Analysis Paralysis

This first sentence took me 20 minutes to write, no seriously.  Does this ever happen to you?  How about the term paper (project) that you spend 8 hours doing, but actual typing time is less than a hour?  Why does this happen and what can we do to avoid ANALYSIS PARALYSIS.

For the sake of this blog post, we are looking at analysis paralysis through the lens of a project.  It can be any kind of project including a term paper, a home remodel, or something at work.  The initial parts of all these projects are the ones that give most people the most issues.  So how do we avoid them?

1.  Set the timer

Have a pre-defined amont of time  you will spend on gathering the data you need to do your project.  Once that time is up, it is time to start doing.  No matter how much of an expert you become, there will always be details that you will not be able to know, it is just time to accept that.  This will also help your organize what is really important, and what is not.

2.  Grab a template 

Have a template that you have had past success with and continue to use it.  I do a lot of ad-hoc projects covering many different topics.  I have found that if I use the same format/template for my memos, I can more quickly organize my thoughts.  For example, my typical writing will be organized in this order: top 3 takeaways, background, analysis, conclusion.  Sure there will be differences between different work, but having a template allows you to focus in on the important areas.

3. Stick to the basics and trust your gut 

As I have written in a lot of my comments for these blogs, I am a firm believer that simpler is almost always better.  When people try to make things overly complicated or difficult, it takes them out of their comfort zones, and ultimately could lead to failure.  Gut feelings are typically right, no really.  Famed scientist Gerd Gigerenzer has written “intuition, it seems, is not some sort of mystical chemical reaction but a neurologically based behavior that evolved to ensure that we humans respond quickly when faced with a dilemma.”

4. Let your team help

We have talked about this in class over and over, but it is important to mention again.  When working in a team, utilize all members.  This could significantly reduce analysis paralysis.

5. Take the leap

Just go for it, every project is going to have issues.  Accepting this fact, and understanding contingency plans ahead of time will make taking the leap much easier.


These different steps will help limit the time it takes to get a projects rolling and avoid the trap of analysis paralysis.




10 thoughts on “Analysis Paralysis

  1. Love it. Anything to get things moving is fine by me. But it can be a delicate balance between devising a plan to effectively create a project plan and forcing something that isn’t really there. My chosen method of action in situations such as these is to just start – but start with a purpose. Meaning, I will do things like mind mappings, checklists or even start planning items without having an idea of how they will all fit together. I guess one might say that I will spend a majority of my time in the #5 step above – I perhaps leap too much.

    #4 is a very appreciated, and I fell underutilized, step. It is amazing that amount of ideas that will appear when simply brainstorming with others.

  2. I can see the benefits of setting a timer. The adage of “measure twice and cut once” is wise, but if you find yourself measuring 10 times before taking action you are wasting time. Using a template when working on projects saves quite a bit of time; the specifics change but the template can remain the same. Simpler is better when it comes to projects, especially when you consider the need to communicate the project objectives and plans to others. In order to let your team help, they need to be able to understand. At some point, you have to take action. Following the steps you outlined in your post will likely help the team to start producing sooner.

  3. Great post Mark. As I read your post I recognized myself in 4 of the 5 contributors to paralysis. Do I need a 12-step program to fix my problem? It’s easy to get lost in research especially if you think there is some great nugget of information out there somewhere. Who needs a template when you can creat something new and interesting? I logically understand how simple is better, but my gut keeps telling me it has to be more complex. And of course letting others help me…never my first choice. I only ask for help when I know the effort is doomed wihtout it. Thanks for the reminder to take the leap and avoid the paralysis traps.

  4. I like how your define Analysis Paralysis. I do a fair amount of procrastinating but I think in many cases it may be paralysis. I notice when I start a paper or a project and I do not have a hard deadline, I will go over and over the same concept making sure it is perfect. I almost never finish the task in one setting and it takes twice as long. In contrast when I have something due and the pressure is on, I can get it done quickly. I like #5. I think many of us get caught up in perfectionism or fear of something not turning out as planned. Getting started is sometimes the most difficult step.

  5. I too suffer from Analysis Paralysis. Usually, while I’m taking a break in the Procrastination Station. See what I did there? Anyways, I think the fifth step, Take the Leap, might be the most helpful. Whether you’ve been procrastinating until crunch time, or you’re actually getting a good jump on something, I feel it’s best to just dive into the work head first. We’ve all made it this far for a reason, so there’s no reason to think we can’t swim this time.

  6. These are helpful tips. I do not usually suffer from Analysis Paralysis because, whether it is a paper or project, I force myself to put something down on paper. I just make sure it is related to my topic and overall thought provoking. It is the equivalent of taking a leap. Once I have a good start, I can usually crank out the whole thing.

  7. As I re-read these tips, I automatically think this is common sense yet analysis paralysis occurs all the time. When you have too many writing assignments all at once, regardless if they are on different topics, analysis paralysis occurs the most. I think the only step I would have a problem with is letting your team help. There are times when your group is beyond helpful and other times when nothing seems to get done. Ideas should be free flowing and I think these tips allow that to happen.

  8. To me it doesn’t seem like you have too much “paralysis” as you were able to create a guide to accomplishing your goals, which takes reflection and analysis. I believe everyone has their own way analyzing research and then are able to create the paper or project that they want, (proofreading and revising only makes these things better because when someone else says they can understand the points you are trying to communicate your project, paper etc. it becomes naturally more persuasive). For me starting with a goal in mind is what drives my analysis. I want to prove something so i do the research and then verify; is what i wanted to prove there as i expected it or is it the other way around. And that way i end up with an analysis that proves something or disproves something.

  9. Great post! I could relate to this because analysis paralysis happens to me all the time. Every paper and project takes me a long time to start flowing. Step one is to set the timer. It seems like a crucial part in avoiding analysis paralysis because having a plan will help you organize your thoughts. It will also keep you from spending too much time planning and more time working. Step two is to grab a template that you’re familiar with. That’s a great idea because you are more confident in your work when working with a template you know. Step three is to stick to the basics and trust your gut. Having simpler work not only makes it easier on your audience but it helps avoid failure. Step four is letting your team help. More people working on an assignment help analysis paralysis because more ideas are presented. The last step is to take the leap, accept there may be issues, plan and take the leap. I find your tips helpful especially tip number one. I find that I spend too much time at beginning of a project.By setting the timer I’ll be able to brainstorm and plan in a reasonable amount of time making writing easier.

  10. After reading your post I must say I feel enlightened. This is a great process for getting over that “Analysis Paralysis.” I just started a project in a class and we have to get over the analysis hump of planning and getting the project started. This is a great tool I can use to help my team get over the hump quicker. I have always been a perfectionist and want to know everything I can to make the best decision and I know you are right when you say “No matter how much of an expert you become, there will always be details that you will not be able to know, it is just time to accept that.” I so agree with you and I have been working on that personally to try and be more productive in work and school. Personally, I would like to add that I think the first point is probably the most important because once you cross realize you can’t know everything you are more comfortable with getting started and relying what you do know versus worrying about what you don’t. I will be saving this post for future reference as well as the links because they are very interesting and informative.

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