Analysis Paralysis
Harnessing Your Thoughts Into Action
I hate housework. I'm not ashamed to admit that. And one of the biggest reasons I hate it is because it never seems to end. You clean up one thing, it makes the bit next to it look dirty. So you clean that bit. Then the next bit. And by the time you get to the end, you have to start over.

Analysis paralysis is very similar. You start looking for data in order to make a decision. But then you think you need this next bit of data. And maybe you'd better check something else, and before you know it you're a long way down the rabbit hole, spinning in circles. Making a decision at that point seems impossible - you need more information!

The first step in conquering analysis paralysis is to know you have it. Once you've identified it, then you can do something about it. So let's take a look at how to do both those things.
What is Analysis Paralysis?

In some ways, it's easier to start with what it's NOT - and it's not procrastination! The two are often confused, but although the end result might be the same - not taking action - the reasons for being stuck are different.

With procrastination, you avoid moving forward. This is usually fear-based, and so you find things to do that give you the chance to put off making the decision you need to make. Scrolling mindlessly through social media feeds is a very popular option nowadays. Who can resist those cute cat videos?

Analysis paralysis, on the other hand, is where you have an overwhelming need to find out more information before you make a decision. So you research, and research some more, watch a video on the subject, ask questions, and the list goes on. Always searching for that elusive piece of information that will make the choice you need to make incredibly easy, never finding it, and so staying stuck.
Identifying Analysis Paralysis

Analysis paralysis often stems from a fear of making the wrong decision. In essence, wanting everything to be perfect before you make a choice. Which, of course, is never going to happen. Rabbit holes can be very, very deep! But if you find you're spinning in circles out of fear, you could well be bogged in analysis paralysis.

It can also occur when there are just too many options. I see this a lot with newbie developers, and it's often referred to as "shiny objectitis". The thought pattern goes a lot like this... "I want to be a developer, but then again a reno flip might be a simpler way to start, and of course commercial property can be a great way to get a foot in the market, but then again I want to replace my income so maybe I should look at cashflow options, and of course the share market..." I'm sure you get the idea. Once you get on that sort of merry-go-round, it's hard to get off again.

Of course, there are some people who just love the detail. They are perfectly willing to stay in the research stage forever, because that's the part they love. They're the reason the first four letters of analysis are ana... well, you get the picture!

Then there are the timid souls who check both ways multiple times before crossing the road to absolutely eliminate the risk of bumping into a chicken crossing in the other direction. They want to know that the decision they make is going to result in no risk whatsoever to them - which is of course impossible. They constantly gather information to alleviate risk rather than taking a risk and moving forward. They're experts at solving problems that don't even exist yet, and probably never will.

What To Do About It?

If you've identified that you're stuck in analysis paralysis then I have some good news - you can do something about it! Apologies to all the detail enthusiasts who probably think that's actually bad news.

First up, get clear about your outcome. If possible, break down your decision into a series of smaller, clearly defined decisions you can make, rather than lumping them all together into one really big and scary decision. Having clarity around each element makes it easier to be clear about what you need to find out in order to make the decision, making it less likely you'll get stuck in the weeds.
If risk is an issue for you, spend time working out what risks are involved, and find ways to manage them. Worried about tenants damaging your rental property and not having the money to fix it up again? You can get landlords' insurance. That's just one example of finding a way to manage your risk.

Sometimes it can also help to move from the details to the bigger picture. Doing that can shake you out of analysis paralysis and allow you to gain perspective again about what it is you need to do in order to move forward.

Having a coach or friend who can keep you accountable is also a good option. Knowing you have a call booked with your accountability partner is a great way to sharpen your focus and take action. Otherwise you'll have to explain why you're still in the same place you were last time you spoke, and nobody likes having that conversation.
Spend time working on the concept that you need to make progress, not achieve perfection. Each decision hopefully results in you getting closer to your goal, but it's not the decision itself that is good or bad - it's what takes place after the decision is made. So you don't need to make a "perfect" decision, you just need to make a reasonably well-informed decision that keeps you moving.

And finally, there are very few decisions in life that can't be reversed, altered, compensated for or in some way tweaked as time passes. So remind yourself that no matter what choices you make along the way, you can almost certainly adjust and fix the results if things don't turn out quite as well as you’d hoped. Better to pull yourself out of analysis paralysis, move forward far enough to see what your next decision needs to be, and start doing the work you need in order to make that decision. Rinse and repeat.

Analysis paralysis is very much a situation where you're stuck in the research stage, trying to answer the question "How do you eat an elephant?" The answer, of course, is one bite at a time. So get chewing and move onto the next mouthful.
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