greatest undoing.
While I managed to break free of my phone addiction a few years ago, the lure of social media was so tempting!
As a result, I would end up browsing through Facebook groups, scrolling through Instagram and refreshing my Twitter feed whenever I felt like taking a break.
The problem with this particular habit, called task switching, is that it takes your brain at least an hour to get back into effective work mode again.
Because your brain is unable to process multiple streams of similar information, it stops trying and you end up feeling dazed and befuddled.
You know those days when you look at the clock, it’s 9.30 PM and you think to yourself, ‘What a waste of a day! Why haven’t I got anything done today?’
That happens because of task switching.
When you manage to stop doing this, you’d be amazed at how you get more focused in your day to day tasks.
Choose the right platform to focus on
This is a problem that I see among many bloggers, especially those who hang out in Facebook groups and are looking for answers to their problems.
Let’s talk about a brand new blogger and let’s call her Lucy.
Lucy has just launched her blog and is keen to learn about growing her blog traffic.
She signs up for a few newsletters, joins a few Facebook groups and opens an Instagram account.
She sees that people are talking about Pinterest for traffic and starts checking out the platform. She pins here and there for a week or so, doesn’t see much traction and gives up and moves to Instagram.
She adds a photo every 2 days, doesn’t see much engagement and gets frustrated. She then hears about how SEO is the most important thing to work on and starts plugging away on her posts, reading everything on the subject from Google.
But nothing budges.
Within a month, she’s given up, thrown in the towel and quit blogging.
What was Lucy’s problem?
Shiny object syndrome.
She never stuck with anything long enough to see returns.
She relied on other people’s comments and views and decided to mimic that, not realizing that each person’s journey is very different from her own.
On the other hand, if she had stuck to Pinterest for the first 3 months, been diligent about it and worked on her content and pins, she’d have seen growth.
She could have then focused on SEO and followed it up with e-mail marketing to leverage her audience.
Finally she could have moved to affiliate marketing and product creation as a way to make money on her blog.
Don’t be Lucy. Stick to the path you’ve chosen and make sure you do what it takes to get you to the very end of your journey.
Keep relevant content accessible
This is actually a tip I shared with my own daughter when she found focus a very hard thing to learn.
I observed that her desk was always cluttered with unnecessary items and told her that cleaning it up would help her focus better.
She didn’t believe me (well, teenagers!) but did it anyway.
Within days she came back to tell me that she found it far easier to get through an assignment or focus on the online class being conducted by her school.
Have a dedicated work space and clear it of all unneccessary clutter.
Keep all relevant items to your work accessible and handy.
Watch as your focus automatically improves.
Work on tasks that move the needle forward
How many of you end up spending a lot of your day working on unnecessary tasks that eat up all your time?
The key to beating shiny object syndrome is to not get sidetracked by tasks that do nothing for your business.
Useful Task: Doing keyword research for a new blog post relevant to your target audience or diving deep into a course that teaches you about SEO.
Non-Useful Task: Refreshing your e-mail inbox and replying to every e-mail in there 10 times a day.
Am I saying you should ignore e-mail? Not at all.
Set aside exactly two time slots in the day when you will check e-mail.
Remove the e-mail app from your phone so you can access it only on your laptop.
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Study books that teach you how to focus
In my personal opinion, the one true habit that completely boosted my focus and minimized shiny object syndrome was reading.
And this means the right kind of reading.
I found books by the experts on topics such as habit building, deep work, getting things done and productivity.
I made notes, implemented the strategies and observed how my work output began to exceed my own expectations.
I’ve listed just a few of my favourites below.
Go ahead and buy them today. I promise you won’t be disappointed and you’d be rather amazed by how much you learn about making things happen in your own life.