How Creators and Founders can Find Meaning for what they do – by addressing the Linkage between Procrastination, Motivation, and the Allure of Shiny Toy Syndrome!
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I love Napoleon Hill; so after almost 100 years since he wrote his amazing lecture 'The Laws of Success' – it's been my most prevalent reference document, along with Think and Grow Rich. Napoleon Hill is intentional about the topic of ‘doing good work’, when he says, “only two options, let go or hustle hard”… However for this piece I’m forced to consider a third option. I see mindful productivity as the third option: being fully present in your work and life.
On the back of these thoughts, I wrote this post. My target audience? Founders and life-long creators. But even if you do not fall in this category of people, you’re a founder of one kind or another –you found this article.
If you’re procrastinating at anything, it’s time to ask yourself; “does the lack of motivation come from my head, my heart, or my hand?”
In this era of creators and founders replete, where procrastination and shiny toy syndrome reign supreme, it's high time we dissect the intricate connection between our motivations and our relentless ability to postpone the inevitable.
The Antidote to Shiny Toy Syndrome:
Before you start a new project, ask yourself if it triggers four vital questions. All four are requirements for allowing a project to consume your time.
Does it make your heart race with anticipation? This implies what kind of excitement the project induces on you. The eagerness to begin should be considered.
Does it provide the right does of stress-induced arousal?
Does it align with a future version of you that’s honest to your present state?
And most importantly, does it capture your undivided attention - is it an area of focus you want to explore?
If not, park that shiny trinket aside for the time being! You’re caught in Shiny Toy Syndrome. Trying to convince yourself otherwise is an exercise in futility, often resulting in lost time and spent energies – it's like running a pilot experiment when you don't have enough data – it yields nothing.
The Art of Discernment:
The folly of hindsight! Often, as creators we find ourselves knee-deep in projects that failed to meet the aforementioned criteria. And it’s only when we are completely immersed, against our own will, that we gain the clarity of hindsight to ask ourselves; “what am I doing?”
Even more often, we attempt to convince ourselves that the projects qualify, but only in retrospect. This leads me to recognise that even when a project escapes the Shiny Toy Syndrome, it could further on be checked by Discernment.
This is worth thinking about.
The Fierce Temptation and Impulsivity:
Just last week, a friend and I had a discussion on spontaneity and impulsivity, and where these traits fit in the business environment. The demerits outweighed the merits. We identified that Impulsivity was the treacherous foe of focused endeavours!
Many of us want to explore too much. We tend to look for something new after a couple months on a project. We fail to sit through the long-run. This need for immediate gratification isn’t lost on research. Studies show that VC culture, startup buzz, and the allure of unicorn status proliferated by the media is a chief cause of this insatiable desire to chase multiple rabbits down countless holes.
For this I have a solution. It’s not robust, nor would it work for everyone. I advise that you Increase the Friction, make it harder to act on these impulsive whims. Often, out of sight, out of mind works in my favour. Again, I understand that this may not work for everyone.
Unfinished Projects and Closure:
Sometimes is critical to arrive at a reflective phase in your creator journey where you check in on any unfinished projects in the pipeline. Tie the lose ends, which may require killing them off properly, bidding them farewell, and freeing up the mental space required for future work.
It also helps to ask yourself;
why you didn’t finish them, or why you lost interest in them?
Did you move onto another because you faced technical difficulties?
Is there anything you can identify as a pattern that presents itself in this manner?
My honest opinion is, that you didn’t take the Shiny Object Syndrome antidote asks, and found yourself losing motivation and the will power to continue (if you did face hurdles) because the project did not consume your life.
Return to the top of this page if in doubt.
Procrastination and Lack of Motivation:
If you're procrastinating, ask yourself.
Does the lack of motivation come from my head? – pause for an opportunity to self evaluate.
Does the lack of motivation come from my heart?
Or does the lack of motivation come from my hand?
No Head Motivation
Seasoned entrepreneurs will tell you that if your head isn’t bumping up ideas about this new project, and keeping you in a brainstorm frenzy, you’re not pursuing the right goals, and should reconsider your strategy. It’s the famed litmus test for Head Motivation.
Misaligned goals can spillover onto your team and have everyone running about in circles, losing valuable steam power.
Some proponents argue that loss of Head Motivation can occur occasionally, yet should not be equated with the permanent state of lethargy. They have argued that the frustration encountered on former projects may force creators into a position of fear. The fear of failure.
Which in turn leads to bad strategic decisions. Yes, fair enough. But do you think it's okay to have a lack of motivation? I don’t.
I’m a designer, I have days when I sit behind my screen, and nothing seems to come up, but the moment I allow myself to begin, inspiration flows forth like a river. I assume it’s like that for everyone. You didn’t become a creator overnight, you know the deed.
No Heart Motivation
When the heart speaks, you listen. Lack of motivation from your inner-self is a sign that you’re pursuing the wrong right motives. Your fuel power is corrupt. Your solution is not foremost considering the user. You’re chasing clout. Such a person must “reframe their incentives”.
How do you reframe incentives? Try my method. Mixing a bit of what’s in it for me + what’s in it for everyone. This approach can be a good way to see the benefits and procrastinate less, because you’re equally invested.
No Hand Motivation
This is often the most rampant reason. Where our skills and our desire do not align. A lack of skill demands the guidance of coaches, mentors, training, a co-founder, or even an entire team.
We solo-preneurs are stubborn. We’re obstinate about getting help, and adamant on this path of DIY - I don’t need anyone; I’ll figure it out. That posture loses steam rapidly. It’s no wonder 80% of abandoned projects belong to solo-preneurs.
Accountability and Environmental Factors:
The best way around this is Accountability. Not just to yourself, but to the right environment. Here are a few thoughts:
Consider working from a cafe / co-working space or out of a community atmosphere where like-minded people congregate for similar work. Ambience goes a long way to sustain your initial spark. Often the embers of motivation grow close to their initial ignition.
Seek refuge in the wisdom of mentorship. My main reason for procrastinating over the years is not knowing the clear next steps. Sometimes you've gone as far as you can on your own, so you need to acknowledge your limitations and ask for help.
Sensor external stressors. The world is full of wonderful delights, and so too many other interesting and gratifying things seem more attractive than the thing you’re supposed to be doing. This feeds itself into the Shiny Object Syndrome. You can scroll up to read that again.
Fight laziness with regimentation. When you identify that you’re just plain lazy, then meticulously schedule your life, systematically. It may not be all at once nor even easy to begin. But you can begin with one mundane task in your project, scheduled at a specific time in the day. Before long you have a repeat calendar of events you’ve grown to love doing.
The life of the creators or founder is foremost a journey of Self-Discovery. And so remember the wisdom of Napoleon Hill, for only three options exist: let go, hustle hard, or embrace the path of mindful productivity.
Fun fact: It's not a Fucking yes! it's a no. – Mark Manson
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