How To Stop Chasing Shiny Objects

business strategy personal development productivity time management Aug 07, 2019

Have you ever sat down to read a great novel only to have your mind start wandering? You might find yourself rereading the same paragraph over and over without absorbing any of the material, or perhaps you keep getting up to complete other things on your to-do list as they come to your mind. In either case, you aren’t able to focus on the one thing that should have your undivided attention, which can be quite frustrating.

However, as Tim Braheem explains in his most recent video, mortgage loan officers often struggle with this same challenging scenario during a typical workday. He says that the constant influx of distractions can lead to a phenomenon known as SOS: shiny object syndrome.

Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS)

SOS occurs when you “chase shiny objects,” or stray away from one task in order to do something else. It can be a form of intentional procrastination, like when you choose to catch up on your favorite TV show instead of doing chores around the house, but SOS can sometimes occur unintentionally. For example, you might tell yourself that you’ll finish some paperwork by a certain time, but then barely get anything accomplished after an hour of sitting at your desk.

Leslie Boyer, the founder of Shift Coaching and Consulting, explains that people often fall victim to SOS when they’re searching for immediate gratification or satisfaction. For instance, a loan officer may put off the task of calling real estate agents because it can be discouraging to keep reaching agents’ voicemails and being told “no” repeatedly. So, instead of going through this potentially unpleasant experience, they might choose to check up on their team or do something else that gives them that sense of instant gratification. But since the essential task of contacting agents can’t be put off forever, learning some simple time management strategies can work wonders.

Tips for Overcoming SOS

Tim Braheem says that building self-awareness is the most important aspect of overcoming SOS. You have to be aware of when you avoid specific tasks, and you must consider the reasons why you’re choosing to do something else instead. Tim mentions that you don’t necessarily have to change your habits right away when you notice yourself “chasing shiny objects” at first. Simply becoming aware of your patterns will give you new insights about yourself and how you should arrange your schedule.

After you begin to recognize your personal tendencies, you can utilize some of the tips from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Allen is well-known for developing the “Getting Things Done” strategy, or GTD, which is comprised of 5 simple steps:

  1. Capture. Gather everything that is currently holding your attention and record all of these items into a planner, journal, app, or whatever method that works best for you.  Capturing all these thoughts and putting them down consistently will help you prioritize tasks and focus on one project at a time.
  2. Clarify. Once all of your thoughts are captured, go through each item and determine if they’re actionable or specific enough. For instance, simply writing “plan trip” is too vague. It can be clarified by breaking it up into smaller steps, like determining your budget, booking a hotel, etc.
  3. Organize. Sort out all of your items based on category and level of importance. Try to determine due dates whenever it’s possible and set up reminders for yourself throughout your schedule.
  4. Reflect. Remember that your organized list isn’t set in stone. You should frequently review your items to see if you need to make any adjustments based on your schedule and priorities. If you’re not sure where to start, the GTD Weekly Review checklist can be a helpful resource during the reflection process.
  5. Engage. At this point, you should have a reasonable system that clearly lays out actionable steps that you need to do to complete each project. The final step is to choose a task and get to work!

This system might sound time-consuming to some people, especially those who already have a lot on their plate. However, once you start adapting to the routine of the GTD strategy, you’ll find yourself becoming much more efficient. All of your thoughts, concerns, and to-do lists will be strategically laid out into manageable steps, so you’ll be able to face each day feeling prepared and focused.

For more time management tips and advice, click here to check out our other personal development blogs!

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