Feeling overwhelmed? Kitchen Sink Syndrome might be to blame...

Is Kitchen Sink Syndrome Killing Your Productivity?

You’ve heard of Shiny Object Syndrome. Also known as SOS.

The tendency to get pulled off track when something new and exciting comes up. As you constantly change direction, you realize you never really get anywhere.

There’s a related syndrome I suffer from. Maybe you do, too. I’ve affectionately dubbed it Kitchen Sink Syndrome… KSS for short.

Shiny Object Syndrome’s More Annoying Cousin

With Shiny Object Syndrome, you’re always on to the next new and exciting thing before you’ve implemented the last new and exciting thing.

Kitchen Sink Syndrome is closely related. The main difference is when you move on to the next new and exciting thing, you keep trying to do the last thing, too.

Eventually, you have 18 big projects you’re trying to complete, 11 new very important skills you’re trying to learn, and 14 marketing methods you’re trying to use… oh, and don’t forget about the 26 good habits you’re trying to develop.

It is simply impossible to do all these things and do any of them well. You feel overwhelmed before you start. And like SOS, your headway on anything is non-existent.

It’s just with KSS, you’re failing at everything all at once, instead of failing at one thing at a time.

That’s harsh, I know. But, I speak from experience. If the only real failure is to not take meaningful action, both SOS and KSS are two sure ways to get there.

KSS is a bit worse than SOS, in my opinion, because it can actually tank a single project.

Let’s say you manage to kick your SOS, and you focus in on a single skill you’re trying to learn. If you haven’t addressed your KSS, here’s what will happen…

Instead of identifying a point of competency and working toward it through a series of exercises, reading, feedback, and trial and error, you’ll start adding more requirements to complete before you implement your new skill.

Why work through one program on email marketing, when you could work through three? Why just learn how to write a good email, when you could also learn everything about segmentation? Maybe you should also learn about different email service providers before you let anyone know you can write email messages…

Everything there — studying multiple courses, learning related areas — is good. But, if you try to do it all at once or insist you do it all before using what you’re learning, then you’re never going to actually execute.

If this sounds all-too-familiar, stick with me. I have a proven treatment for Kitchen Sink Syndrome.

But first, let’s look at how KSS develops in the first place.

Why the Tendency to Make Things Harder?

Kitchen Sink Syndrome stems from a combination of a lack of confidence and a lack of prioritization.

The lack of confidence component is pretty obvious. If you feel like you always need to take one more step before you’re ready, chances are you don’t believe in the value you have to offer. You’re probably worried about failing, about being rejected, about doing something that will make you look foolish, or about having a client say they’re disappointed in the results.

Fortunately, your belief in the value you have to offer isn’t a precursor for that value to exist.

You could be the best email writer in your industry. You might not believe it, but if you accept a project from a client and do a good job for them, they’re going to reap the benefits whether you believed you could do it or not.

The second component is an unwillingness to prioritize. This usually boils down to a need for approval. After all, if you choose to do everything, no one can tell you you’re overlooking something important.

But, if you choose to do everything, you’re also conceding that nothing is important.

So, What to Do?

How do you get over this tendency to keep adding layers to your projects… to take on too many things… to refuse to prioritize?

There’s a way to do it. And it works every time. It’s even really simple. But, it isn’t easy… because it will go against your natural tendency to complicate things.

Still, if you stick with it, the process gets easier the more you do it.

The first step is to recognize that courage comes before confidence. You don’t build confidence so you can do things. You do things, and then your confidence grows as a result.

Remind yourself daily that you’re going to be brave and you’re going to try new things, even if they make you nervous. That you’re going to take meaningful action, even if it results in rejection or a mistake.

The second step is to figure out the bare minimum you need to do to accomplish a goal.

Let’s say your goal is to launch a website.

If you have KSS, you’re going to make a list of core pages — what you really need to launch your website — and then you’re going to start adding things. You’ll need social media icons. That means you should update your profiles. You’ll want to have a blog — better get two months ahead before you launch, so you stay consistent. You’ll want an email subscription list. That’s got several components you’ll need to create. You’re going to want to use video — that’s another to-do list of its own.

On and on.

Go ahead and make that list. But then, ask yourself, “What is the absolute minimum I need to launch?” Use the honest answer to that question to make a much smaller list. All the other things can come later.

Step three is to embrace public action.

Have you ever written a letter, put it in an envelope and addressed it, only to have it sit on your desk for weeks, waiting for a stamp?

That last little action takes 15 seconds. But, it’s the action that takes all the previous work and makes it meaningful. It’s the step that takes the letter out of your control and puts it in front of someone else to be read, reacted to, even judged. Without the stamp, all the work you put into the letter doesn’t amount to anything more than practice. (Not that practice is a bad thing, but eventually you have to get in the game!)

Whatever it is you’re doing — planning a new website, learning a new skill, implementing a new marketing campaign — figure out what step you need to take to put your preparation in front of your intended audience. Complete your bare minimum list, and then take that final action — go public — as soon as possible.

That’s all there is to it. Like I said, it isn’t easy… because it doesn’t feel natural to work to a bare minimum, and then going public with your work can be scary.

But, if you start following this formula on your projects, you’ll find you bring more things to completion… which means you’ll get more feedback… which allows you to improve… which helps you bring even more things to completion.

Before you know it, you’ll be in a positive feedback loop that spells good things for your writing business.

Heather Robson

Heather Robson

Managing editor of Wealthy Web Writer, Heather has over ten years of content marketing and development experience.


  • Thank you Heather–you nailed my experience wanting to master a skill vs. creating a landing page for a website. How can I accomplish both?

  • Thank you for finally giving me a name for my biggest malady! Your discussion of it and the steps you recommend to address it are reassuring and spot on. It took me forever to figure out what I’m doing now that works vs. what I used to do that didn’t. You summed it up with your 3-step solution. Your article also helps me understand the mechanics at a more macro level. I’m not doing this with just one project. I tend to do this with all of them. (And of course, ‘all of them’ was likely originally the result of one of them, but which one was the original is a mystery for the universe!) I’ve been using hierarchical, collapsible electronic lists to combine steps 1 and 2, and the mantra “Imperfect is perfect” to launch step 3 each time I complete level one (minimum-to-done) activities.

  • Heather,

    OMG! What? I think you totally know me. 🙂

    Thank you for this article. I NOW know what I need to do to mover forward!!


  • After finally slaying the dragon SOS, and celebrating my victory, I anticipated my long-delayed success. And continued to “anticipate” it. . . still anticipating. . . until I read your article.

    Little did I know that a far more insidious dragon, KSS, continued to sabotage my efforts.

    I am forever indebted to you for identifying KSS and providing a strategy for defeating it.

    Off I go, armed for battle with the dragon, KSS and a plan for victory.

    Thank you!

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