Breaking Free from ‘Shiny New Toy Syndrome’ in the Quest for Productivity

Cody McLain
2 min readDec 7, 2023

Hey there, fellow productivity seekers!

You know that rush of excitement when you stumble upon a shiny new productivity app or tool? It’s like Christmas morning for us productivity enthusiasts. I’ve been down that road more times than I can count. Each new app or system feels like the magic bullet that will finally solve all my productivity woes. As a long-time Todoist user, I’ve dabbled with Things 3, Amazing Marvin, TickTick — you name it. I’ve spent entire days transferring tasks, reorganizing projects, and convincing myself, “This is it! This is the game-changer.”

But then, like a sugar rush, the excitement fades. The novelty of the new tool wears off, and I’m back to square one. It’s the classic case of the ‘Shiny New Toy Syndrome’ — getting swept up in the allure of newness, only to realize it’s a fleeting distraction.

This phenomenon isn’t just me being whimsical. It’s rooted in our psychology — specifically, a concept called ‘Dopamine Stacking.’ Just like a fad diet, trying out a new app or system gives you a temporary high and a burst of motivation and energy. But here’s the thing: unlike fad diets, where you might regain weight, the productivity gains from a new system or tool are permanent. That work you’ve done? It’s done forever.

So, how do I tackle this? I realized the key is balance. Dopamine stacking — switching up my environment, trying a new to-do list, fasting in the morning, or even swapping coffee for tea — can be a powerful tool to break through periods of low motivation. But, and this is a big but, it should never replace the essentials like rest and recovery.

It’s not about being lazy; it’s about being smart. When my energy dips and I feel the lure of a new app, I remind myself: this is just a tool to re-energize. I do the minimum to get that motivation spike, then channel it back into productive output.

So, keep in mind that it’s all a part of the journey if you’re like me and constantly tempted by the newest app or productivity hack. Use these tools wisely to give yourself a boost, but always come back to your core habits and routines. After all, the true hero’s journey in productivity isn’t about the tools we use; it’s about the work we get done with them.

Stay productive, my friends!

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Cody McLain

Founder of $12m SupportNinja, Author of From Foster Care to Millionaire book, Host of MindHack.com Podcast