Fifty Five.

When you have a classic case of ‘shiny object syndrome’.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from virtual assistant and founder of MuthaCollective, Annabelle Williams Dos Anjos. She says:

“How do you avoid ‘shiny shiny’ syndrome?

As a creative person I love doing so many different things. I often have to talk myself down from creating 5 new things/businesses that I just don’t have time for (and therefore wouldn’t do well).

How do you stop yourself from constantly running towards the latest, shiniest idea? And how do you know when something should remain a hobby?!”

• • • • •

This episode is supported by Agorapulse.

Managing social media has never been easier. Schedule your content, get reports, and engage followers with one simple tool. Try Agorapulse FREE for 1 full month.

Go to

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:01:40] – Frankie
Hello. You’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:01:50] – Steve
Hello! Yes, each week we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community. Do our best to answer it, but we start each episode by looking back at the last episode and taking your comments. The last episode was…

[00:02:00] – Frankie
…Ross dealing with the stress of Covid-19 madness and potentially having to stop working at any time.

[00:02:06] – Steve
Penny Smyth got in touch. Hey Penny.

Penny says:

“I totally get this. It’s extremely hard to relax into work at the moment and my mental health is consequently a dustbin, making it even harder to concentrate and be productive. Last term we managed to have both kids in school for a grand total of seven days before their bubble burst. But then child number two actually got pretty sick with his not-Covid chest infection and ended up in hospital for a couple of nights. (He’s fine, by the way). Which magically made me give much less of a shit about everything.

Apparently, it is possible to take away the anxiety by replacing it with a much larger, more significant one!

That experience did make me wonder whether we’re worrying about the wrong thing sometimes; holding on to work a little too tightly. After all, we’re freelancers, right? We fish from a potentially infinite pool of work opportunity. Does it matter if we’re not 100% perfect for our clients every minute of the day?

And then I saw how much was in our bank account after weeks of homeschooling freaked out and now I’m back on the bubble burst paranoia train with all of you. Sigh.”

[00:03:12] – Frankie
Such a good comment. Like, you’re just riding the wave with her there.

Charles Commins says:

“Every time I get an email from my daughter’s school, I hold my breath and hope it isn’t the dreaded message. But once every couple of weeks have a bit of an anxiety attack about it as I know it will have to be me that takes the time off as my partner is a nurse at our local hospital. I’ve got no answers, I’m afraid. Just here to say that you’re not alone!”

[00:03:35] – Steve
Nissa Ramsay says:

“My work comes in ebbs and flows. Typically, I’m happy to work over capacity, but lockdown 1.0 was horrendous and since returning to nursery, I’ve been working under capacity on purpose. Only applying for one thing at a time, saying ‘no’ more, weighing up each opportunity with a ‘what if I have two weeks without childcare’ angle.

I also don’t look at pitching for anything with critical deadlines and now work with two or three other trusted freelancers in a very close partnership. Shared files, Slack, processes, meetings, etc. That set up means less money and can be more expensive to deliver, but I know they could take the load if I needed them to.”

Wow Nissa!

[00:04:17] – Frankie
Right, nailing it.

[00:04:18] – Steve
You know how we’ve said so many of those things, but you don’t actually put them into place for yourself?

[00:04:23] – Frankie
Yeah, right! Nissa’s out there like actually showing us how it’s done.

[00:04:27] – Steve
It just proves that it can happen.

[00:04:30] – Frankie
And Helen Diplock says:

“My youngest is disabled and has had plenty of health scares in her almost four years. Covid has actually been a massive leveler for me. For the first time, other people understand what it’s like to experience life when everything might change in a second. I make no secret of the fact that I have a disabled daughter with my clients. All my long-term clients know and understand. I’ve never had any pushback. It’s all about managing expectations.”

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:07:13] – Steve
Annabelle Williams dos Anjos has been in touch. She’s a Virtual Assistant at Mother Collective. They are a community of talented mothers with exceptional expertise and their slogan is ‘Mothers with Aptitude’.

[00:07:27] – Frankie
An excellent slogan. I love it.

[00:07:29] – Steve
Annabelle’s question is:

“How do you avoid Shiny Shiny Syndrome?

As a creative person, I love doing so many different things. I often have to talk myself down from creating five new things/businesses that I just don’t have time for and therefore wouldn’t do well.

How do you stop yourself from constantly running towards the latest shiniest idea? And how do you know when something should remain a hobby?

Thanks, Annabelle.”

[00:07:56] – Frankie
First of all, I want to know if ‘Shiny Shiny Syndrome’ is like an official title, because I love it.

[00:08:02] – Steve
So I’ve heard it described as ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’.

[00:08:04] – Frankie
Okay. Like a magpie type situation, right?

[00:08:07] – Steve
Yeah. The trouble with it is that obviously you only have so much energy, so ultimately you’re going to end up doing something bad.

So it’s going to be bad for your health. It’s going to be bad for your productivity. It’s going to be bad for probably the quality of the various things that you’re already doing.

And yet sometimes those shiny things are really great things that actually you should end up doing. You could say that us, doing this podcast could have been a shiny object once upon a time!

[00:08:31] – Frankie
That is literally what I was going to say is, like… I’m not the person to give any advice on this particular question because how do I identify what to pursue and what not to pursue as a business, right? And I can tell you about looking at potential markets and a potential audience and how profitable it might be and working out whether it’s actually worth your fucking time, basically…

But if I was to follow that model, I would be not making this podcast. This podcast — it wouldn’t even exist because Doing It For The Kids wouldn’t exist because I would have seen that shiny, shiny idea of doing this project and gone, “nah, that’s not worth my time”.

So, like, it’s so hard!

[00:09:07] – Steve
So you’ve got some shiny objects in front of you, Annabelle. I think, if possible, you should sit on things for a while rather than chase them immediately. Ever have a kid come to you and say, “I want this, I want this, I want this”? And you totally get that impulse because you have that impulse yourself, but sometimes you’ll go, “come back to me”. I’ve done this recently just with Apps and things with the kids — “come back to me in a week and tell me if you still want it”.

[00:09:30] – Frankie
Nice. I should do that with my five year old.

[00:09:32] – Steve
Yeah often a week later, you don’t want that thing you wanted a week ago/

[00:09:37] – Frankie
That’s a good point.

[00:09:38] – Steve
Then if you really want to be more analytical, I guess maybe there’s questions you should ask yourself while looking at it. Will whatever it is take you towards what your goals are?

[00:09:49] – Frankie
What if you don’t know what your goals are?

[00:09:50] – Steve
Do you have an overarching business plan, an intention or goal? Like where does this fit in that? Is it actually part of it? Will it help drive more things to the thing? Will it help you to relax more and take more time off? If that is one of your goals. Like, where does it fit in to all of that?

Then ask yourself, like — do I have the actual resources I need for this? Is it going to take money? Is it going to take lots of time? Will it take skills that I have? Yeah. What’s the cost? Not just financial.

[00:10:22] – Frankie
That’s a good point. Because if you’ve done both of those things, as in… you’ve sat on it for a bit and stripped it down to what it’s going to take to achieve it. Then if you still really want to do it, that says a lot about that project, right? That says a lot about how you feel about it.

[00:10:41] – Steve
Sometimes, maybe try and finish what you’re already doing. You know like… if your child was left in a room with a toy, you walk out the room and when you come back, there’s like a million toys, because they go and get another toy and they play with it for a bit, and then they get distracted by another toy and another toy, and then they’re searching through the basket, for the toy they were thinking of. But, “oh, look! There’s another toy”. And suddenly the whole lounge is an utter mess.

And that is basically what your life will become if you allow yourself to go after all your ideas.

[00:11:10] – Frankie
But part of that is if you are a serial project starter.

#I’m a project starter. Serial project starter#.


[00:11:23] – Steve
Been a long weekend.

[00:11:24] – Frankie
Yeah, it has.

If you are a serial project starter, then something you need to learn, I suppose, is not just finishing stuff also but recognising when stuff should just die and isn’t worth your time anymore. Yeah, you don’t want to be watering all those plants. Oh God, throwing the analogies around…

But you don’t want a room full of half dead plants. Maybe the ones that are really giving up the ghost, leave them be, bury them in the garden and then concentrate on the ones that have got some greenery left. But yeah, learning when to cut stuff entirely is part of it, isn’t it? To concentrate on the things that are more profitable or more…

[00:12:06] – Steve
You can feel bad about cutting things, especially if they have a public face or if you’re providing them to an audience. But actually, whilst there might be some disappointment that you’re ending the thing that it was, people have got… like, I hate to burst the bubble, but like something else will fill that void!

[00:12:22] – Frankie
Sure. And the people that really matter will stick around for the next thing and the next version of it or whatever.

[00:12:27] – Steve
You are more important than the people you are serving, ultimately. Don’t just keep doing something because you feel you have to, because somebody somewhere is enjoying it.

[00:12:36] – Frankie
And some of the most successful people I know are people that have taken really brave decisions to kill stuff and it’s actually worked out way, way, way, way for the better. Like, Janet Murray is an example of that. She had a massively successful Facebook Group with like tens of thousands of people in it and she killed it because it was sucking her time and it wasn’t making her any money.

And like, that has only led to better things for her. And I can think of various other people in my life where I’ve seen them do that. You know, they’ve started a new shiny thing and it’s done really well for them, but for whatever reason, they can’t maintain it, or they don’t want to maintain it, or they’re not interested in it anymore, and it’s actually worked out really well.

It isn’t necessarily a bad thing to shift and change.

[00:13:14] – Steve
And the thing is, it’s almost like a learning out loud thing.

[00:13:16] – Frankie

[00:13:17] – Steve
Here’s quite a good shiny object test, by the way — They say things out loud, what they want to do, and in doing so, they test the water as to whether anybody might be interested in that thing before they go and put all their energy into that thing.

[00:13:29] – Frankie
You’re right. Like, if there is an audience element involved, talking out loud, explaining out loud is one way to like bring everybody with you together, rather than just suddenly going, “oh, by the way, I’m killing this project and starting a new one!”. If you talk through your process and why it’s happening and your fears around it and whatever else that can help people get on board.

[00:13:49] – Steve
But if you’re testing the water out loud, on Instagram, on a podcast, on videos, however you’re connecting with your audience saying, “here’s this shiny object I’ve got. Is this a good idea? Would you be interested in this idea?” That’s fine. But be aware that a lot of people will just respond positively because they want to be supportive of you. If you actually want to test it, create a landing page with a form at the bottom that they have to actively fill in and give their details. If you want to really want to take it to another level, then put a price tag on it as well!

[00:14:25] – Frankie
Ask them to pay for it. Yeah. And the people that don’t like the idea won’t tell you that. Usually they’ll just stay quiet. You only ever get the, like, positive affirmation rather than the criticism.

[00:14:37] – Steve
You see, this is where I think it really helps to have a business buddy, a co-mentor, call them what you will… Somebody else, basically, to help you filter and focus on the thing.

[00:14:51] – Frankie
And be that test for you, right? Be that stress test. Ask the questions. “Steve, I’m really not sure that you should be launching that lingerie brand”. Like, I just…

[00:15:03] – Steve
In case you don’t know, Frankie and I have been co-mentoring each other for nearly two years, right? We run ideas past each other, but more often than not it seems to be me where I run an idea past Frankie and she just slaps me around the face.

[00:15:14] – Frankie
“No, Steve! Don’t do it!”

[00:15:15] – Steve
She either puts it down properly — like the lingerie brand — or she asks questions to go, “but do you really want to do that thing right now, given about the other things?” They’re able to see all of the different things you’re doing. They already know the hassle all those things are causing because you talk to them about it. And then they go, “are you sure you want to organise a retreat, Steve?” when you can’t even organise a two hour event?

[00:15:41] – Frankie
That’s literally what I said!

[00:15:44] – Steve
But I had a really good name for it!

[00:15:47] – Frankie
But that’s it — that’s ‘Shiny Shiny Syndrome’ all over, isn’t it? Like, you get excited about an element of it. Something about it really clicks. It’s the name, it’s the tag. Something about it you’re like, “oh yeah, I really like that!” And then you post-rationalise the project almost where you’re like, “oh, it won’t be that hard, it won’t cost me that much…” because you’ve got so like… it’s fed that endorphin part of your brain… that addictive feeling of coming up with something you’re excited about. Right?

So you’ll convince yourself it’s good and worth doing, even if it’s not. And as you say, that is so key — having somebody else who knows you really well and knows what’s going on in your life to say, “do you know what? Maybe 2020 is not the time for that!”

[00:16:29] – Steve
Equally, if they’re getting excited about it and they can see how it fits into the overall puzzle of your career and your business and your family life and lalala, then…

[00:16:38] – Frankie
…that’s a green light, isn’t it?

But I guess you have to weigh up whether you spend time on something, whether it’s going to be profitable and a good idea that will reward you in a, you know, capitalist sense. Or is it a project that I should make time for because it’s going to reward me in, like, an emotional, soul, passion sense? Because both of those things are going to make me happier and feel more fulfilled.

Yeah. Okay. And what about the second part of the question?

[00:17:16] – Steve
“How do you know when something should remain a hobby?”

The thing is, it’s almost a shame sometimes to take a hobby into a business because

[00:17:25] – Frankie
With you on that.

[00:17:26] – Steve
Hobbies have a purpose.

[00:17:27] – Frankie
So I did music at university, right? Loads of my friends are professional musicians. Do I want to be a professional musician? Not really, because I like playing the piano, because it makes me feel happy and there’s no stress and I just do it for myself at home, in my house.

[00:17:40] – Steve
Like, let’s say you’ve been painting and a few people have said, “oh, I like your paintings!” and then you start to sell your paintings. If then nobody buys those paintings, you might then start to think that those paintings have no value and so on, when in fact art is so subjective.

[00:17:57] – Steve
And I see lots of paintings that I would love to buy, but I have nowhere to put them. So there’s so many reasons why people might not buy your thing and it doesn’t mean that they don’t like it, but you will take the response to heart and then that’s going to sully the fact that you were enjoying it.

[00:18:15] – Frankie
Such a good point. Yeah.

As a creative, if something is a hobby and makes you happy, you’re expressing your creativity in that way… And then you switch it into this business mode where you feel you’re being judged and the quality of your work is suddenly defined by how much it costs or how much money you make. That’s a very different feeling to the creative process itself. And like — is that something you’re interested in? Is that something you want to feel and pursue? If that’s something you want to do, absolutely. Go for it! But how do you know? I don’t know.

You just know, don’t you? It’s a gut feeling.

[00:18:48] – Steve
Yeah, I think gut is good. Like we said earlier, so many things wouldn’t exist if the person hadn’t followed the shiny thing.

[00:18:55] – Frankie

[00:18:55] – Steve
And so many creative businesses wouldn’t exist if people hadn’t have turned their hobby into a business. It’s just important to recognise that not every hobby has to be a business.

[00:19:07] – Frankie

[00:19:07] – Steve
And hobbies serve a real purpose in relaxation, switching off from the world, switching off from business and family and all of that. They serve a wholesome purpose to you as a person and your well being and all of that, that sometimes you need to protect.

[00:19:26] – Frankie
Yes. Do I want to be making sales funnels for my sketches? When you take something from a hobby to a business, it comes with these layers of selling and admin and whatever else. And is the thing you’re doing still going to bring you joy within that context?

[00:19:42] – Steve
By the way, how has everybody got time for hobbies?!

What would your advice be?

Let us know your thoughts using #DIFTKpodcast on Twitter and Instagram, and join in the conversation via the DIFTK Community on Facebook.