How do I get over decision paralysis dued to living in the future?

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You know, we all have different personal projects. I have been thinking about purchasing my own apartment as a main residence in Paris for years but I haven’t done anything yet said my colleague John. 

“why don’t you start booking to view apartments I asked naively. 

“I am not sure if I would make the right choice during the purchase”, 

What do you mean?”  

I still have to read some books about the purchasing process and  mistakes to avoid . There are some on them in the shelves I should have been reading few months ago.” 

So he was telling me he hadn’t taking any  action since 3 years because of  unreaded  books he was still bying. 

He was waiting to be 100 % sure he won’t do any mistake before allowing himself to start moving. 

 “ Look  it seems like you fear to loose the safety  net your financial saving represents to you now. What are you mostly afraid of ? I asked . 

“I am wondering  the appartment might undergone major renovations that I hadn’t suspected during the purchase. And my parents won’t support me if I fail with this investment. 

Ok I see…What have you learned from the books you have been reading until now”?  

… that you should calculate your loan capacity with your banker. That you should define your priority of your search criteria  etc.” 

Well, have you already booked a meeting with your banker?  

No he replied. 

What are you waiting for?  

 I hear crickets. 

There are many cases like that you feel an urge to act but you have incomplete informations compared to what you believe is  necessary for you to start. 

Perhaps you want to restart doing sport but you are stuck because you don’t have the best running shoes, even though you can start with the old one.

Maybe you are an entrepreneur waiting for certainty in front of the an important decision even if you already know what immediate 2 actions you can take

Maybe you are a student trying to solve a mathematic exercise, waiting to see how the dots would connect later, even if you can start exploring the ramifications of the breakthrough ideas you have at hand.

 

How can you avoid been paralysed by too much analysis dued to incomplete informations? 

First there are few mistakes to avoid. 

 

Mistake 1 you decide to actually wait  

As chronic procrastinator, you are naturally more inclined to maintain the status quo . Doing so you are missing plenty of opportunities to kickstart actions.

Remember “fast and imperfect execution is better than perfect planning and no executing” . 

Even if you  don’t tackle actions in the desired order you would have wished, you are still moving forward. What you are going to do helps to move the needle , so do it. 

There is only one exception to that: when  you are under pressure to deliver a very specific need that you have been been delaying over and over. In this case you must  focus on it. 

 

Mistake 2: You start  moving but improvise too much 

Yes, Now you are on the go. You have started taking actions. Inspired by your thoughts, you want to   develop all the ramifications of your initial actions.  At some point you might even forget what your initial intentions were. 

Your thinking process looks like this: 

    • It has been a long time since I hadn’t done this. It is a great opportunity  to also do it now” 
    • “This idea is an important breakthrough; if I don’t record it  now  it will be hard to remember  it later” 

For instance, you engage in cleaning your  office’s desk and at some point you decide to read some documents . Few minutes later you begin to   process issues in the documents instead of just reorganizing the documents. 

What you should do instead is to define a boundary just before you immerse in the “ imperfect execution “ mode. 

You can use expressions like “ quick review”  or “ rough draft “  or “ just xxx ( number) moves “ as mental reminders They embed the picture of “ boundary” that will trigger your stepping back when the moment comes. 

Having said that , it is time for taking action.

Solution’s Action steps 

 

Step 1: Start with taking actions with “what you have now”  

case 1:  You are writing a  document and you would like to start drafting the content; but you already have few ideas about how to start a section of chapter 2. Jump into the flow of your ideas and write 

Case 2: You have to deliver a meeting report; you would like to start by the introduction following with the conclusion. You struggle to summarize what is the strategy you are going to adopt . However, you already  have some examples to illustrate a part of your body. Start painting the picture of these examples. 

Don’t forget to define  your  boundaries before you jump 

 

Step 2: Continue with thinking at what you needed 

Achieving “what you can” with “ what you have at hand “   helps to get the momentum towards your desired outcome. 

It  frees your mental space and helps you to transition to a state of consciousess where you can adress “ what you needed” with more clarity. 

    • You are in your bedroom and you decide to clean your entire house.  first  start cleaning your bedroom : (what can I do now instead of “ how should I proceed to clean the entire house” ). Then transition to the examining the bigger picture how  should I proceed to clean my entire house quickly? 

 

Step 3: identify the most critical task and focus on its most easiest substack

Once you have the clarity necessary to  zoom out, your focus should be in questionning what the most critical task is. This will represent your next move to ensure your are not missing the point. And to make sure you are not paralysed again with  how  huge it looks like,  start taking action with its most easiest sub-task.

Combining these 3 steps, you have a loop that  allows you to  Execute  fast with  just enough planning.

 

This tool is mostly suited for contexts where you  have to navigate in the unknown and produce intermediate results regularly. Lack of decision to move on in these contexts can be your main cause to failure. 

    • PHD students 
    • Entrepreneurs 

Examples: customer discovery 

Few years ago, I wanted to reach out my ideal prospects. who are they?” and  “ where are they ?“   was my problem. I didn’t know the term “ procrastination, nor  did I know chronic procrastination. My problem definition was: “people who lack consistency 

“How Am I going to reach out them “, I wondered. At first I thought about imagining and speculating on what their deep pains were, but it turned down everyone was concerned.  

I decided to start with what I had: “ lack of consistency “ . Instead of getting stuck by too much analysis I got outside the building. 

  interviewed people at supermarket, companies, train stations and finally universities (step 1) 

Before I started, i set up mental boundary to remind me that my primary goal was “to profile  people who lack consistency the most”. 

 quick review every 5-7 interviews I told myself.

I would take a break to analyze which questions  had worked, which patterns had emerged and  which adjusments required to be done  . It prevented me from gathering informations for the sake of gathering informations (step 2). 

Needless to say that  the word procrastination “ was pronounced soon after I started. 

That helped me to pivot until I finally found my ideal prospects : chronic procrastinators” (step 3). Moreover I knew where they are….

 

Now it is your turn 

Do you have a project where you think you lack enough informations to proceed further? 

What are you waiting for?  

I challenge you to  review it NOW and say there is nothing you can do.  Be brutal honest with yourself.

For free, I want to have a tailored solution for my specific case here


Heudou Tchihikou Aubin 

A master chronic procrastinator who chose to execute on his dreams because of frustration and self criticism 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. Good article. Thx

  2. Congratulations.

  3. TheIndomitableLion says:

    Nice post

  4. i need a solution and i have to focus on the present will need your help

    1. Hi. Always remind yourself you don’t need to have a detailed plan before you start. it is task’s initiation that brings clarity to provide answers to questions you don’t have yet. SO in order to focus on the NOW, you need to mentally accept is OK to have qustions without ANswers. 2/ Accept to sacrifice task. in many context we can’t be focus now , because we are trying to achieve too much things. I always focus on 3 things to DO. if i have more than 3 things, I choose to delete, deleguate or postpone.

  5. Thanks for the article. Sometimes I also feel paralyze because I want to be sure to understand how the thing is working. I will try your suggestion and see how it is working.

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