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How to Stay Focused and Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome?

Yes! I Love to Learn

Want to learn step-by-step how I built my Niche Site Empire up to a full-time income?

I have some bad news.  I don't have a magic formula to always keep you focused.

However, what I can share is my own struggles and small triumphs that have allowed me to stay focused long enough to build a very successful business.

I recently completed a survey where over 300 of you responded with your biggest obstacles to starting a profitable blog or website.  One of the top reasons that people struggle is to a lack of focus, or shiny object syndrome.

Unfortunately, I'm not perfect either.

Even with a successful business, it's very difficult for me to focus on just one business venture at a time.  However, I have been able to focus ENOUGH on my projects that they've taken off.

So, today I'm going to share some of my own ups and down with pursuing “shiny” objects…and hopefully some of the small lessons learned can help you as well.

The Problem

You know the problem.  You get REALLY excited about a new business venture or project.  You get started with all your enthusiasm…and then something happens.

Maybe you get frustrated with technical challenges.

Maybe you read a blog post about ANOTHER great idea.

Whatever it is, you suddenly stop the “old” idea and move onto the new SHINY idea!  This will be the one!

Unfortunately, it rarely is and you find yourself starting a new project every couple of months with rubble of half completed projects cluttering the path behind you.

I've been there too.

When I first got started online, I began with a financial blog.  I had expectations that it would become huge and I would become the next great Dave Ramsey.

However, after some point of not seeing any results and reading forums or other blogs, I decided that if I created an ebook, that would be the next best thing!

I completed the ebook (which I've never mentioned here before), and it flopped.  Rather than trying some real marketing, I got slapped with another shiny object…lead generation!

I built a lead gen site in the financial space and got bored with it.  Finally I discovered small niche sites back in 2008 or so…and this was a good fit for me!

I saw some early success with my first couple of niche sites, and then I finally learned to focus on this one strategy and it allowed me to quit my day job just a couple of years later.

In a sense building niche sites was a way for me to still go after lots of shiny objects (building a new niche site on random topics), but I was still focused on just one-strategy (ranking in Google quickly for long tail keywords).

While building these niche sites, I was of course tempted along the way to dive into other projects, but I focused for the most part and it paid off for me in a big way.  I went from making almost nothing in 2009 online, to making over $16,000 a month shortly after quitting my job in 2011.

My problem recently

I've made some good decisions in my business that played off my strengths of building niche sites.  That includes starting this blog and sticking with it for over 4 years now and creating Long Tail Pro; which has become a very successful software business in it's own right.

So, I'm not a perfect example of avoiding additional projects…by a long shot.  I enjoy building new sites, I have a software company, and I run this blog.  However, in a strange way these are all related and I can handle most of it because I have my employees Perrin and Jake helping me out.

However, I've allowed myself to drift a bit too far after some shiny objects, even recently.  Let me explain.

I mentioned briefly in a blog post a few months ago, that I was going to rent an office in a coworking space locally.  In conjunction, I mentioned that I was becoming a partner in a software development company.

The company itself launched in September and we picked up several software development contracts.  However, I found that the original idea of the business continued to morph into something bigger and bigger that required more and more of my time.

I could see that I was starting down a road that would be hard to back-track from if I didn't do something.  The shiny object of a local software development firm was taking me away from my core business that all of you are so familiar with.

As a result of some SERIOUS thinking, I decided to leave the company in order to allow me to focus my time on my core business.  It was a tough decision, but I was immediately relieved.

The software development company is actually doing well and has recently made some new hires, but I'm glad that the current owners can give it the time and attention it deserves, rather than me.

As crazy as it sounds, even when you hit your income and business goals, you might still be like me and try to pursue additional options.

The syndrome never goes away completely.

Shiny object syndrome is kinda like alcoholism, you are never really cured, just in remission. Click To Tweet

The Rewards

Again, I don't have all the answers to cure your unfocused ways.  I will simply say that you are likely to do MUCH better in business if you focus on one thing at a time.  It's not easy; I've been there…however, you really will do better to stop chasing your tail.

I have 3 successes from my business that have in part come because I was able to stick with it and focus enough to grow these revenue streams.

First is my niche site business that I mentioned.  When I finally took to the time to focus and pull all my effort into niche sites (for a few years straight), I was able to quit my day job because my business income had exceeded my day-job income. I continue to focus on building out sites, with Perrin and I putting a lot of effort into our authority site project and Kindle books right now.

Second is Long Tail Pro.  I launched Long Tail Pro right around the same time that I quit my job back in 2011.  I've been able to grow that software business each and every year, and that business is currently on pace to have another record year.  Again, this is something I've just “stuck” with for about 4 years now…it's paying off immensely now.

Finally, is NichePursuits.com itself.  I've been blogging for over 5 years now…crazy!  If I had tried to chase every opportunity that came along, I probably would have not had time to blog.  While NichePursuits.com does not make me a significant amount of money directly, it has helped me build a large audience, generate large amounts of traffic naturally everyday, and provides a platform for anything I might want to do in the future.

4 Ways to Help Overcome Shiny Object Syndrome

I don't have a magic wand or special words that I can say to change your shiny objects tendencies; however, here's a few thoughts that might help you think differently about how you are operating.

  1. Set goals.  I've always been a big believer in goal setting as it really does help you focus your energies.  As you know, your goals should be specific and measurable.  And if you are having a hard time focusing, set goals that specifically mention the 1 or 2 projects that you are going to work on.
  2. Plan your day.  I don't have any fancy time management or planning tools.  However, each morning I jot down with a pen and paper (old school!) the 5 or so things that I most want to accomplish for the day.  I number them in priority and work on number 1 until its finished before moving onto the next ones.  This helps more than you might think.
  3. Remove distractions.  For me this is email.  However, for you this may be reading other blogs or following social media.  I would set up specific times a day where you are “allowed” to check email or read blogs.  You will find that being a little more strict with your time will help you accomplish much more.
  4. Pick your own winning strategy.  In other words, don't just follow the crowd.  Think of a business strategy that makes sense to you and pursue it.  I've said this many times before, but the best business to go into is the one that makes sense to you and hopefully you've developed with a unique angle. While it's okay to glean business information from others, if you solely rely on a “blueprint” you will likely always be looking for the next blueprint to your success.

Unfortunately, doing all these things won't guarantee your business success, but it will at least give the opportunity to focus long enough on one idea to see if it has legs or not.

Overall, hopefully some of these ideas will help you realize that it's to focus a little more if you hope to succeed.  Also, I'm not perfect at this either!

I've shared some of my own ups and downs getting distracted with other projects, but I can point directly to where my business income has come from and see that it's the projects that I've focused that have succeeded.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject.  If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

Yes! I Love to Learn

Want to learn step-by-step how I built my Niche Site Empire up to a full-time income?

48 Comments for this Post

  1. dylan

    dylan

    great post spencer!
    a problem i have always had was starting up my niche site, writing 1 or 2 posts and then never writing anything again.
    I had about 4 niche sites like that at 1 time. Paying hosting for them,
    Finally i have decided to write about 30 posts before actually setting up my site then adding 1 post per day for 30 days then 1 per week hope this helps someone else out that might have the same issue

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I think that’s a good way to ensure that you get a big chunk of the work done before officially launching.

  2. zaki T

    zaki T

    the shiny next projects is killing me. i have the same problem, i start a project almost every week. i hope i can find the project that take all my focus and start building my true online business.

    thank you very much spencer, i’m one of your loyal blog readers .
    P.S: excuse my bad english

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      One a week?! You really need to pick a strategy and stick with it. Best of luck!

  3. Yaro

    Yaro

    Great post Spencer!
    My suggestions:
    1. Do one project at the time or make separate schedule for each project during the day or week.
    2. Reduce distractions like: internet, emails, phones and etc.
    3. Make your work station or office space more work focused without any distractions.
    4. Separate your work, family and personal time.
    5. Be healthy and fit (this will help you to get more focus)

    Thanks,
    Yaro

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks Yaro!

    • Phillip Yiga

      Phillip Yiga

      Yaro, being fit is very important, I AGREE with you on that, the body and brain stay fit 24/7. I made a simple work plan this year. To develop only two authority sites in two different profitable niches. I started on my first project on 14th Oct 2014, but now its 6 months old and it performs well, but this is what I do to win big:

      1- Work on the most difficult topic when I wake up, because my brain is fresh at this moment of time.
      2- I always check my to do list for the day every time I get distrusted.
      3- I open up a prototype of my biggest project to be done in 2016 in a new tab, so every time I feel like giving up on blogging, I CLICK that tab and see what I’m working for. ( if you have a target, lets say you want to buy a house 2 years from now, get a picture of that house and look at it through out the day, that will keep you going)…
      4- I play soft rock music in the background as I work, so i don’t get bored.
      5- I change work positions in my house, In the morning I can be in my office, in the afternoon I go to the Kitchen….etc….it helps the brain and the body.
      6. No Whatsapp & Facebook
      7. I drink water through out the day, it helps my eyes and brain.
      8. Skip a rope 2000 – 3000 times for 2 days and I ran a short marathon for 2 days. Exercise is part of blogging and business in general
      9. I have great S.E.X…..yaaaaaa….it’s wired, but it’s part of the game. My brains works better that way…hahahaha

  4. Quinton Hamp

    Quinton Hamp

    Haha! Boy howdy do I know how this goes!

    I really loved your statement ” rubble of half completed projects behind you”.

    Yup. Been there.

    Doug at NicheSiteProject.com has been riding me to start getting more focused. He encouraged me to read “The One Thing” by Gary Keller, and I’ve found that to be helpful.

    Here’s some things I’ve been implementing:

    #1. Realize that every new idea has a learning curve. Sure, so-and-so made $10,000 in 10 weeks. What no one will tell you is that EVERY TIME you start something new there are new skills you have to learn. Unless I can implement it into my existing business for less than 5 hours of work, I stay away. (Now I leave behind 5-hour rubbles everywhere)

    #2. Maintain a “shiny list”. Similar to James Altucher’s goal of writing down 10 new business ideas everyday I maintain a list in my top drawer of all the cool things I want to start… from niche sites to TeeSpring campaigns. I have given myself permission to chase those once I have my current business model fully automated (outsourced).

    #3. Tell someone what you are going to do that week. Accountability to a mastermind partner — or your wife, if nothing else — has been huge in my life. I not only avoid shiny object syndrome better, I know that at the end of the week I’m going to have to fess up.

    I’ve already finished more in the first 3 months of this year than I did in all of 2014.

    Good post, dude. Keep these coming!

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Great thoughts…thanks Quinton!

  5. Eric

    Eric

    Great article, focus is one of the most important things in my opinion. A great book about this subject is ‘The one thing’. Everyone who lacks focus should read it.

  6. David

    David

    A timely post as I was considering adding another niche. The new niche would be totally unrelated to the first to create some freshness. Many of the keywords in my first niche are very similar so all my posts sound the same and I feel repetitive granted it helps me flesh out my thinking. I have been working on my doctorate in the first niche so I know it is not going leave me as an interest. I just feel as though a secondary niche will create some variety allowing me to appreciate both more than I do know. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on adding a secondary niche when the first niche has many similar keywords especially since I am new to blogging.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I will just say that splitting your time between 2 projects will likely make both grow slower. However, who am I to say anything about creating more than one site at a time…I have lots! Dig deep and do what is best for you.

  7. John Devlin

    John Devlin

    Hahahahah!

    You are not wrong!

    After reading the survival knife posts I built my first website, and somehow it worked out, most due to this site and 1 or 2 others!

    Then big time shiny kicked in, and I know have 7-8 projects that are half done and making nothing. My first site and some clients remains my only big score.

    Also I would like to add, the money aspect, these 7-8 half built sites have cost a fair bit in content, design links etc. And i am not getting anything back.

    I already made a promise that no new ventures for me at all in 2015! Finish these sites and I will be flying! Thats the plan.

    My vice is watching and checking rankings, which is also a nightmare, checking rankings on hundreds of keywords across 7 sites when your not working on them is depressing.

    Like an alcoholic! Its good to write it here and remind myself of what’s happening so I can stick to the plan!!

  8. Josh Shogren

    Josh Shogren

    Great post and it comes at a good time for my online business. I am in the process of selling a niche site that I have been working on for the last year for 5 figures and now I am looking at other online opportunities to get into since I have some cash flow to use to finance my next project.

    Thanks for the article and a interesting read

    -Josh

  9. Jon Haver

    Jon Haver

    I think for most of us if we didn’t have any shiny object syndrome in us we would have never started any of the online projects.

    It has been impressive you see you stay so focused on a few core businesses and only move to something new in a controlled planned way.

    For me that seems to be the biggest source of my rubble…when I have moved onto a project without a plan. Now when the idea(aka shiny object) catches my eye I force myself to right it down and before I tackle it flesh out a reasonable project plan…often I find the exercise of documenting the plan does enough to scratch the itch. The result only 1 hr wasted and not longer…also a folder filled with many project plans ranging from certifiably insane to probably half decent I may dust off in the future.

    Thanks for the tips…and being an example of the results staying focused on several core projects can yield.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks for sharing Jon. I think writing down a detailed plan is great, and like you said; might be enough to allow you to stick with what you are already doing.

  10. Alex Nob

    Alex Nob

    Stay focused is a MUST to be successful at the beginning. But I think sitting down at enframed objects for years without taking any new challenges is really boring or even back-stepping. As long as the new “shiny objects” make you feel comfortable and joyful enough to engage in, there will be no prob.

  11. Michael Opys

    Michael Opys

    I have this same problem, I start with some business, work some days, release it and then only a few people is visit the website so I usual device to work for this ( I have that with my niche website about tea), now I am starting with selling icons for designers (https://sellfy.com/p/PScz/) and I have small sale which discourages me :/ I think importans to make some bigger goals and after that abandon the project for something else (like me now, I have only 8 icons for sell, so make 10 more icons and then abandom project if nothing is better)

  12. Phoebe

    Phoebe

    Thanks for writing this post. I used to have 8 websites and none are online today. I even dumped my hosting account.
    Biggest issue I have is having a short attention span and taking in so much info ( majority is worthless ) that I become overwhelmed and avoid the work all together.

    We reboot my websites and create content before they are actually online this time.
    Again thanks for writing this post, it just reinforced what I know I need to do.

  13. Paul

    Paul

    I’ve struggled with ‘shiny objects’ ever since I started down this path but over the last couple of months have started getting down to business.

    For me, planning my day against set goals made the biggest difference. After I get up and orient myself to the day I start right in.

    I break the day up into four 2-hour task groups and move prioritized tasks into those task groups. Then use a pomodoro timer to get at it. Every 2 hours (one task group), I get up and move around for a longer break but particularly rest and refocus my eyes.

    The pomodoro timers I’ve been messing with lately also help immensely with blocking distractions are at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMJ7eLrRSRpX-CJh1x0pFOA

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Awesome, thanks for sharing Paul!

  14. Kyle M.

    Kyle M.

    Great concepts! Thanks for sharing, Spencer. I think this is something we all need to work on in our own way.

  15. Don Gillett

    Don Gillett

    Great article. My problem, one of them anyway is figuring out how you make money with niche, unless you become an affiliate and blog to make sales. Is there something I’m missing

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Correct. You have to at least be an affiliate to make money. Selling your own product would be even better.

  16. Ryano

    Ryano

    Hi Spencer. I am also one of those that quickly moves from one project to the next. Whilst the motivation is always there at the start, it seems to eventually fizzle out! I’m not sure why this happens, but I guess it may have a lot to do with impatience. You expect to see quick results, but along the way you get distracted and you move on when things aren’t going quite as you planned.

    As you say, I think that giving it your ALL with a single project has to be the way forward. Maybe setting a 30 day challenge in dedicating every waking minute to one single site may be an interesting approach to try out. Only judge at the end of this time if there is a “Spark”. If there is then go for it on another month and hope to gather some momentum.

    Anyway, good luck with the big authority site and keep those great podcasts coming. Cheers.:)

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I even think 30 days is too short. You likely will need at least 90 days or 6 months to determine if a business has legs.

  17. Vishal

    Vishal

    This is an awesome article on what context matters in notifications and recommendations.

  18. Kent Chow

    Kent Chow

    Thanks for sharing those 4 tips. It’s so true that #1 setting up the goals and #2 getting things done are the KEYS staying focus.

    I’d focus 1 thing a time. I barely finish 1 or 2 tasks after 9-to-5 these days.

    I’m trying to sort out #4 my own blueprint and business model these 3 months recently. Trying to grow and hit $100/Day this year.

    I’m NP follower since it was launched (introduced by SPI) and LTP Big Fans (Early Bird and just got your Platinum Life-time.)

    I followed your advice and case studies, and able to make some extra cash (5-digit total) in Adsense and Amazon.

    These 3 great things (Your focus) help me big time and you have made huge impact on other readers’ live.

    Big Kudos to you! Keep up your great work, Spencer!

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks Kent for sticking around so long…glad you are still reading!

  19. john pantaw

    john pantaw

    Thanks for sharing those 4 tips, This is an awesome article on what context matters in notifications and recommendations.

  20. savi

    savi

    glad you pulled out of the firm you mentioned. i believe its not really about the money we make, its what we become that truely matters. i am just starting out with blogging. i have my goals and its a site every six months. learnt every aspects. thanks for LTP too.
    nice article i must say!

  21. John Cyscon

    John Cyscon

    first and foremost i appreciate the content and the quality of it that is here. im fairly new to this arena (last 6 months) and ive had a great time learning and devouring information here. the weather is breaking in chicago so im not going to want to stay indoors anymore though…….

    shiny object is brutal. my main side income is amazon fba, and its a beast. its also led me into affiliate sites, which lead me here. i have about 7 sites i started in last six months, two are done and on autopilot (with my weekly additions per claire’s advice lol). now im working one at a time til finished, because naturally i have my best idea ever in the pipeline.

    i took mindmapping to a whole new level after listening to SPI, and i have three notebooks filled with graphs and arrows and circles and ideas. its a good problem to have, being creative, and combining creativity with action is a helluva tough process. but i appreciate the help and guidance, and look forward to a break in your schedule to hear a podcast!

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks John! Best of luck with all your ventures, just make sure you complete some of those :). Boy, people are actually noticing that I’ve taken a break from my podcast…apparently its time to record another episode!

  22. Richard Martin

    Richard Martin

    Hi Spencer.

    I used to suffer from this too, and to some extent, I still do today.

    I’ll often have an idea and go gung-ho with setting up a new site. My other sites will suffer, and then a few days later I will get bored of the new site and new idea, leaving me with yet another half baked site.

    I have got better though, and your tips are exactly what I am following – setting goals and planning the day through to-do lists etc. It helps keep the focus intact and really drives me to get the right things done.

  23. Larry

    Larry

    Hey Spence

    Good post – bit like you I have jumped from shiny object to shiny object – until my collection of shiny objects became too big ie too many sites with lack of focus. Have now committed to concentrate on my 2 latest sites….at least until the next shiny object comes along!!

  24. Paul

    Paul

    Thanks for this great Article, well for me the fastest way of solving this problem, atleast to some extent is first unsubscribe from Sellers, what do i mean, there are some marketers who don’t offer any real value to you, but some how they manage to get your email and afterwards, you are been bombarded with offers. True leaders always offer values and never send offers to you every now and then, you can spot them easily… Get Rid of the other ones and concentrate on what matters…. cheers All

  25. lexng kid

    lexng kid

    hey sir do you have article about SEO 2015???

  26. Jonathan

    Jonathan

    Spencer this was a great post. I have spent so many years building the next shiny thing. It hasn’t all been a failure. You learn from the failures and build on the successes. One thing I do regret is not creating a community or central audience. Even if just to talk about all of the shiny projects. It takes time to build a community. For anyone starting out I would encourage you to chase the shiny thing but make sure you have one place where you can continue to build while doing that. If the shiny thing takes off, great. If it doesn’t you at least have made progress on your long term goals.

    And on a side note Spencer. Big fan of longtailpro and not sure how I would work without it now.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks for the thoughts Jonathan! Glad you are enjoying Long tail pro!

  27. KAN

    KAN

    This problemen happens to most of us I assume and that is where we see a difference between the ones that make a bit of money and a LOT of money.

    Your drive is so important to make your online bizz a succes.

    Thanks for sharing this Spencer!

  28. Gary

    Gary

    Hi Spencer,

    I love this post and it really resonated with me. I had a quick question about Shiny Object Syndrome. How do you know when setting up an online business / niche website is the shiny object itself?

    I get paid really well and have a great job with sweet hours. I love the idea of having something on the side but Im not really sure if thats just me chasing a shiny object…would love to know what you thought

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