The Cure for Analysis Paralysis

image of young woman thinking

You try to kick someone under the table and your leg stays as inert as the table’s leg. Your toes are unwiggleable. Your eyebrow won’t arch wryly in disdain.

You want to make something happen, but that desire isn’t translating into movement. Your muscles don’t obey the signals from your brain.

That’s paralysis.

Analysis is pretty much the same thing.

You analyze your business all the time. You decide that it would be smart to start an email campaign, or change the direction for your blog posts. You decide whether to run a promotion for your consulting business or launch an information product.

You’re thinking about something happening.

But you’re not making it happen.

When analysis paralysis is beneficial

It turns out that sometimes it’s good to be paralyzed.

Every night, when you go to sleep and drop deep into that REM state that lets you wake up all refreshed in the morning, you are, medically speaking, paralyzed.

This is a good thing. When you get tired, your ability to act is impaired. You’re more likely to get lost, to drive poorly, to call the ex you swore you’d never speak to again.

Get paralyzed by sleep for a couple of hours, and suddenly everything improves. When your spouse throws the car keys at you a little too hard because they haven’t forgiven you for calling your ex last night, you catch them effortlessly with catlike reflexes.

Analysis can be like this.

Sometimes we have too much going on in our businesses. It can help to take a moment to stop everything and hold completely still, moving nothing but our brains, just thinking about the problem.

We don’t have to take action yet. We don’t have to move a muscle. We just have to think about what we’ll do when we’re ready to move.

Analysis can be a refreshing pause for our brains.

It can also be a serious problem.

When analysis paralysis Is detrimental

The kind of paralysis you experience in REM state every night is good for you. You probably didn’t even know you were paralyzed.

(If you weren’t freaking out about it before, don’t start now. Whatever you do, don’t think about the xkcd comic that points out that dreaming means going comatose, hallucinating vividly, and then suffering amnesia. Adding paralysis to that list doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?)

It’s okay for your legs (and the rest of you) to be paralyzed for a couple hours a night. If it goes on for more than a day, though, you’re going to start to be pretty concerned about some of the logistics.

Analysis can be like this, too.

When you’ve taken the time to hold still and analyze your business for a couple of hours — even a full working day — before you take action, that’s perfectly healthy. It has probably improved your ability to move forward confidently and with good judgment.

If you find yourself analyzing for weeks or months at a time without moving, it’s time to be concerned.

How to cure analysis paralysis

To cure real paralysis, you generally need the sort of miracle doctor featured prominently in many a popular medical drama, but not so prominently in real-life hospitals.

To cure analysis paralysis, though, you just need to check out the recent Third Tribe seminar featuring Sonia Simone and Chris Garrett, where they talk about how to take action on that product launch you’ve been meaning to do, thinking about, analyzing, and never doing.

You’ll learn:

  • The product development technique that kills paralysis, moves you to a fast launch, and creates great value for your customers
  • Why “thinking big” can stop you dead in your tracks, and how to get moving again
  • How to use your own “weaknesses” as strengths that move you forward
  • What to do if you don’t have thick skin (and how it can work to your benefit)
  • How to create products that move your customers farther and faster toward their goals.

While you’re listening, you’ll find yourself analyzing how to use these techniques in your business. You may also find yourself lulled into a soporific state of bliss, because Sonia’s voice is extremely soothing. And that’s okay.

To make sure you don’t get stuck there, though, there’s a Next Action worksheet to help you move forward. Use it. Make your business stronger through movement.

Otherwise, I’d have to explain what “atrophy” means. And no one wants that.

About the Author: Taylor Lindstrom is a freelance copywriter and the new Assistant Editor for Copyblogger. This is her first Copyblogger post.

P.S.

To snag Chris and Sonia’s interview, and instant access to 15 more cutting-edge seminars that will move your business forward (with new seminars added every month), join the Third Tribe today.

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Comments

  1. This is a great post because it touches on an issue that is SO universal for bloggers, online business people and entrepreneurs of every kind.

    In my experience, it’s the “thinking big” that really gets people stuck. Part of that is to do with Fear.

    We’ve been trained to believe that we must have huge goals, but very often people just end up planning so big they get crippled by fear of the enormity of their goal.

    Then.. analysis paralysis strikes!

  2. @Taylor: It’s awesome that you are part of the Copyblogger team now. Congrats.

  3. Hi,

    The analysis of paralysis. The state of being in ‘thinking’ mode and not ‘doing’ mode.

    I knew what it was, but I never knew it was good to a certain point too!

    So thanks for pointing that out!

    Kindest,
    Nabeel

  4. Agree completely: sometimes you can’t just sit and stay on the pot. (or you could use a more colorful version of this phrase…)

  5. Sometimes the situation is more of an option paralysis than an analysis paralysis. Businesspeople are notorious for having long lists of ideas they’d like to work on – I know plenty of people that keep a list just like that.

    And it just gets longer.

    And they don’t work on it.

    Why not? In most cases, it’s “what would be best? Which should I chose?” And without being able to see in the future or know instinctively the right choice, they end up choosing nothing at all.

    It’s like that jam experiement a company once ran – 27 or so flavors of jam, and sales were okayish. They chopped the selection down substantially to something like 12, and sales rocked.

    With less options, no paralysis :)

  6. You see the beautiful girl… Thinking of approaching her… and you freeze up. You’re paralyzed. You’ve already lost!

    Get your act together! Step up to the plate!

  7. great article Taylor! Apple & Nike help to sum it up: “think different & just do it!”

  8. Hey Taylor,

    It is fine to sit back one day and just think about your business. However, if you don’t get up from that state you’ll get stuck in thinking mode. When this happens you are in limbo world…Nothing happens!

  9. Hi Taylor,

    Great article. I think “Analysis Paralysis” is something that we are all guilty of at some point or other. I know I’ve been guilty of spending far too much time reading, learning and analyzing and far too little time actually doing – reading, learning and analyzing (whilst important) aren’t going to get you very far until you actually DO something.

    I like that you pointed out that “Analysis Paralysis” can sometimes be a good thing though – who’d have thought?

    Keith

  10. Hey Taylor,

    Welcome aboard! The next step to combat the good ol’ A.P. is to START.

    There is a reason that software has version numbers. There is a reason that new car models come out every year. There is a reason that books come out in “new editions.” They didn’t get it perfect the first time.

    That is what strikes many budding entrepreneurs with fear, keeping them from doing ANYTHING. Just get out there, get started and know that you are going to screw up just like everyone else.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  11. Cool little post with a good metaphor between dreaming and analyzing. I look forward to seeing more from you. :D

  12. James has me nailed: options paralysis.

    Which of my 101 projects shall I work on today? And for how long?

    I’ve developed a system that helps: work on the stuff that’s fun & makes money. Don’t work on anything (if possible).

  13. @Dave – You’re in good company, I nailed myself as well ;)

    You have the right of it, though: working on what helps you reach your goals. If it doesn’t get you even a step closer towards that goal, it’s not worth working on, I think.

  14. I’m right there with James and Dave on this one. I’m very good at getting in there and getting things done. The problem is getting the right things done at the right time.

    I have a system of how I need to do things to achieve my goals, but as the goals change from time to time, I tend to get a little off track for a while until someone smacks me upside the head :-)

    It’s always good to have a head smacker around.

  15. Well, this’ll teach me for traveling to the West Coast on the week Sonia decides it’s time for me to put on my big girl pants. It’s eight o’clock in the morning and people have been saying nice things about me for two hours. AND I HAVE BEEN PARALYZED.

    By sleep. Not fear. It’s all good.

    Thanks for the warm welcome, everyone. I know it’s not customary for the writers to answer every single comment, but it’s my first day, which means it’s a special day. And I’m no longer paralyzed, which is cause for a celebration right there.

    @Peter – This is one of my biggest problems. I have a friend who very helpfully notices when I’m freaking out, comes up behind me and mutters in my ear, “Here and now, Taylor. Here and now.” It’s a reminder that I don’t have to freak out about all the things that will happen as a result of the current action, I just have to freak out about the current action. And the current action is usually not freak-out-worthy. It’s only when you start saying “And then, and then” that it becomes so.

    @Shane – I think so too. Thank you, so much.

    @Nabeel – Most things are good in small doses and bad in big ones. Aspirin, for example. Fire. Britney Spears.

    @Mark – You want me to use something more colorful than scatalogical jokes? Sir! This is a family show. I’m pretty sure. Sonia, this is a family show, right?

    @James – I think it’s probably just a semantic difference there. Having too many options and trying to figure out which to choose – well, that’s analyzing your options, isn’t it? In both cases, it’s simply thinking too much and not acting enough. There are thousands of versions of that jam study, and it cracks me up every time. You should write about that. It’d be a great post.

    @Bamboo Forest – Poor beautiful girl. She’s like Medusa. Turnin’ all the boys to stone.

    @Daniel – Thanks, Daniel.

    @Josh – Someone once said that limbo is the real hell. Or you could take Bob Dylan’s version – that limbo is going from nowhere to nowhere. Either way, not good.

    @Keith – Thank you. I actually most often have the problem that I don’t even start analyzing. Analyzing requires research and planning. I am much more capable in the skills of procrastination and chip-eating.

    @Joshua – Thank you, and amen.

    @MaLinda – Thanks, Melinda. I look forward to it too. So, I’m sure, does Sonia. “Where’s your next post?” “Um. My dog ate it?”

    @Dave – Right, but as I said to James, analyzing one’s options is still . . . analyzing. Which, I grant you, is quite annoying. Getting to a place where everything in your business is fun probably helps quite a lot.

    @Andy – That’s the position I actually wanted at Copyblogger. Official Head Smacker. Brian vetoed it, though. I can’t imagine why.

  16. What a perfect big girl pants post…big smiles for joining Beatrix here.. Great news! :D

  17. Hi Taylor

    I tend to only call the EX when I am really really drunk ha ha.

    Thanks for the link, I am going to check it out now, because god knows I get analysis paralysis all the time.

    Cool post, it’s nice to know I am not alone, Sally :)

  18. @Janice, it always makes me so happy to see you here. :)

    @James & Dave, oh yeah, me too. Plus, it’s so much more comfortable for me to sit down and plan out mind maps and next action plans and 47-step processes for all the lovely bright shiny objects than it is to work on the &$%# next thing for what I’m actually doing now. Chris & I talk a good bit about that in the seminar, because we both definitely fall prey.

  19. Taylor

    I am suffering this right now…instead of finishing my blogs for this week I am reading and reading to get inspired. Your article came at the right time.

    Maybe a little jolt of caffeine will help the analysis…

    Denise

  20. For me, it’s not just the analysis that keeps me from “getting it done,” it’s my obsession with perfection. Only recently have I been able to just let go of a piece of copy (blog post, etc.) without tinkering with it endlessly.

  21. I often find myself either engulfed in paralysis mode, or completely immersing myself in work. Either way, it’s good to be able to do both, but a little bit of each quality at the same time would probably be best.

  22. Welcome Taylor. :-)

  23. Awesome topic and great first post, Taylor. :) I think what resonates most for me is that all these amazing people all have the same problem. It’s interesting to find that we all just want to make the “right” decision, however, often it stumps us from making any decision at all. It’s nice to see it talked about so openly. I think it makes it that much easier for other people to make a positive change.

  24. The most awesome feeling in the world is when you’ve been stuck analyzing an idea for what seems like forever

    you freeze

    then suddenly, it clicks!

    It’s as though you didn’t spend any time at all contemplating how everything works together. It becomes effortless. Ideas come pouring out of you like water.

    In other words, it’s good to relax

    Great post!

  25. I agree, there’s nothing more intimidating than approaching a confusing collection of facts and data.

  26. Perfect time for this post Taylor.

    Analysis has a cousin I know well, overwhelm.
    Not surprising when the info on these blogs is all so damn good. Cutting a path through gourmet without stopping can be hard.. but you do get better products with gourmet ingredients.
    better skip straight over to the link and start cooking!.

  27. great post and good to know that what I’m going through now, tossing up product launch and direction of blog, and taking a step back from both to really think about it, is probably a really good thing!
    cheers

  28. This is an awesome post Taylor. You SHOULD be proud. The way you put this phenomenon into perspective with the entire creative process was very astute. I look forward to reading more contributions from you.

    Joshua I agree with you completely. Waiting until your offering is perfect before taking it to market is like waiting until all of the lights are green before leaving on long journey.

    No matter how well you know this it can’t be restated enough.

    Thanks!

  29. You have an excellent point, and I sometimes find myself saying “What am I supposed to be doing now?” or “Why am I spending my time on this?”. When you blog and/or work from home and there is no boss telling you what is next on your agenda, it can get a bit confusing.

    When this happens to me, if it’s late in the day, I just walk away. If it is in the middle of the day, I take a deep breath and go back to basics. I ask myself “What am I trying to accomplish here? What is my goal?” Once I am clear on that, I move on to writing down the steps I need to take to accomplish, or at least move closer to my goal. Then I’m back on track.

    Or, to be more proactive, you could do this exercise at the beginning of the day and avoid the whole paralysis thing. :)

  30. Taylor! I’m def going to check out the seminar. There’s a fine line between evaluating and over analyzing, so I’m really curious to hear what they have to say. Thanks for the heads up. And, congratulations on your new gig! I will look forward to future posts!

    Amy

  31. Read this at just the right time! Thanks for reminding me to make a start instead of just thinking about it.

  32. The best quote I ever read about analysis paralysis is in the context of child education:

    “When you are deciding which of two books your child should read another child has read them both.”

  33. Good stuff! One thing that I’ve learned, but still find hard to always put into practice is to just stop. When all the tasks and ideas in my mind have piled up into a huge mountain, I need to just stop everything and focus on one thing, big or small, and knock it out. Thanks for the reminder!

  34. Thanks for the advice and resource! I have ran into this quandary lately, and it can very frustrating to lack focus and direction on a project. For me, it comes from having too much on my plate. I just have to prioritize better and begin moving forward. Thanks!

  35. Taylor,
    Nice post!

    Talking the idea/product to death is another form of A/P but one you do with a partner. It can also be done while asleep although your partner would be optional in that case.

    Many meetings are spent with groups of people yakking about some great idea that dies the moment they stand up and leave. Time wasted X multiple people is even more sad than time waste alone. The world would be a better place. . . .

    Next time I find myself in A/P, I’ll remember to, as my father used to say, “shake a leg”.

  36. I think you made a great point here. Everyone experience analysis paralysis. There are times when you will be more productive and times when you will be less productive. Nice tips.

  37. Welcome Taylor – great post!

    I often find I have too many goals, and then I become overwhelmed and have trouble prioritizing. Some anxiety comes into play there, I think – I’m probably not alone in that. Maybe closing our eyes for a few moments and allowing ourselves to just focus on whatever physical sensation we’re experiencing, instead of thinking, would be helpful. A bit New Age-y, but what the hell. And Birkenstocks are optional.

  38. I have fallen victim to analysis paralysis over and over again over the years, and it always comes down to this: I’m so concerned in doing something the BEST way, I don’t manage to do it at all.
    “Good Enough!” is my new mantra. And 60+ posts into my new blog, I think it’s working out.
    Thanks very much, Taylor, for helping me realize I’m not alone out here as a recovering paralytic!

  39. Taylor,

    Thank you so much for this post and the link to the presentation. I am a content strategist, a writer and a student myself and I find that your take bears relevance to so many aspects of the business world, and as well gives credence to my tried and true methodology towards ingenuity in academic indeavors.

    Pausing is my weapon of choice, and for several of the businesses I work for, as content analytics are helping them forge ahead with online documentation. MindTouch 2010’s content analytics are empowering companies, providing them the capability to have more meaningful online content, and giving them meaningful, customer-gauging episodes of, as you say, “paralysis”. http://www.mindtouch.com

  40. Thanks for the excellent post, Taylor!.

    I talk quite a bit about this in my workshops, but it never ceases to amaze me how easily it can happen!

    Inevitably, I tend to always have one project in the works in which I find myself spending too much time in “analyze mode”.

    We have to fight through the fear of potential failure to have any chance at success.

    I began my company, BetterPhoto.com, 14 years ago by simply starting a website and posting my Top 10 photography tips.

    I wasn’t an expert and I didn’t know everything… I just got it done! I went for it, and now my little “hobby” of a website has turned into a thriving company that helps 1000’s of people, and is supported by an engaged community!

    If I hadn’t assumed the role of expert… who knows where I would be today.

    Great post, and great site. I appreciate the service you provide. Give my blog a look sometime: betterphotojim.com.

  41. Being shocked with paralysis is something I have to fight with. Now I know that my problem is thinking big and getting stuck before getting started. Learning to start small then working up from there is kinda hard sometimes.