How to avoid shiny new toy syndrome

I’m always on the lookout for new tattoo ideas. And I was stopped dead in my tracks when I stumbled onto this tattoo on Twitter.

Someone was so moved by James Clear’s fantastic book Atomic Habits, that they permanently imprinted a reminder of their own latent potential on their wrists.

The permanence of this tattoo can be juxtaposed against something way more ephemeral: shiny new toy syndrome. We’ve all been there: downloading the hottest new app (ahem, Notion), buying an overpriced notebook, or investing $1,000 on a new iPad (with stylus, of course). The intentions are noble (be more productive! feel less stressed! earn more money!) yet the purchase inevitably ends up in the shiny new toy graveyard.

Now our tattooed friend doesn’t have this option. He (or she) is committed to Atomic Habits – for life. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that when it comes to habits, they’re going to be just fine. Because as many RadReaders (myself included) know, Atomic Habits works. It provides a blueprint for a system, not a shiny new toy.

And systems always outlast shiny toys.

A comprehensive survey of systems

Systems can be applied to all parts of our lives: fitness, productivity, learning, leadership, finances and knowledge management. And like the Atomic Habits tattoo, systems stick. Some other advantages of systems include:


  • Customization: Easy to tweak based on your personality, industry and tendencies.
  • Combinatorial: Multiple systems can be combined to suit your own complex needs.
  • Internalization: With time, the behaviors become internalized as habits.
  • Scaleability: As an end state, you find your maximum point of leverage.


Early in my career, I stumbled upon David Allen’s Getting Things Done (“GTD”) framework and I’ve adapted (and modified) this framework for nearly two decades. Hands down, it’s been one of the most impactful books of my life.

Here’s a list of other systems (most in the form of books or posts) that you can apply to your own lives and careers (and by no means is this a comprehensive list):

Productivity and Time Management Systems:



Networking and Relationships



Note-taking and knowledge management systems:


  • Building a Second Brain: RadReader Tiago Forte has built a world class system to organize your digital brain and all the content you consume. (Affiliate link)
  • Zettelkasten: A “slip-box” approach to combining ideas across everything you read (and forming the basis of Roam Research).
  • The Feynman Technique: This method focuses on distilling ideas to childlike simplicity to enforce retention.


Other Systems:



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