How to defeat Shiny Object Syndome - Phil Drinkwater Coach

Find out how your ADHD executive function challenges impact you

How to defeat Shiny Object Syndome

In our world today, we need to work to get food and water, as well as any more expensive purchases we want like cars and houses. It can be hard then if you don't seem to be able to get really stuck into a business, but keep being distracted.
What we'll cover
We’re human, no matter how much we’d like to treat ourselves as robots. That means our minds are both amazing and ineffective at the same time. We’re capable of incredible mental feats … if we could just stick at something!

The reality is, on the other side of getting started and keeping going is everything you really want in life, and if you can get to that point, you’ll find much more success.

So let’s discuss some simple solutions.

What is shiny object syndrome?

Let’s start by defining what it is. Shiny object syndrome is a type a procrastination, where you focus consistently on new and exciting challenges, rather than continuing on the journey you’d decided to take.

When you see something shiny and new, it becomes challenging to continue on with your original path, because you convince yourself that the new idea is the one which will be successful.

What’s wrong with it?

Why is there so much focus on it? Well, if you’ve genuinely come up with a better path forward that’s amazing! But with this form of distraction, you may switch from idea to idea without any clear plan.

This new idea is better just because it’s new, rather because it’s better. And that’s a dangerous reason to switch paths.

This cycle can continue indefinitely and you never finish anything. Ever. And it’s not a good process for growing a business, or achieving anything in life really.

Who gets shiny object syndrome?

Anyone can have this trait, but within business, you’re most likely to find it within these groups of people.


Within the business world, entrepreneurs are the most obvious to have this trait. The entrepreneur brain seeks out excitement and loves to create. New is interesting. New is unique. New is different. And within those is a huge amount of stimulation that you wouldn’t get elsewhere.

It’s one of the reasons that people become entrepreneurs in the first place. Like a gambler loves the feeling of uncertainty, entrepreneurs particularly love the stimulation for new things.


Executives in a corporate environment might appear on the outside to be a relatively stoic group, but the creative problem solving abilities that they need to use every day draws them to certain leadership roles that suit their skillset.

Furthermore, executives tend to need to do less of the actual “doing” work, and find themselves starting and iteratively improving projects, which can lead them to be the types of individuals whose attention tends to flit around.


Of course, creative people, such as web designers, advertisers and branding professionals, can find their need to move onto the next shiny project continually satisfied by their roles. They will often be project based, meaning there’s a constantly supply of exciting new things to work on.

Problem solvers / thinkers

Strategists and thinkers will enjoy the freedom to dream of the next big thing that could be coming up. This might include looking to the future and developing trends, predicting new trends or evaluating routes forwards for businesses and governments. This group would include programmers and developers too.

Their brains will always have something new to evaluate since the future is unpredictable and will change every day in response to new situations that happen.


People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – which is myself – are particularly susceptible to this condition. While we’re amazingly creative thinkers, we do struggle with a lack of stimulation which causes us to look for the next shiny and exciting thing in our lives. This is typically anything new.

However, we can also hyper-focus on some tasks – the ones which excite us. So, if you find yourself interrupting people a lot, struggle with chores like washing and find it difficult to keep your attention on tasks, you might have ADHD too.

Traits and solutions

Understanding the traits that are so appealing in new and shiny ideas can provide us with some solutions. So let’s look at their core traits.

  • Better starters than finishers
  • Dislike “boring & repetitive” tasks
  • Love challenge that allows them to dream of solutions

Let’s look at these in more detail.

Better starters than finishers

Key among the traits is that people are much better at starting something than finishing it. Actually doing the work themselves can be very different, which makes them perfect creatives to sit in dozens of meeting and come up with original ideas.


  • Keep every day seeming like it’s a start by choosing a business that will provide you a with constant set of new projects.
  • Choose to do the work which feels like “starting” and outsource the “doing”.
  • Make sure there’s some challenge or learning in each task, for example looking for ways to iterate and improve every time you do a task

Dislike of boring & repetitive tasks

Some people can sit and plough through huge amounts of data looking for something, or stand on a production line and slot the same chip into the same place.

Not these people! That’s the absolute worst for them. They can’t cope with boring tasks that don’t offer any challenge and creativity.


  • Outsource tasks that aren’t enjoyable.
  • Break boring tasks into tiny pieces and spread them through the day or week.
  • Stop hating on the tasks you dislike ie. telling yourself “Oh no, I have to do this again”. This just leads to another level of dislike.
  • Do Body Doubling sessions on sites like FocusMate, or find a coworking location where you can get some stimulation when doing boring tasks.

Loving solving problems that allows for dreaming

Following on from the points above, these people adore a challenge where they can dream of creative and exciting and unique solutions.For them, this creativity gives them the stimulation that they crave.

However, they confuse this stimulation for creation with genuinely believing that the idea they’ve come up with is amazing.

This can cause difficulties if other people try to bring them down from their excitement by bringing them back to the reality of their situation, such as financially what is possible or asking for a demonstration that this new idea really is an improvement.


  • Allow some creativity and dreaming each day, even if it’s not going to lead to anything useful to the business. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be related to your business. However, once you’ve dreamed it, write it down and keep this list somewhere out of sight.
  • Take on some tasks from other people which require you to dream. This can be paid or unpaid “work” and is there just so you don’t wander because you don’t have enough of this in your life.
  • Choose a business that requires a significant amount of problem solving.

Being more clear reduces the desire to switch

Why you’re doing this

While you may always have a propensity toward shiny new things, it can help to pull yourself back if you can visualise your future with your current path being successful.

I’ve personally wondered at times if this trait to move between tasks might be partly due to a lack of certainty that the current path will succeed, although I think some brains are also just more likely to desire this too.

So, start the day by doing a little visualisation to see the future of your current path.

Reverse engineer your way there

Once you know where you want to be, transport yourself there mentally and look back at now. Then ask yourself some questions, like..

How did you get here?
What caused you to be successful?
How did you get started?
What did you find difficult and how did you overcome these challenges? Did you overcome them yourself, or did you have help?
Who did you hire to help you and what were their qualities and skills? When did you hire them?

This can help to solidify the journey in your mind and give you something tangible to focus on.

Finally, be accountable to someone else

Finally, being accountable to someone else – whether that a business coach, a task coordinator or anyone else – can help you to resist the movement toward other shiny tasks. They can help to keep your mind from drifting by making your current tasks more interesting and unique, if you recognise this trait within yourself.

If you’d like to learn more about this condition, and learn how to keep it at bay, you’re welcome to book a discovery session below.

For 1-2-1 coaching, book your free Success Strategy call
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