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9 Tips to Kick ‘Paralysis by Analysis’ to the Curb

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9 Tips to Kick ‘Paralysis by Analysis’ to the Curb

ver felt that uncomfortable “stuck” feeling when you need to make an important decision in your shop—whether or not to hire a new press operator, whether to buy a new press or even to take on a new, large client? Most likely, you were contending with analysis paralysis. That’s when you can’t move forward because you have an extremely hard time making a decision.

Feeling stuck on a decision is a common state for lots of people, in their personal and professional lives, and especially for small business owners. Even when they have a lot of information to help them make a choice, they hesitate or stall out because they don’t want to make the wrong decision. Too much information can make it even more difficult to take action.

But don't worry, there are ways to overcome this problem. We'll explore practical strategies for breaking free from “analysis paralysis”, so you can make decisions with confidence and take meaningful action towards your goals.

What’s ‘Analysis Paralysis’?

The root cause of analysis paralysis is anxiety. Translation: You’re overly worried about making the wrong decision that can adversely affect your employees, shop or profits. Your brain is wired to make the “right decision” every time, even if there’s no clear “perfect solution.”

“So much of life—especially decision-making—is uncertain,” says Dr. Jenna DiLossi, a clinical presenter for Minding Your Mind, a nonprofit that provides mental health education in workplaces.

“It’s natural for humans to have some degree of difficulty tolerating this, especially when the stakes are objectively or subjectively high. Business owners put so much of themselves, their mental efforts, their finances and time. into their business. That’s why they perceive most business-related decisions as high stakes. This increases anxiety, which has the potential to create a mental analysis paralysis.”

If you’re an indecisive business owner, you may also be suffering from imposter syndrome. That’s when, despite your education or experience, you still doubt yourself as a business owner.

As a result, you feel that you need to be perfect, so making a major or minor decision can set off analysis paralysis. “The primary reason behind all this is anxiety, and within that broad umbrella, specifically intolerance of uncertainty,” DiLossi says.

9 Tips to Overcome Analysis Paralysis

Everyone experiences “analysis paralysis” at some point. If you’re overanalyzing an important decision or worrying inordinately about making the wrong decision, check out these smart tactics, from the experts about making decisions more quickly and confidently.

1. Start with your “why” and clarify your goal.

Sometimes the decision presented is something related to hiring. For example, should we hire a new machine operator, or your first sales rep? If you step back and think about what you want to accomplish with the new hire, that will make it much clearer as to whether you should bring on another team member.

“A lack of clarity about your purpose can really throw a wrench in decision-making. It’s like trying to choose a flavor of ice cream when you're standing in front of a giant freezer filled with a million flavors! Your focus is pulled in a million different directions. By gaining clarity about your vision and purpose, you get out of that maze.”
Ira Wolfe, president and chief Googlization officer at Success Performance Solutions

2. Consider using a decision-making framework or matrix.

Surprisingly, an entire framework for making decisions actually exists. Adhering to a structured approach can alleviate some of the mental burden involved in making significant choices.

“To create a decision-making matrix, start by listing your priorities down the left-hand side of a piece of paper,” Wolfe says. “Then, across the top, list your options, and the benefits and risks associated with each. Finally, assign a weight or score to each priority based on its importance to you. Once you've filled in the matrix, add up the scores for each option. This will help you compare each option based on your priorities and make a more informed decision.”

3. Give yourself a “deadline” to make your decision.

This doesn’t have to be hard and fast. However, if you don’t give yourself some type of timeline, you’ll probably keep avoiding making a choice. Then, you’ll never make a decision or take an important action.

4. Narrow down your data and options early.

Just like giving your customer 25 hoodie choices will result in analysis paralysis, overwhelming yourself with 10 screen-printing press choices or 30 job candidates will have the same effect. It’s a good idea to ask your team to give you pertinent information or to narrow down your choices, so that you can spend your time evaluating fewer, but better options.

“Evaluate your options in light of your original purpose or why,” Wolfe says. “Using this guide, you can weigh the pros and cons of each option and make a more informed decision.”

5. Ask your team for input.

As we mentioned above, you shouldn’t make decisions alone. Many times, your team will have expertise and knowledge to bring another insight to your decision-making.

“Radically accept that you don’t and won’t know everything. Lean into this idea and learn to be comfortable with consulting with other people who know more than you.”
- Dr. Jenna DiLossi,
a clinical presenter for Minding Your Mind

On the flip side, be aware of the difference between researching vs. consulting with others just to seek reassurance. “The latter involves repeatedly checking the same information or asking others if your decision was OK or which option they think you should choose,” DiLossi says. “Reassurance-seeking maintains anxiety, which is more likely to worsen decision paralysis.”

6. Practice making decisions faster.

If you’re one of those people “who takes forever to decide what to have for lunch,” just take a small leap by making low stakes decisions faster. You’ll pave the way to feeling better about making bigger decisions more quickly.

7. Accept that there’s no de facto “perfect decision.”

As a business owner, you can’t focus and fear failure. Everything’s a learning opportunity on the way to success.

“Practice self-compassion for your limitations or any mistakes you make. This is taking the stance of how you’d talk to a friend or loved one.”
- Dr. Jenna DiLossi,
a clinical presenter for Minding Your Mind

8. Don’t ignore your gut feelings.

If you’ve made a decision after you’ve looked at the data and the options, don’t start second guessing yourself.

“Make decisions based primarily on the facts, but with a splash of your gut. We shouldn’t ignore hunches or emotions entirely,  but know that focusing too much on how XYZ decision ‘feels’ or outcomes that we ‘feel might happen’ will both further paralysis and blur your ability to make a sound decision.”
- Dr. Jenna DiLossi, a clinical presenter for Minding Your Mind

9. Use technology and tools when you can.

By using the power of automation systems and data visualization tools, you can eliminate irrelevant data and focus solely on the core of the issue, reducing the time and effort required to analyze and solve complex problems.

Remember, too much data and too little data can both cause analysis paralysis. Narrow down the information you need or accept that you may simply not have enough data to make an informed decision. In that case, you try to weigh outcomes and make the right decision at that moment, if you won’t have more info available in the near future.

Start Making Confident Decisions

The fear of making mistakes can be paralyzing and a real barrier to your personal and professional growth. However, with the right mindset and approach, you can overcome analysis paralysis in your print shop.

Taking action is the key to success, and it’s better to try and “fail,” than to never try at all. Don’t let analysis paralysis hold you back from achieving your goals. Start taking the small steps our experts recommend toward your goals today—and break free from the cycle of overthinking and inaction.

Apr 9, 2023