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Dealing with Shiny New Project Syndrome: How to remain focused on the task at hand

While I’m pretty organised and systematic in the way I do things, I always run the risk of thinking “wow, that’s a neat project and one I should pursue” without much regard for whether I have the bandwidth to actually work on something and function normally. This has been happening to me this semester (Fall 2017) when despite my previously very organised semester, which I already had planned with my Everything Notebook since last December, I thought to myself “oh look, SHINY NEW PROJECTS! But I don’t have the energy to pursue them. Although… well, I have a large lab, and my research assistants can help me get through and organise this, or write that, or generate that. Ok, sure, I’ll say yes“.

RISC 2017

Myrna Santiago keynote and ISTOR Special Issue Presentation

Seminario Enfoques de Politica Publica CIDE FLACSO


Right now, I’m sick at home, after a rather trying week where I flew into Vancouver, did fieldwork, conducted interviews, met up with UBC professors, colleagues, and coauthors, gave two talks, participated in one panel. All the while, flying back on the Thursday so I could teach my undergraduate and graduate classes on Friday and Saturday. Obviously, I’m completely wiped out, even though it’s a Monday now. The reality is that, despite my best efforts to always plan my life to the very last minute, there are always contingencies, one of the most important ones being – there’s always a Shiny New Project that appears in the horizons that you say “sure why not, this looks doable and like something I want to do“.


Learn your lesson through me. Although, in all fairness, we ALL sometimes face Shiny New Project Syndrome.

I took to Twitter to ask them how to deal with SNPS, and here are a few of the excellent responses I got.

I love Liz Gloyn’s concept of academic otters 🙂

One thing I liked about all the responses is how human we all are regarding new projects. We all try to be very systematic and stay with the main ones we’re working on and then… WHOA. Something new comes our way.

Overall, when it comes to Shiny New Project Syndrome, I try to just stick to my yearly, monthly and weekly plan, but I also have a folder of “Projects to Undertake“. I’ll write more about it in a different post.

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