Zain K.

Paralysis by Analysis. Don’t fall into the death trap

May 7, 2022

Being able to figure out how much time to dedicate to decision-making is a key skill in life. Often, at work, we are given deadlines that have to be met, and that puts us in an ‘easy’ position. For other areas of life, we don’t have the time-constraint privilege making it easy to fall into the never-ending analysis loop which puts us into paralysis on the action part.

Why do we fall into Paralysis by Analysis?

We, humans, are relative creatures. We don’t judge something by its absolute value but rather by its relative value. Thinking of going on a vacation? You will without a doubt compare the airfares from different airlines even if you are getting a steal deal from the first one you search for. Then, you will see and compare the options available for stay. You will always try to get the maximum value for your buck.

Is that wrong? No. That is indeed clever to do a comparative study and see the pros and cons of each. But when you don’t have a deadline to meet, your mind always tricks you into thinking that by searching further, you will unveil an even better option.

And sometimes we do. And because we do sometimes, we tend to believe that it might happen always and so we continue searching. And before we know it, we fall into the death trap- Paralysis by Analysis.

But… I don’t fall into Paralysis by Analysis

If you don’t, then you are an outlier. However, the chances are, that you aren’t able to differentiate when you reach the point of paralysis by analysis from when you are actually analyzing fruitfully.

Here’s a simple test to find out: Have you ever taken more than 15 minutes to decide what to watch next on Netflix? If yes, then you have indeed become its victim.

How to escape Paralysis by Analysis

  • Put artificial deadlines. Tight ones. Even when you don’t have a deadline, set one yourself. That will help you to avoid wasting time on diminishing returns. This is in line with the Parkinson’s law which states that work expands to fill the time allocated to it. Once a deadline is put in place (and honored), you will find your concentration is heightened and productivity is increased.
  • Aim for ‘Good enough’. Never aim for perfection. Perfection is the destroyer of consistency and consistency is utmost important to achieve anything great. Just aim for reaching a ‘good enough’ level and only once you reach that stage, see if it needs to be further improved or are you happy with the result. 99% of the time, you won’t find it worthwhile to improve it further, after all, you are aiming for maximum incremental returns.
  • Use Pomodoro technique. It’s an ancient technique that has aged really well with time. You laser focus your mind on a task for a short bust (say 30 minutes). Then you take a small 5-minute break and then do another short bust. It has two scientifically proven advantages: First, by breaking the task into smaller chunks, you are able to focus on short-term goals that are easier to achieve and gives a sense of accomplishment that acts as a positive reinforcer. Second, by taking regular breaks you divide the work session into more start-stop points and these points help us to retain and recall knowledge better. Wondering how? Here are more details on this.

The next time, you find yourself not able to decide which movie to watch next, set a timer for 5 minutes on your phone and see if it helps. If you are able to make a selection before the popcorn runs out, then this blog was indeed worth reading, wasn’t it?

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