When Can Shiny Object Syndrome be Helpful?

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Shiny object syndrome is when one continually chases new or trendy things.

I faced this phenomenon last year when I came across RemNote. RemNote was a relatively new piece of software that offers a new way of taking notes, outlining, and making flash cards that follow a spaced-repetition algorithm.

RemNote seemingly solved all problems I had with Anki, an old but trusty open source spaced-repetition flash card software.

One major issue I had with Anki is that it's difficult to get an overview of everything you are learning. Each flash card is atomic (unless specifically designed to be “overlapping” cards that test different sections of the same concept or idea). This atomic nature makes it difficult to see relationships between cards and get the bigger picture.

As I was saying, shiny new RemNote solved this major issue by allowing flash cards to be created from your notes and outlines. This allows faster production of cards (saving time), and clear overviews of the card's relationship to other things in the whole topic.

So for a brief period of my life, I religiously used RemNote for all of my learning needs. Shiny new tools like this give significant (temporary) motivation to use the tool to move towards your goals. In my case, for one semester, I was highly motivated to use it for writing class notes, making flash cards, and studying those flash cards. Every day. Just because it was shiny and new.

It's okay to switch apps, as long as you like the tool, you actually use it, it fits in your workflow, and it helps you be consistent in achieving your goals. The most important thing is that you are consistent with whatever you are using the tool for, whether planning, writing, studying, or some other endeavour.

The key is to minimize the time spent on switching and not try to design the perfect system before using it. The minor delight that comes with using a shiny new tool can motivate you to continue with your tasks and habits.


A likely outdated review of RemNote based on my experience using it in late 2020: I would not recommend using RemNote for "heavy study" purposes. Cards disappeared from the study queue upon syncing across different devices- a serious issue if one were to use it to study for exams. Perhaps it was too immature a software for heavy use back then. It may have improved now. I still use Anki today.

Slightly past self, drafting this note: I'm trying out a new app for tracking workouts (rather than just a clumsy spreadsheet in my note database), and it made the recording process quite pleasant.

Current self, updating this piece: I briefly fell for shiny new object syndrome again. Back to spreadsheets due to higher utility and convenience in my use case. The good thing is that I learned how to better organize and format the spreadsheet based on the app layout.


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