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How to Avoid Paralysis by Analysis

As a small business owner, you’re likely all too familiar with the feeling of analysis paralysis and all the mental energy that goes into worrying about making the wrong choice during the decision making process. So, what is analysis paralysis? How do we avoid paralysis with analysis? What decision making process is the best? Take a deep breath and let’s take a look…

What is analysis paralysis?

Analysis paralysis occurs when we focus too much on the details and nuances of a problem or potential solution. We become overwhelmed by all the information and options, and it leads us to feel paralyzed and unable to make any progress. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of our work tasks, but this can lead us down a rabbit hole where we never actually get anything done!

How does analysis paralysis occur?

Analysis paralysis occurs when decision makers get stuck in a cycle of overanalyzing a problem and/or potential solution which leads to bottle-necking and inaction out of fear of making the wrong decision or feeling pressure from outside sources (like family or coworkers). Additionally, when we have too much information to process, it can lead us to feel overwhelmed and unable to make a decision.

When faced with this type of pressure, it can be hard for people to move forward with their decisions. The feelings of stress and anxiety can lead them into a cycle of over-analyzing every single aspect of the issue at hand until they reach a point where they become completely paralyzed.

If this sounds like you, the good news is you’re not alone, and luckily there are strategies to help you beat analysis paralysis, for good!


Overcoming analysis paralysis 101

Overthinking kills productivity! In a nutshell, our marketing credo, “no paralysis through analysis” encompasses these simple steps:

  1. Gather data (internally or via outsourced marketing assistance)
  2. Create a strategy (keep it simple)
  3. Set deadlines and implement the strategy (execute internally or outsource)
  4. Adjust if needed once you review data and analyze results

You may also want to consider setting aside some designated “thinking time” each day where you can take a step back from your work and really evaluate its direction before continuing with your next task. Lastly, don’t forget to reward yourself for completing each task so that you stay motivated along the way!

More Practical Tips to Avoid Analysis Paralysis

Understanding and implementing a process is a critical antidote when it comes to improving your self confidence as a small business leader, and beating the quicksand that is the paradox of choice.

Here are some simple ways you can prevent analysis paralysis and more easily move through rational decision making.

Break down the problem

One way to ease yourself out of analysis paralysis is to break down the problem into smaller chunks so it’s easier to digest. By focusing on one piece at a time, you’re able to make progress without feeling overwhelmed by too many details all at once.

Simplify important decisions

Simplify, simplify, simplify! Many of us get bogged down and feel overwhelmed when faced with making a big decision. That’s totally normal, but to help you stop overanalyzing and to successfully overcome analysis paralysis it’s helpful to break larger decisions into smaller, more manageable goals and tasks.

This can be something that’s easily baked into day to day productivity and to-do lists. Psychologically, this helps create a sense of accomplishment and momentum that often has a domino effect on your thought process around other goals and decisions.

Clarify your goals

The first step toward making decisions — the kind you feel confident about — starts by understanding what it is you want to accomplish. To bring clarity to your next big decision, make sure you define your goals. The SMART methodology is often a good place to start. This helps make sure your goal is:

S — Specific

  • What do I need to do to accomplish this goal?

  • Who are the main drivers and owners of this goal?

  • What are the next steps to achieve this goal?

M— Measurable

  • What benchmarks or trackable data I use to measure my goal’s progress?

  • What indicator will let me know I’ve reached my goal?

A — Achievable

  • Is this goal reasonable?

  • Do I or my team have the skills and/or resources to realistically accomplish this goal?

R — Relevant

  • Is this goal in line with our overall objectives?

  • Is this the right time to tackle this goal?

  • Is it aligned with our mission, values, etc?

T — Time bound

  • When do I plan to accomplish this goal?

  • What can I (and my team) feasibly accomplish in the next week, month, 6 months, and year?

Identify ways to improve data collection

When it comes to making a major decision and having positive outcomes, you don’t want to go in blind. That’s where data comes into play. Without understanding all the moving pieces, it’s hard to make an informed decision and that’s often the root cause of analysis paralysis… the unknown. More data = a more informed decision.

To improve the strength of your data, and ultimately your decisive actions, make sure to:

  1. Create a consistent process for data collection and management (which includes assigning ownership to data tracking tasks).

  2. Understand the type of data that’s most impactful for your business, industry, and goals

  3. Identify key metrics and data sources (e.g. customer reviews, polls, social media monitoring, forms, etc.)

  4. Keep consistent tracking records.

  5. Audit and review best types of data tracking tools.

  6. Review and assess results.

Take small risks

Taking small risks can help push us outside our comfort zone and give us the confidence needed to make difficult decisions. If we learn how to handle small failures along the way, then it will be easier for us when we face bigger ones in the future.

Collaborate with trusted advisors

Getting advice from other people who have gone through similar situations as yours can help put your mind at ease about making tough choices or tackling challenging problems. Talking with others who understand what you’re going through is always helpful!

Trust your instincts

Lastly, trusting your own instincts is key when it comes time for making decisions—even if that means taking risks that may not work out perfectly in the end. Being able to trust yourself enough to move forward will ultimately be the difference between success and failure when facing life’s toughest challenges!

Final thoughts

Remember, there’s often no “best decision” or “perfect solution,” — and ultimately, sometimes failure is your friend. In fact, many successful business leaders have preached the importance of “failing faster and failing smarter” It’s easy to get locked into the idea of landing on a single possibility for success, but sometimes mistakes are the best way to learn that a specific route may not be the one for you.

Quick decisions aren’t always the answer either. While it can be important to listen to your gut reaction, don’t forget to review your goals and data and to touch base with other decision makers and colleagues.

With the right balance of assessment and action, making important decisions often becomes a lot easier.