Have you ever heard the term Paralysis by Analysis? It was a term introduced to me early in my career as a public accountant.
I believe it goes back to my college days. We learned that every question had one right answer, and that answer was specific and exact, especially in my accounting classes. If the answer was $123.69 then that was the only correct answer. Any answer other than $123.69 was incorrect and marked wrong on the test. It was a hard lesson for me to learn.
I’ll never forget assembling the greatest, handwritten spreadsheet showing a client's ledger was off exactly $216.00 more than $3 million dollars in investments. I can remember the partner at the firm calling me into his office. I just knew he was calling me in to congratulate me on the greatest spreadsheet that he had ever come across. Needless to say, he was less than impressed. He scolded me for wasting my time, his time and most importantly, “How can I bill the client $1,000 to tell them their investment income was off by $216.00.” Then and there is when I realized that everything isn’t exact in business, and the term Paralysis by Analysis is real.
Definition: Paralysis by Analysis is popular business jargon for a situation where a person or an organization keeps reworking or refining analysis, calculations or computations, thereby making the decision-making process lengthy or more protracted than is necessary.
Accordingly, Paralysis by Analysis also refers to a scenario in which extended analyses are symptomatic of perfectionism, chronic indecision or fear of failure.
Overthinking Will Hold You Back
With the advancement of technology, the Internet and the vast amount of data at our disposal, Paralysis by Analysis continues to be an issue. Excessive analysis can even be counterproductive in organizations. LexisNexis shows that, on average, employees in certain jobs spend more than half their workdays receiving and managing information rather than using it to make productive decisions in the organization.
Overthinking decisions can hold you and your organization back. Paralysis by Analysis affects you in more ways than just lost productivity and lost time. It lowers your performance on mentally demanding tasks, kills creativity, eats up your willpower, and makes you less happy.
7 Tips for Overcoming Paralysis By Analysis
Remember that the decision to not make a decision is actually a decision. Instead of wasting your time and causing anxiety over indecision, take the information and resources you have and just decide. If you find yourself suffering from Paralysis by Analysis, try these seven tips found in Laura Stack’s book, Execution is the Strategy.
1. Reject Perfectionism
2. Accept the possibility of failure
3. The simplest solution is probably the best
4. Follow your core values
5. Focus on getting started
6. Establish milestones and a drop dead deadline
7. Listen to both head and heart
There are big decisions, and the bigger decisions need more analysis. Most decisions come down to a few alternatives. When you find yourself stuck, take a step back and weigh the consequences if you don’t make the optimal decision. If it is not a big deal or if it might cause you to rework some of your completed tasks, then lessen the energy and the anxiety between the alternative decisions.
It’s also important to understand the cost of not choosing the optimal decision and limit the amount of time and anxiety in your analysis. Ask yourself what is the impact of your decision. Different impacts will demand different levels of anxiety and angst.
Now “just do it.” Make a decision!
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