I think You Might Have Shiny Ball Syndrome


Shiny ballThis is a guest post by Jonathan Volk, a 20-something internet marketer who makes millions of dollars a year online.

When it comes to internet marketing and working at home in general, one of the most common problems is shiny ball syndrome. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that most people reading this post have this problem!

Don’t worry, it’s not an STD or some disease passed through the air… it’s actually much worse and it comes from our inherent nature to want to do something different.

So what is this shiny ball syndrome that I speak of? It’s seeing or thinking of that next new idea (the shiny ball) and abandoning your current projects to pour into a new project that you just KNOW is going to be a winner. Forgetting all the work you have poured into the last project, you pursue that next new idea never to return to the old project.

I have a friend for example who I have worked closely with on some projects. The other day he showed me a website he was designing in order to sell some amazon products and get the 4% referral commission.

This was less than a week ago.

This morning he was asking me questions; questions about a new market. “I want to go after this new market…”, he said. And while this is commendable that he has found a new idea to market to, the old Amazon store he had poured hours into was going to end up in a net gain of zero.

This is a classic case of shiny ball syndrome. You start working on a project, but before you can even finish, you move onto the next thing.

Heck, even to this day, I am guilty of doing that at times, but I’ve gotten a lot better by using a few easy techniques.

Solving Shiny Ball Syndrome

Solving shiny ball syndrome easier to say than do but with a little effort and persistence you can solve this issue.

  1. Write a to do list and prioritize. – Nearly every day, I write a to do list both for myself and my staff. I prioritize what is most important to get done and what is less important. I write an A1, A2, A3, etc next to top priority and B1, B2, B3 next to those that are of less importance.
  2. Email can be a time sucker. – What I do is I open my inbox and open all emails that are important. I read the first line and in my head rank if they are important or not. Important emails I respond to right away. Unimportant emails I keep open, minimized to my task bar for review during times when I am on a break or after I finish important tasks. This way I do not get distracted by new ideas and opportunities before I have finished the tasks I needed to complete.
  3. New Ideas – When you think of new ideas it’s important to remember that most good ideas will still be around tomorrow. If you never finish a project / website to the full extent you originally designed for it to be and yet move onto the next project, chances are, you probably won’t make much money like that online. Instead try to focus on what you have going. Heck, even if it only makes a little bit in comparison to your next project, at least it’s something. Compare that with the zero you probably would have if you did not complete it.

In reality, whether you’re an SEO, a PPC marketer, a social marketer, an ecommerce store or just try to make money online in any way possible, one of the most important things is focus. Focus on the projects you have going. Complete them and see them all the way through. If the idea truly turns out to be a dud, then stop work on it and move onto the next project / idea.

And remember, sometimes it’s less about trying to hit the lottery and make the next twitter or facebook as it is just building an income FIRST and through experience building something even greater.

61 thoughts on “I think You Might Have Shiny Ball Syndrome

  1. Andrew @ webuildyourblog

    I only open my emails 3 times a day – morning, midday and last thing before finishing for the day.

    Over the past couple of weeks I have set a daily task list which I focus on and that has really helped me reduce my SBS (but it does creep in sometimes…but no-where near as much as it did before the daily list)


  2. Christoph C. Cemper


    being focussed for a day, for a week and heck the whole lifetime of a project across a couple weeks, months and possibly years is the secret to success…. not just online – but in life.

    but then, hanging on to wrong goals can be dangerous too

    I think “the dip” is an awesome book that you recommended a while ago that deals with it aswell… sticking to something only as long as it makes sense and promises

    I just recently (in June) stopped a project after sinking a 6 digit sum (in USD$) and 8 months of work to get our heads free for more important goals


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  4. Georgie

    Great post Volk, I realised this a long time ago but still guilty of it every now and then. I think it’s just the nature of Internet Marketers

  5. Eric Itzkowitz

    GUILTY!!! With regard to keeping focused, it’s a hard thing to do when you are constantly being bombarded with news and new ideas.

    I know I cannot eliminate distraction, so I try to minimize it by creating a weekly To Do list plus a daily to do list (using Outlook’s Notes) that allows me to chunk up my weekly into a digestible daily To Do list.

    Get organized. Get focused.

  6. Cody

    I’m guilty of this right now. But how can you blame me? I just started a website, lmaodogs.com which is similar to funnypic.com or ebaumsworld.com it’s just a website with pictures, mostly of dogs, that make you chuckle a little bit. Right now I am at over 2,500 unique visitors, and it’s only 11 hours into my day. I am kind of giving up my first website I started, as far as updating it as much as I did. But it was only seeing 300 unique visitors a day if I was lucky. So while the shiny ball syndrome might be a bad thing, you gotta know where to focus your time too. If your new idea seems to be getting more traffic than your old idea why not give it more attention? Great article though and shoemoney I love reading your blog, by far the most useful website I have come across.

  7. Christian

    Nice article. I’m guilty as well, but getting better. If you don’t own a dry erase whiteboard, get one and put your “list” or “to do’s” on it so it stares at you everyday when you work. That stupid white board will help keep you on task.

  8. free directory submission

    True… I have so many unfinished projects just because I switch my priorities all the time and go from one thing to another. As soon as I finish one, I get bored, start making $, and move on to the next while the profit from the previous project slowly declines. :(

  9. Michael Mindes

    This is one of the big downfalls of internet based businesses. Especially if those businesses revolve around digital inventory or affiliate marketing.

    The downfall is that you invest little or relatively little money into a project and as a result it is easy to abandon. If you have money in the game and put all of your eggs into the basket, you will have no choice but to succeed.

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  11. ck256

    Right on the mark, volk. Nothing gets finished, nothing gets done right, nothing gets paid.

    The email is a great tip if you can get away with it. My day job demands 8 hours email attention unfortunately.

  12. Stephen

    I think I just figured out why I can’t clear $500 a month on half the things I mingle with on the net. Definitely going to take this advice.

    Note: @Shoemoney the twitthis doesnt seem to be working… JFYI

  13. fas

    So true man, thats something which even I am facing. Registered a domain and its gonna be almost a year and the site is yet to come up. Damn.

    1. Holly Mann

      At least that is only one domain name you registered. I know lots of people who buy a domain here and there and another one and go off starting one site -then leaving it. And so on.

  14. Mike

    Great term, I have experienced the shiny ball syndrome myself! I have found that focusing and prioritizing is definitely the most productive way to go.

  15. Online College

    This is exactly what gets to me and on top of that i work in an office where I have people walking by me constantly and interrupting me left and right it is almost impossible to prioritize sometimes.

  16. DogsonTwitter.com

    I’m not so sure. I actually quite enjoy the freedom to do exactly that. Sometimes I find if I ditch a project to go after another, it’s because I wasn’t enjoying the original project that much. I’ll often come back to a project after it’s been left gathering dust for a while. I really enjoy the variety of being free to chase the new shiny things, so sometimes that’s exactly what I do! It’s one of the perks of working for yourself – provided, of course, that you actually have a steady stream of income in one way or another from a portfolio of project.

  17. Holly Mann

    This is an excellent post! I get like this sometimes – and must continually work at being focused. I use Toggl to track my work and it helps immensely.

  18. Mohamed

    This is great advice – you were passionate about something you started. See it through, then judge the results.

    Unfortunately with Internet Marketing or any work at home idea there are thousands of others wanting to help you capitalize by selling you their stuff… in the process it’s very easy to become dislodged and follow another dream.

    You really need to focus on one project, and get it done…

  19. McMillan

    I would say I have experience the shiny ball syndrome. Although prioritizing your tasks and following them in a focused manner works well.

  20. ZK @ Web Marketing Blog

    Very very true. This is happening with me as well. But I do in different manner I note down and immediate start the procedure by hiring someone and to do the basic things.

    Life is short and you will have to start everything immediately. You can not wait.

    But you just need one thing and that is ability to handle and manage everything which you start.


    There are many great resource on time management, have a look at some of the project management guides out there.

    I personally utilise ideas from Agile and Japanese flow systems to maintain good throughput and concentrate on delivering the “minimum marketable feature”.

    This is an extension of the point hinted at above, no matter how much work you do, no value is created until it is delivered. Work to deliver small features and you can deliver continuously and make your site better each day.

    In the commercial environment I work in this is critical for delivering new ideas quickly and efficiently so that we can begin deriving an income as early as possible. If your work is never completed and nothing goes live then you may as well not have bothered.

    Visual systems such as post-its on the wall are a great way to track progress. Divide your wall into a backlog, ready, in progress, done, etc. This will ensure you can very quickly see where the bottle necks are.

    If anyone wants to know more, let me know – am happy to post up the basics, some resources, etc either as a guest post or on my own site.

  22. Tuesday Hall

    Shiny Ball Syndrome cost me a lot of opportunities (how ironic) in the past. As one advice columnist once said, ‘making the ride last as long as you can’ can also give you the thrill that you seek. Getting your just reward is sweeter at the end of every completed project!

  23. ZK @ Web Marketing Blog

    If you will get sound and competent team or few good outsourced people than your task will be much much easier …

    Because you can not do everything for yourself …

    So start outsourcing in a perfect manner.

    1. Web Design | Goran

      I agree that outsourcing is a very effective way of getting the job done, but letting go is just sooo difficult. Proprietary knowledge is also something that becomes an issue, as you never know where your ideas & work might end up.

  24. How to French Kiss

    The idea of staying focused on one project until it has gotten off the ground is, I believe, very important. I aim to ultimately run this as a business and I don’t think that can be achieved by jumping from one idea to the next.

  25. Bidet

    We have all had Shiny Ball Syndrome at least once, there are so many ideas out there. But these are great tips to stay focused. I like the idea of having a priority list, it can help you focus on important things and when you have time work on the things that aren’t as important.

  26. Web Design | Goran

    Big dreamers never sleep, but only focusing on pulling the “big” deals will lead to neglect of the bread & butter basics, which will end up undermining your endeavours.

  27. Jacques Snyman | 3 Quotes

    I think shine ball syndrome is something most people suffer of at various stages of their journey through life. Realising & then admitting to it aree important first steps towards eliminating negative behaviour like this from your being.

  28. Digital Scales

    I benefited from the prioritizing emails tidbit. I get caught up in emails every day and really, I always end up spending more time that I ever anticipated writing them.. So THANKS for that. :)

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