Overcoming Analysis Paralysis

Posted by ImageWorks Creative Team June 10, 2020
Person works on computer and reviews analytics

Did you know you could spend up to half your workday managing information rather than using that info to do your job? There are tons of information streams available to you and it’s smart to use them to help guide your company’s decisions. Though, trying to find certainty in the uncertain can drive you straight into an information spiral. Getting stuck on a decision can cost you and your business valuable time, so how do you get over it?

Frozen with Fear in the Face of Facts: How to Get Out of Your Own Head

First, what is analysis paralysis? It’s a catchy way of saying you are frozen in the face of making a decision. It’s a form of anxiety and it is the psychological defense tactic of a perfectionist...or someone who just really doesn’t want to make the wrong choice. Overcoming analysis paralysis isn’t as easy as commanding ourselves not to think about it. Our brains have this neat trick where telling yourself not to think of a particular thing often increases the likelihood that you will. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help head-off analysis paralysis before it can strike.

Plan When You Plan

Don’t waste your best brain power on endlessly pouring over incoming data. Designate a portion of your day to determine your to do list, data analysis, and action. If you do your best work when you first sit down in the morning, then don’t waste that time making your to-do list. Also, setting deadlines for yourself - even arbitrary ones - helps cut down on time spent ruminating on the uncertain.

Establish an Expert

Analysis paralysis is often created when you don’t know which option is the best one. Sometimes the options really are 6 one way and a half-dozen the other. Getting an expert’s opinion gives you the nudge you may need to make a pick. We’ll let you in on a little secret, too: your expert doesn’t have to be a subject matter expert. It can just be someone on your team who has a good head on their shoulders and whose viewpoint you value.

Learn to De-Prioritize

Anxiety makes everything important. You can’t have 10+ first priorities, though. Work backwards and select which decision is the least important, something trivial or something tied to a far-off future date, and move it to the back burner. Repeat until you’ve slimmed down your list of decisions to what you well and truly can’t demote.

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

In addition to recognizing how important any given decision is, recognize when a given decision can’t or shouldn’t be your responsibility. Maybe it’s a high-level decision that could be handled by your expert, or it’s a low-level decision that you could pass on to someone else on your team. Delegation allows you to sidestep the worrying while still getting something in return: a decision.

Keep an Eye on the Prize

Like we said, anxiety makes everything important. When planning any sort of project, pick out the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that you want to track. Not only will this give a clearer picture of how successful you were, but also help you cut through the data clutter because you’ll know what to focus on.

The first step to overcoming analysis paralysis is the hardest, and that is to recognize when you’re overthinking. It’s an ongoing task to keep up. Though, once you’ve set up your support network from the steps above, you’ll be in the best possible place to stop overthinking its tracks. Few decisions in our lives are truly final, especially the ones you make in your day-to-day business. While it may sometimes be difficult, you can always pull a u-y and go another way. So, relax and tell analysis paralysis it isn't welcome in your workday.

By Jordan Latham

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