“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”
-Stephen R. Covey

Many of us know SOS as Morse Code and the universal signal for distress and HELP! But today, I am referring to the distress we may cause to our businesses and lives – Shiny Object Syndrome.

Shiny Object Syndrome is also known as “initiative overload,” “scope creep,” or the “good idea fairy.” Maybe you are guilty of doing it to yourself and taking on more than you can execute. Maybe you are guilty of doing the same to your team.

Maybe you have a client that keeps changing what success on a deliverable and project looks like. No matter how Shiny Object Syndrome enters your life, it will cause distress and affect you, your team, and your relationships.

So, how do we combat the Shiny Object Syndrome with our clients, bosses and selves? Through planning, commitment and accountability – that’s how!

Planning. Have you ever set a goal without a plan to achieve it? That is Shiny Object Syndrome.

It’s the dopamine hit of establishing an ambitious goal that makes shiny objects so shiny. They sound good, and they feel good. We can see them accomplished, and we give ourselves a little dopamine reward for thinking it could be a reality.

However, without a plan, shiny objects are just unaccomplished ideas, a graveyard of good intentions. At MCFA, we are in the planning business, and we set quarterly goals that are little projects. Each of those projects has a plan with milestones and “to be accomplished by” dates. 

These milestones allow us to maintain accountability to ourselves, our team and our plan! The most important part of the plan is resourcing because time is usually the biggest hurdle to accomplishing the goal. Planning forces us to sort through the shiny objects and find how much it will cost in time, money or support.

Planning is a reality check. It’s the HOW?

Accountability. If the NFL didn’t have a scoreboard, we wouldn’t know who was winning. We need a scoreboard in the game of business, fitness, personal finance, project development, etc. It lets us know whether we are winning or losing or are on track or off-track (that was for our transportation partners!).

Whether it’s at home with your kids or at work with your project team, having a way of giving feedback leads to a higher level of accountability. Just the act of telling someone you want to accomplish something and allowing them to ask about it is a form of accountability. By the way, did you go to the gym today? 

Commitment. The biggest problem with Shiny Object Syndrome is that ideas are easy. And they are easy because an idea or dream doesn’t require commitment. Good ideas are a dime a dozen.

Operationalizing and implementing those ideas is where the rubber meets the road. And if you put a plan together, you resource the plan to ensure it’s feasible. In turn, you create an accountability process and commit to yourself and your team (friend or family). If you commit to doing something, your likelihood of success goes up. 

A note to my visionary and entrepreneurial friends:

Ideas, brainstorming, challenging and painting a compelling future are in our D-N-A. We should do this regularly, but we shouldn’t share it with our team regularly. Our teams need to be focused on executing the plans.

I’ve learned the hard way that initiative overload on myself or my team only leads to frustration, disappointment and a lack of success. That’s why we have turned towards quarterly goal setting and quarterly priority setting. It’s our way of shrinking annual initiatives into quarterly progress check-ins.

It also forces us to iterate and improve our communication, resourcing and goal-setting. The results speak for themselves. We are constantly improving the process, and even have a process for capturing and vetting the shiny objects. s creative and as visionary as we may be, not every idea should see the light of day. 

Last note: I grew up with the SMART goal acronym but recently read this article from MIT on the FAST Goal process. It’s a worthy read.

So, we are one week into the Quarter. What will you accomplish BEFORE the New Year without falling prey to SOS!?

BJ Kraemer, President