S.O.S. Help Me Guide

If you're an entrepreneur, you probably have this disease.

Hopeless Romantic

I tend to romanticize ideas. They go from zero to sixty real quick. My mind drifts off and a picture starts forming in my head.

I'm sitting in a jungle treehouse (that has wifi of course), laptop open, working on my latest idea. The clock strikes noon. I wander down the jungle path, and grab a bite to eat at the taco stand by the beach. The waves are like glass, so I decide to go surfing for the rest of the day.

Before I know it, I'm researching waterfront houses for sale and plane ticket prices to exotic locals with wifi.

I haven't done an ounce of work on this idea yet but it's already making me millions.

So I get to work. Then something happens.

A new, "better" idea flashes itself like a shiny coin in the sand.

I toss my current idea aside to pursue this one. Surely, this idea will make me millions!

It's an endless pursuit. I never get to separate the gold from the trash because I'm constantly moving from one shiny object to another.

Suffering from S.O.S.

2020 was a year of growth and discovery for me.

I pumped my brain full of new ideas and knowledge, but the most important thing I learned was about myself. I finally discovered what's been ailing my ADHD brain all these years.

I have a lot of "great ideas". The problem is I never actually do them. When I do attempt to start them, I get overwhelmed and nothing gets done.

I make myself busy doing things that will never matter, like picking out the perfect essential oil to aid in my productivity. At the end of the day all I accomplished was a nice smelling room.

Why was I like this? I had so many ideas, but they never amounted to anything. I just couldn't get organized enough to make them happen. I've been this way as long as I can remember. I was at a loss.

I Googled ways to be more productive and how to follow through on my ideas. That's when I found it - the disease I had been suffering from my entire life.

What is S.O.S.?

You won't find it on WebMD, but a quick Google search will pull up some articles. You may have it too without even realizing it. It's a classic disease associated with creative types, namely entrepreneurs. It's called S.O.S. or Shiny Object Syndrome.

An article from Entrepreneur calls it a "disease of distraction".

My brain is constantly filled with shiny new ideas, but I never actually see them through. I spend weeks, sometimes months researching these ideas. I read articles, scour forums and listen to podcasts, all to feed this new idea.

In my mind, I'm the greatest entrepreneur of all time. I've built 100 apps and they're all making me millions.

In the real world, I'm just a weird handle name that occasionally comments on other people's Entrepreneur Reddit posts.

The more time I spend researching, the duller my idea becomes and another, shinier, idea catches my eye. I move on. This is Shiny Object Syndrome.

It's maddening, yet every day there I am again doing it all over again. It's almost become an addiction. Sound familiar? I figured. Keep reading.

Talk is Cheap

All talk, no action. I don't want to be that person.

I want to be a person that does something! Less talk, more action. Even if my ideas fail, at least they will have done something.

My ideas have become less and less meaningful, not because they aren't good, but because I never follow through.

I wanted that to change. The next time I speak about an idea, I want people to get excited because they know I'll make it happen. I want them to be inspired to follow through with ideas of their own!

But how?

Just Do Something

I've made a promise to myself for 2021. Just. Do. Something.

Okay, so how do I know this isn't just another great idea of mine? Well, I guess I don't.

I need a plan. Otherwise, this year will turn into another year of research and planning for the next year. No more waiting. Quick, imperfect action is what I need.

If this resonates with you, I challenge you to do the same. Commit to this journey with me!

Once again, I put my researching skills to good cause. Here are 5 Steps To cure Shiny Object Syndrome.

5 Steps To Cure S.O.S.

1. 📝 Write It Down

If you're reading this, you most likely check one or all of these boxes:

✅  Have at least half a dozen domains registered with no website

✅  Take multiple breaks during your work hours to check entrepreneur threads on Reddit

✅  Follow other "Indie Hackers" and admire their tenacity

✅  You haven't actually launched any ideas yourself

All those ideas you have are either stuck in a notepad, spreadsheet, or worse - in your brain.

The first step is getting them out of your brain and onto a medium of your choice. My preference is adding them to an Idea Page I created in Notion. Once I've added them, I can then easily move them around and organize them.

2. 🏗️ BTL - Build To Learn

Remember those "patent your ideas" commercials on tv? The caveman with a pick and hammer making a round wheel out of stone?

I thought, "I have a million great ideas! I'm gonna be rich!" Yup, even at a young age, I suffered from S.O.S.

I still do it. All. The. Time.

It usually plays out like this:

  • I have an idea!
  • Let me research this idea.
  • Eh, not a good idea.
  • That's okay. I have another great idea!
  • Research the idea.
  • This still seems like a good idea.
  • Start working on my idea.
  • Ugh, this is hard.
  • Wait, I have a better idea!
  • Stop working on my previous idea.
  • Research new idea.

After working on an idea for a little while, I stop. It loses its luster and I move on to the next even better idea that's really going to make me rich! It's an endless cycle.

To cure this endless idea loop, I had to change my perspective on ideas.

Instead of viewing them as a way to profit, I viewed them as a way to learn. Once I shifted my perspective, it became easier for my brain to focus on completing the task.

The goal is to learn, not to profit. Profit is just a happy accident.

Once you adopt this mindset, your ideas lose the shiny paint and chrome wheels. Now they're just a functional vehicle that gets you from A to B.

3. ⚛️ Atomic Breakdown

Okay so how do you know where to start? To determine this, let's start off with a simple chemistry lesson.

Everything in the universe is made of matter. Matter is made up of compounds. Compounds are made up of molecules. Molecules are made up of atoms.

We can breakdown our ideas and projects in the same way.

Your idea is the matter. In order to know how to build the matter, you need the building blocks - compounds, molecules and atoms.

For example:

  • Matter: Bob's idea is to start a marketing agency.
  • Compound: In order to build a marketing agency he'll need a website.
  • Molecules: To build a website, he'll need a domain, web hosting, an email, content and maybe a web designer.
  • Atoms: Let's narrow in on the "content" molecule. To build content, he'll need blog posts, an about section, a case study, testimonials, etc. These are the atoms that make up the content molecule of his website.

Start at the atoms and build up to the matter. It's hard to know where to start unless you know where you want to finish.

4. ⏰ Timeboxing

You've written down your ideas and broken them down into atomic tasks. You're overwhelmed. There's so much to do and only so many hours in a day. Now what?

I like to use a technique called timeboxing. Timeboxing is basically another word for time management. It's pre-determining how much time you'll allocate to one idea or project.

It helps give each project a chance to grow. It also helps organize your projects and ideas.

Designate each day of the week to one project only. This allows you to focus on one project per day instead of toggling between five projects in a day. You can also designate an entire week to one project. Experiment and see what works best for you.

Multitasking doesn't make you a hero. It makes you dumb and unproductive. That's a fact (really, go read the study). Focus on one thing at a time.

Pomodoro Technique

We can take timeboxing even further with the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique is a way to manage your time and focus by breaking tasks down to 25 minute intervals. It goes like this:

  1. Work for 25 minutes - a pomodoro.
  2. Take a short 3-5 minute break.
  3. Work like this until you have worked 4 pomodoros.
  4. Take a longer 15-30 minute break.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 until you've reached the end of your workday.

We all have interruptions during our day, whether it's self-induced or not. This technique is supposed to help control distractions by focusing your tasks into smaller time increments.

5.🗓 Welcome Failure

Okay, you've got your ideas written down, broken down and organized. You're ready to go! A year later, you're still working on the same idea. Now what's the problem?

Fear.

You're afraid it's not good enough yet. You're afraid it won't work. You're afraid someone will steal your idea. The fears are endless and crippling.

Fear is the end boss. To beat your fear, you have to face it head on. You're afraid of failing but if you fail, what will happen?

You will learn.

Remind yourself that learning is the reason you started in the first place. Remember, you are building to learn, not to profit. If you never try, you will never learn.

The Perfectionism Trap

Perfectionism is stressful. Every move you make can have devastating ramifications. The moves you do make are never enough. Of course, nothing is ever perfect. You know that.

The trouble starts when you feel that it can be better and better and better. It's a slippery slope. Once you get on that rollercoaster, the only way off is jumping.

Deadlines

I work better under pressure. When I have deadlines, I'm forced to finish. When there's no deadline my project usually turns into a continuously morphing creature that'll never be finished.

Give yourself a deadline for each project. The shorter the deadline, the less time you have to make it perfect. No matter what, stick to your deadlines.

Let's Recap

Being creative doesn't mean you can't be productive! You may feel stuck and unfocused. Something is in your way but you can't figure it out. Don't let Shiny Object Syndrome rob you of your goals. Here are five steps you can take to overcome this disease of distraction:

  1. Write your ideas and goals down
  2. Approach your ideas with the goal to learn, not profit
  3. Break down your ideas and start from the bottom up
  4. Organize your tasks in time blocks
  5. Let go of fear and perfectionism. Failure = Learning.

So the next time you get distracted by that new shiny idea, remind yourself that you have to sift through some trash to get to the gold.