Shiny Object Syndrome


Episode description:

The podcast is back after being away for 8 whole weeks due to a winter of family grief. I share why I’ve been away and why the experience inspired today’s topic: shiny object syndrome.

Shiny object syndrome can plague many of us as service based business owner because it gives us the illusion we’re working on your business, when all we’re really doing is wasting time. Today on the show I explain what shiny object syndrome is, why it’s bad news if you’re not careful, and a handful of tips for diagnosing and keeping this sparkling, tempting distraction away in our businesses!

Resources & things I mention:

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(Please note this transcript may not be entirely 100% exact or accurate to the show’s audio.)

Hello! Hello!

I’m your host Meighan O’Toole and this is Get Down to Business, a podcast about the good, the bad, and everything in between when running a service-based business online and off.

This is our 3rd episode, and today I'll be discussing shiny object syndrome. One of my favorite past times and possibly yours. Shiny object syndrome is a behavior that plagues, distracts, and can waste a ton of time for online entrepreneurs.

So stick around if you suffer from SOS or have no idea what it is.

But first up I've got some housekeeping I want to go over.

We have a new Facebook Group! You can ask to join at

The group’s main goal is to bring service based business owners together to grow their business, create sustainable marketing and business strategies, and build relationships and community.

I offer live coaching, free training, and there's lots of great business owners in there. Hopefully in the coming weeks I'll be bringing in guest experts, so come join us!

Again you can join at - and I’ll leave the link in the show notes.

Next up, I was recently asked to be part of 2 community projects that are running in April that I want to give a shout out to because there's still time to join and I think they're super valuable and I myself have gotten so much out of the content and I think you will too.

The first is Eli Trier's Redefining Community and the second is Jo Casey's The Messy Meaningful Business. They’re both 30 day email projects that are delivered straight to your inbox. And wow is there a lot of gold in these emails! Make sure to sign up. It's totally free and there is a ton of insight, experience, and expertise happening about how to build community and run a business in a way that is authentic to you.

Lastly, my group program Crescent Incubator is now accepting applications! The Crescent Incubator is a 4 month business coaching program that brings together like minded business owners to work on and grow their business with strategy, support, and community. I'll be talking more about that in the coming weeks, but if you are interested check the show notes.

And just so you know the application process isn't about keeping people out, it's about ensuring you are at the right place in your business for this opportunity.


So hello! Dang, it's good to be back. I started the show at the beginning of January, and planned on doing a show every other week and then happened.

I had two episodes in, and then life kind of put the pedal to the metal emotionally for me.

I'm going to get a little personal here, which I definitely hope to do on the show but this is a bit more raw than I probably will.

I found out in January that my father didn't have much time left to live, he had been diagnosed with lung cancer a couple years back. And I had been estranged from him on and off most of my life.

I hadn't spoken to him or been in touch with him in on over 15 years.

So, I don't actually want to turn this entire show into what transpired, but the reader's digest version is I ended up talking to my dad every day for 3 weeks leading up to his passing, and I was there when he passed away.

During this time I also got back in touch with my four half siblings, I had been in contact with my two sisters but hadn't spent any time with them since I was a kid

So in the time span of 8 weeks I was back in touch with my father, spending time with my siblings, and flying to Florida twice to say goodbye to my Dad and attend his memorial and be with my family.

And this all took place over the end of January, all of February and leading into mid March. So yeah a lot going.

And as you know, if you've been listening over the past first 2 eps I had pivoted my business in Dec/January.

So! I haven't had a whole heckuva lot of time to work on the podcast, because you know, life happens. I needed to make other things my priority - the main thing being keeping my business afloat and getting clients in the door while I was handling a ton of grief.

So that's what's been going on with me...and actually this whole experience brings me to what I want to talk about today. Which is shiny object syndrome and distractions!

Because I had to take a lot of time away from my business at a crucial period for something very important in my personal life that obviously occupied a lot of my attention, I had to get razor focused on getting things done in my business.

So that meant there was no room for no distractions and I had to get super clear on what to focus on so I could stay the course and keep my head above water.

And if you know me, you'll often hear me say, I have shiny object syndrome so you don't have to. What I mean by this is that I love to learn about new toys, tactics, and strategies for online businesses.

I love that stuff, and I love letting people know about those things so they can run their business better.

So yeah, that's part of my job. And making the clarification and being clear for me between actual research and true shiny object syndrome in my own business has been interesting.

This year, I haven't had a lot of time to fool around. Not only was I preoccupied with what was going on with my father and having all these essentially new siblings, but I'm working to establish myself in a new niche and get in front of totally new clients.

That doesn't leave a lot of room for messing around with distractions.

And this has been eye opening to me on a lot of fronts.

The first being that when I look back at my business over the past almost 7 years, shiny object syndrome was RIFE!

Holy schnikes was it rife!

I mean to be fair, it's what I do in my business - I help people with growing their businesses, so I have to know what's what. But actually within my business in the first few years, I wasted a whole heck of a lot of time bouncing around to different apps and tactics and strategies all thinking I was growing and building my business.

I mean I can't tell you how many times I have bounced between different email providers from Mailchimp to Convertkit to Mailchimp to Convertkit.

Good god, what a waste of time.

One of the big reasons I want to talk about this on the show today is because for me I made a decision that once I pivoted in 2019 I would figure out what works for me in my strategy and STAY PUT. Really focusing on my own zone of genius and doing the best I can. I said this in the first episode, 2019 is all about drilling down on what is working and doing my absolute best at that.

I decided I would create a strategy and stick to it.

So as you can imagine, I'm pretty hyper focused with paying attention to the tasks at hand in my business, and this of course has led me to think about how shiny object syndrome can be such a problem for entrepreneurs in the online space.

Because I can't tell you how many times over the past 3 months I have had to stop and redirect my attention back to the strategy I have in place.

That means being clear about every move I make must support my overall strategy in 2019 which is establish myself in my new niche and get new clients in the door.

So let's back up and define shiny object syndrome for those that aren't familiar with it or may be experiencing it and having no idea what they're dealing with.

Shiny object syndrome is when you're continually focusing on the next best thing to help you in your business. You move on to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing, and the next. You're on a hamster wheel of always looking for an answer to fix something. When in reality the thing you're trying to fix isn't the real problem.

It's called that because what you're chasing is sparkly and new and filled with promise, until of course you find the next best thing. This can be and is a chronic issue for many entrepreneurs.

I know it has been for me in the past and this is exactly why I want to talk about it.

So you might wonder, how does shiny object syndrome affect entrepreneurs and businesses like ours? Well to put it bluntly shiny object syndrome, or SOS as some call it, is all about creating unnecessary distractions by keeping us focused on the wrong thing.

But the rub here is shiny object syndrome allows us to think we're working on our business and making strides, when all we're are doing is wasting time and working more and maybe possibly really thwarting any kind of growth we could have had already.

It's kind of like treading water.

You're working on doing something but it's not actually getting you anywhere.

OK, so what does shiny object syndrome look like. It depends. Shiny object syndrome happens in numerous ways and it can look different to different businesses.

Those of us that have been plagued with SOS start projects and stop them. We're all over the place. We're focused on the wrong things. We keep trying new things hoping they'll bring better results.

For example,

We think moving to a new social media platform will change things, it'll bring in more people, more exposure.

Or a switching up a new email service provider. Or adding one more plugin or doohickey to our websites. Or moving to an entirely new project management tool.

FYI I have done every single one of things countless times.

This kind of behavior is almost always about vanity and unreasonable expectations. And it's about overwhelm. You're working on things you can control right then and there. It is the epitome of busy work.

At least, that's how it's been for me. And when I work with people that are exhibiting this behavior, it's also the same. We're not seeing the results we expected or THINK we should have so now we're going to uproot whatever we've been doing and do something else because that gives us back the power and makes us feel good. It makes us feel like we're in control.

Totally normal.

And this is where the problem is, when we do this stuff chronically. We aren't spending enough time focusing on what is working so we aren't able to see the results that the changes have made.

Sometimes shiny object syndrome is just a bandaid on a deeper issue.

Or sometimes shiny object syndrome is actual procrastination to keep you from doing the real work on your business.

Shiny object syndrome offers us the illusion of promise and the quick hit of serotonin that we're making strides within our businesses, when really all we're doing is wasting time.

If you haven't ever read The E-Myth Revisited, I highly recommend it. The full title is The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It and again I'll leave a link in the show notes.

But one of the most important things the book talks about is working ON your business and not IN it.

When you are wasting your time moving from one social media platform to another or one website platform or email service provider or you're starting a new youtube channel you are working IN your business. And that can be a total waste of time if you aren't careful.

You are working on tactics instead of actual strategy.

Tactics are the methods and resources you use to build your strategy, the small steps you take to achieve your overall strategy.

Strategy is your plan to reach specific objectives and how you're going to meet those objectives.

Both rely on each other.

As I was researching this pod I found this quote by Sun Tzu (suon zuh) - a Chinese philosopher and military strategist who you might familiar with, he wrote the Art of War. A lot of marketing bros recommend it.

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."

That last bit? That's what I am talking about! Shiny object syndrome is creating noise in your business.

But here's the thing shiny object syndrome can and is hard to define in a world where things literally changing day to day.

It's normal to check out new tools or tactics or platforms. As a small business owner you have to be nimble. If you're not you can get stagnant, you don't grow. You can miss out on opportunities if you're not moving quickly.

Yet if you're always making changes and moving things around this can impede your growth because you're never stopping long enough to see what works.

And if you don't know what works you can't do more of it.

Look I get it, shiny object syndrome is real. And that's exactly why I'm talking about it today.

So let's talk about how to diagnose it and ways to ensure you're not chronically engaging in this behavior.

Because let's face it, distractions are a much needed experience in business, we can't be all on 100% of the time. And normal procrastination and distractions can lead to some great discoveries and at times they're a needed break.

So I want to be clear that I am not saying all distractions are bad. No. That's not the case. But we do want to be clear about what's what and how to identify when we are in a shiny object syndrome spiral.

Let's talk about how to guard ourselves with deliberate decision making so we don't get stuck.

One of the first things you can do that will help you keep shiny object syndrome at bay is be clear about your goals in your business, both short term and long term.

Track your goals daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly. Any changes in your business need to some how move you closer to these goals. Look at every decision through the lens of your long and short term goals.

OK, but changes happen sometimes at the drop of a hat in a small business right? So when you're going to make a change in your business, ask yourself why this change is happening, how it will support your goals, and give yourself and your team good reasons as to why it will help help move the needle in your business.

Next up. All those ideas you have? Right, I don't know about you but I am a chronic idea factory and I have to keep myself from implementing new ideas on the daily.

Create a google doc, get a notebook, or a place where you can stick post it notes. All of those ideas? They go in a container, so you can think about them instead of acting on them. Then when you plan out your next quarter, revisit those ideas - can any of them help you meet your goals? Can you fit them in your plan? Are you able to execute them in a way that works? This is when you evaluate and plan and keep yourself from unnecessary distractions.

Just as an aside three books that I want to recommend to explore if you haven't.

Getting Things Done by David Allen, The One Thing by by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan, or The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran. Also I am very cognizant that all of those books are by white men, I am always on the look our for productivity books by women or people of color, so if you have any please send them my way. All of these books are excellent at helping one get clear on what needs to be done right now and in the moment, and what needs to go on a list for later.

That brings me to the next thing — never ever make big decisions about your business in the day to day. Find focused, dedicated time to review and make clear undistracted decisions about your business. I have a client and a friend who plans out all her professional development for the year, so she's never getting distracted by new education, it's all locked in on what she'll be spending. And this should go for any big decisions you make, schedule time for yourself or your team to make big decisions. They should rarely if ever happen on the fly.

Next up, pay attention to how often you're chasing new tools and ideas. If you find yourself starting and stopping new projects or introducing new ideas or offerings to your audience all of the time, be careful. This can make you come off as flaky, unfocused, and not clear on what it is you do. Clarity in business is something we're all working towards, you don't want to be lumped in as a flake.

Planning and developing in your business is so important. But so is having creative time where you can goof around and explore new ideas. Schedule this time into your daily and weekly schedule so you have time to be fluid and open to new ideas that will help you. As I have already mentioned I don't want this pod to be all about type A uptight and unrelenting structure. No, you should absolutely create time in your business to dream, research, and explore fun new ideas.


Shiny object syndrome doesn't have to be big lofty things either, they can be simply getting caught up in extensive spreadsheets or hanging out in Canva too long on graphics. This can feel like real work. But the reality is if you're constantly focusing on everything but doing actual work to get yourself paid and get more clients - take a step back and get honest with yourself about what you are trying to avoid and where you are spending time.

Shiny object syndrome is not only real but it can damage your business if you're not careful. So just stay on the up and up, use these tips to keep yourself focused. And remember like I said...some distraction is absolutely necessary.

I'd love to hear from you. Hang out with me in the new FB Group or tag me on social and tell me how you've stopped SOS in your business. I'd love to hear how you minimize it but still allow yourself to be creative.

OK, so that’s all for today’s show. Remember if you want to join our new FB group check out the show notes or go to bitly/gdbgroup. And if there’s anything you’d like me to cover in upcoming shows or have a question you’d like to ask me you can reach me at

If you are listening to the show and want to tag me my handle everywhere is @meighanotoole except twitter where it's just @meigs

If you're interested in working with me or collaborating with me, get in touch on the website at

And as always if you liked the show please rate, review and share it. It helps the show and makes me enormously happy.

Until our next show! Be well and I’m forever cheering you on!

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash