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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

Do You Suffer From SOS (or Shiny Object Syndrome)?

Written By: Catherine Morgan | 15 Comments

Always switching between business tasks? Finding it hard to stay focused? Getting distracted by new technology? Endlessly searching online? Losing hours of time on social media? You may be suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome or SOS. Having occasionally suffered from this syndrome myself, I can assure you that it can lead to: 1. Frustration, because you are not getting your critical tasks done, 2. Overwhelm, as the tasks on your to-do list increase, and 3. Shutdown, because you feel defeated since you could never get all of that done anyway.

You know that as an entrepreneur, it is important to stay focused on the activities that will bring in the money. It also is important to include activities that will help you build for the future. But then, how tempting is it to try out that new technology tool or the latest social media platform? Your train of thought just derailed. #fail

I would like to point out some things to watch out for. When you find yourself thinking, “That looks really cool!” or “You know, I could maybe just take a quick look at…” you will know to pull yourself back from the edge. You are at a greater risk for SOS when:

• You are new in your business and throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks
• You are unclear on the priorities for your business
• You are unclear on the strategy for your business
• You have activities on your to-do list that you really don’t want to do
• You are not getting away from your business and recharging

I am not saying that you shouldn’t brainstorm or think creatively. And I am definitely not suggesting that you stop taking “study breaks.” Far from it! Many great ideas will come to you when you are unfocused – in the shower, exercising, or doing something that has absolutely nothing to do with your business.

What I am talking about is spending too much time on things that may not be important for your business right now – or maybe ever. What I am talking about is SOS as an avoidance behavior.

Here are some things you might try to pull yourself back:

• Review your to-do list and pick an easy thing that you can complete and check off.
• Ask yourself if this is a need-to-have or nice-to-have software package, social media profile, WordPress plug-in, etc. If it’s only nice and not needed, block out time in your calendar to play with it at a later date.
• Consider taking a timed break for a walk or cup of coffee or tea.
• Make that dreaded phone call or other task and get it off your plate!
• View all of your activities through the lens of your business or marketing plan. If it isn’t in the plan, it has to wait.

Deep down, you know when you have SOS. Now you know what some of the triggers can be. And now, you can stop before you waste the whole afternoon (or morning)!

What are the tasks or activities that lead you astray from what you need to be doing? Did I miss some key warning signs? How do you pull yourself back? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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Article written by Catherine Morgan

Catherine Morgan is a Transition and Entrepreneur Coach, and the founder of Point A to Point B Transitions Inc. The company is a virtual provider of coaching services and info products to individuals who are in career transition or are looking to establish and grow their own successful services businesses. Follow her on Twitter: @PointA_PointB
  • Dear Catherine,
    I think this is important “warning” for all. I would like to have your permission to forward this to the entire artist community of the Wilmette Arts Guild. Best regards,Julie Ressler, Pres. Wilmette Arts Guild

  • I’m a perpetual learner. So I find it hard to unsubscribe from email newsletters from people whose work and ideas I respect. The problem is that when I do my (supposedly) timed 8-12-4 email inbox scan … there they are, luring me with tantalizing article titles. If I put them in a “To Be Read Later” folder, the folder gets massive and unmanageable. So I say, “I’ll just read this one article,” and suddenly my schedule is shot. Any ideas?

  • As one who is no stranger to “SOS,” I will be tacking this up on my wall and referring to it often!

    Thank you for the simple – though not easy – reminders on how to stay the course when building one’s business.

  • @Julie – We would be honored! Please feel free to forward the link to this post to anyone who might benefit. And thank you so much! So glad it struck a chord.

  • @Sharon – That is a good question. I find myself “down the rabbit hole” some days too. It seems like everyone posts great stuff on the same days! Have you ever noticed that? Some days I can be disciplined in my reading and some days I just give in. It’s like eating ice cream – OK to indulge occasionally. So I feed my learning habit more on some days than others. Not the best answer but the best I can do. If you come up with something better, please let me know!

  • @Marla – Thank you so much for your comment. Not easy is right! I know that all of us struggle with this one. It isn’t really a question of “Do you?” but more of “How often do you?”

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  • The syndrome! Yea, it’s difficult for the untrained brain. It seems that being conscious of the “sos” and clearly defining tasks is a pretty critical differentiator between getting stuff done, and not getting anything done.

  • @Ryan – Oh you are so right. But even the trained brain can fall into the trap. Thanks for your comment, Ryan.

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  • Anna Sanko

    This is a reality for those of us in the corporate world as well! Thanks for the pep talk!

  • @ Anna – Thank you for that reminder. I think it might be true for people – no matter what they do to earn a living.

  • Great article – love the title! I always appreciate tips to keep me on track or improve my biz strategy, so thanks for this.

  • @Wendy – Thank you so much! Glad you got some value from it.

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