Analysis Paralysis

I was grateful to realize analysis paralysis was a thing that many people experience (thus it warranting a name). Because, when you’re in it, you convince yourself that this is all your fault, you’re a piece of shit, why can’t you get anything done, and there’s so much work to do, where do I even start, and can’t I save it until tomorrow morning? Yeah, let’s figure it out tomorrow morning.

Then morning comes: Maybe I’ll do whatever I needed to get done in a frenzied panic. And, maybe I don’t. This is when things get super fun—the cycle of self-degradation, and basically being horrible to myself continues. Self hatred replaces productivity, and nothing gets done.

Analysis paralysis is different than your usual, everyday procrastination, though they are intertwined. Procrastinating can be a good thing for creative types. It’s been linked to original thinking. And, for me, there’s no better way to spark a manic fire under my ass than a looming deadline.

But recently, I haven’t even been great at meeting my deadlines. (Not good.)

The causes of one’s analysis paralysis can probably be picked apart and ultimately healed with talk therapy, sure. Anxiety, low self-esteem, and the general habit of being horrible to oneself are some of the many factors tied into it. For now, though, let’s focus on getting things done.

As is duh, the more you’re able to cross off the list, the less overwhelmed you’ll feel. You’ll be able to break the cycle of self-hatred faster, accomplish some tasks, and eventually have time to find a decent talk therapist.

So, how do we do that?

Lately, I’ve been trying this technique that I’ve heard from a few sources, in different variations: You take the task, and break it down into simple, digestible steps, then start tackling each one of those sub-tasks. For example:

OLD TO-DO LIST

  • Edit article
  • Write freelance fashion blog post
  • Organize product photo shoot

 

STEP-BY-STEP (NEW) TO-DO LIST

  • Edit article
    • Proofread copy in backend
    • Rename photos from contributor
    • Upload photos from contributor
    • Pick featured image
    • Edit featured image
    • Upload featured image
    • Re-read article for final proofing and preview
    • Schedule article to go live
  • Write freelance fashion blog post
    • Research products for post
    • Collect images of products and hyperlinks
    • Outline blog post
    • Free write for 30 minutes
    • Edit copy
    • Format post in back end
    • Re-read/proof post
    • Submit for review
  • Organize product photo shoot
    • Decide products to feature
    • Pull inspiration images
    • Research location
    • Reach out to potential models
    • Confirm location
    • Confirm model
    • Confirm time
    • Send model release contract
    • Pick shots needed to wrap
    • Shoot
    • Upload photos

(I hope you skimmed that, as it’s a literal, mundane break-down of tasks. But, you get the idea.)

Long to-do lists can be daunting, no doubt. However, when your brain is going totally bananas and you’re so overwhelmed you’re unsure of where to start, this method gives you an easy-to-read road map of exactly where to begin, and where to go next when you inevitably get distracted or sidetracked. Plus, once you hit your flow, there's no need to adhere to the list. 

Do you use the step-by-step technique or something similar?

Caitlin Thorntonproductivity