I am a thinker. An idea person. Maybe some would call me a day dreamer. I like to ponder the possibilities and simmer on the execution and outcome. It's part of who I am. But, when I have an upcoming project, a longstanding goal, or even sometimes just a small task, I can get stuck overthinking in the mode I like to call “analysis paralysis.”
I will research endlessly and then think of what I am working toward, playing out every contingency, every pitfall, every detail, until I'm consumed with thoughts and possible plans that I become incapable of action. As a result, absolutely nothing gets done. Eventually, those bright ideas and creative projects will just fizzle out, and I will have nothing to show for it but lost time and regret.
Ever found yourself stuck in a similar pattern?
Here are five ways to move past analysis paralysis:
Get an Accountability Partner.
Choose a trusted friend, family member or colleague to hold you accountable for some tangible progress. It's harder to let your mind wander over ALL the possibilities when you know your pal is going to be asking you for some proof of action. You can bounce ideas off of them or even voice your concerns, but the bottom line is they have to be strict about REQUIRING some sort of progress from you.
Create a Timeline and Set Deadlines for Yourself.
Everyone has a method to their madness. If you need to research your project, set up a special Pinterest board, map out contingencies, gather your supplies, etc. when undertaking a task, then create a realistic timeline for each step with deadlines. And be honest with yourself. If you know you will waste a week pinning stuff on Pinterest, only give yourself one day to do that. Advance to “ninja mode” by sharing your timeline with your accountability partner so they can hold you to the deadlines you’ve set.
Accept That Perfection Comes as a Function of Action.
I think my biggest obstacle when starting a project is my need to have everything perfectly planned out before I begin. I want all the details sewn up on the front end so I can go ahead and smoothly execute my perfect project. Inevitably, I won’t have the solution for some small, unimportant facet of the project, and everything will come to screeching halt.
The problem with proper pre-planning is successful endeavors don’t work that way. Most people learn valuable lessons AFTER THEY START that leads them to make corrections in their approach. And while there is nothing wrong with planning, if you decide not to proceed because every detail doesn’t seem perfectly in place, that’s foolish.
The fact is even if you did have every single detail nailed down, there is sure to be an unexpected obstacle, difficult person, resource challenge or some other unknown that will force you to switch gears in a direction you hadn’t imagined. The things we see when we admire other people’s “perfect” outcome was achieved after they just went for it, started DOING and made mistakes, and adjustments along the way.
Recognize that You Can Change Your Mind.
When simmering in analysis paralysis, I will usually get stuck on a loop of questioning that sounds something like this:
- What if I do this and discover it is a horrible mistake?
- Or realize I am in way over my head?
- Or that ultimately, I do not even enjoy doing this task anymore?
In these instances, I usually convince myself that more research and thought must be in order, and around and around the mulberry bush we go. The truth of the matter is, once I take action on my goal or project, if I decide it is not for me, or that I need help, or that I don’t enjoy it, there isn’t any law out there that says I must continue indefinitely. We CAN change our minds. The world is FULL of wildly successful and happy people who changed their minds and took an entirely different path than the one they started out on.
Identify Analysis Paralysis for What It Really Is: Fear.
When I am stuck in the paralysis analysis loop, I have to be real with myself and determine the cause of the behavior. We engage in this behavior because of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of looking silly or crazy. Fear of success, even. That game of endless research, planning and over-analysis are really a procrastination technique used to avoid facing the fear of the unknown. I like Eleanor Roosevelt’s take on it. She said “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” So, for me, I allow myself to feel the fear and move forward with action anyway.
So, what project or dream have you been stuck analyzing? Do you have great idea boards on Pinterest geared toward your goal, but no real action? Employ some of these tricks and take action! “Look fear in the face” and bring your unique blend of something to the world!
Have you struggled with analysis paralysis before? What did you do to stop analyzing and move forward? What was the outcome?
Christy Schutz is a communications professional and freelance writer focused on topics like employer/personal branding, career management, personal development, women in the workplace, and female entrepreneurs. She enjoys putting 16+ years of experience in the advertising, recruitment marketing, employee/internal communications and special events industries to good use by helping others to discover, develop and market their own distinct calling or mission. This Tampa Bay, FL-based Mom also keeps herself busy by raising 4 kids, caring for her husband & doting on her dogs Petey and Daisy!