Analysis is an essential leadership skill quality that produces better results, but there comes a point when overdone, we enter analysis paralysis, start over thinking everything and poor decision making follows.
(This an AI transcript)
Every day there are decisions to be made. Who should be assigned to what project? How do we manage remote working, so it benefits the company, our customers and our employees? What’s the next product our market is searching for? Which problem should be solved next?
From the simple through to the complex, all these choices inform our vision and plan for our product/service offerings.
And when things are more volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous (VUCA), we have to make even more decisions, and our stress levels can get out of hand. We can so easily get caught up in non-genuine VUCA events, that are mind goes in to overdrive and cause unproductive mental loops.
Our mental loops cause us to go over again and again the data and information we have, interrogating it for flaws, permutations and possibilities. In our desire to make the right or best decision we sink into over analysis, and overwhelm, and tire ourselves out. And if we’re someone who does this process by talking to others, we also tire them out.
In this podcast I cover 5 areas to pay attention to.
1. Watch for Perfectionism
Perfectionism is striving for the almost unattainable. Often if we look at it perfect is when we’re setting the target or output at 110%. In analysis it’s have I covered every base, considered every response or eventuality. There can be no room for error and read that as 0.00 room for error not 0.1.
Of course we hear the phrase done is better than perfect because perfect never gets done. Before you begin your analysis ask yourself – to make this decision what’s the level of quality required here?
Notice it’s impersonal. Not what’s the level of quality I would like here.
Often perfection is personal. So what you would decide is perfection probably won’t be for another. Which of course make it even harder to attain.
The 80:20 principle comes in to play here. Use it to help you. Having got 80% of the way there, pause and ascertain the risk and implication of spending 80% more of your time and resources on the remaining 20%. Sometimes 80% is good enough to proceed, possibly more so in uncertain or developing situations.
2. Carnival Mirrors
When I was a teenager sometimes I’d pay my 10pence and take a walk through the hall of mirrors with my friends. Oh the hilarity as I suddenly had a 2 foot forehead or became all wobbly or superskinny and all other manner of distortion tricks. There was always a favourite that I’d stand in front of pulling faces and poses.
When we’re caught in those mental loops sometimes it’s like we’re walking through the hall of mirrors or we’ve got stuck standing in front of our favourite.
Some decisions are worth exploring from a variety of angles and situations, others not so. Writing on paper – either literally or your computer will help you get clarity the impact.
What’s the goal or outcome.?
What’s the impact of achieving it / not achieving it?
What’s the consequence of this impact?
The reason for writing these answers down is that you have them to refer back to at the end of the decision. How accurate were your answers/predictions? This will help you fine tune when you do this in the future.
3. Avoid decision fatigue
I’ve said we make hundreds of decisions a day. And not all decisions are equal in terms of impact. Yet each decision requires brain power. In which case start by looking at which areas of work or life you can simplify.
What to wear for work? – capsule wardrobes are one solution, or on a Sunday just line everything up in your wardrobe in order of wearing. One decision job done for the week. When I used to travel a lot for work Sunday night I’d pack my suitcase and as space was tight there was only space for a spare shirt. It meant when I arrived I didn’t have endless decisions or choices as to what to wear. Interestingly when I used to go on holiday and had a large suitcase I would pack 4 pairs of shoes and 2 jackets etc. When I came back usually 50% hadn’t been worn and I’d also spent time each day staring in to the wardobe wondering what to wear.
What to eat for breakfast or lunch? – decide in advance and it stops your decisions been driven by the moment. Such as lack of time or emotional eating.
Plan your days work the day before – 10 minutes planning can save 1-2 hours of wasted time. It will also help you become aware of what distracts and derails you.
The more you have rituals, routines and habits the more your brain power is available for the new, the different, the important.
4. Contextualise the Decision
There are times when we shift in to over thinking and over analysis when we’re juggling many balls.
It’s like when we have too many open programs and files on a computer – eventually it’s performance drops. The same can be said for our mind. In order not to drop anything we’re cycling round and round.
There are a few things we can use to reduce this and increase our effectiveness.
Firstly we can ask ourselves questions like:
- Which decision will have the biggest positive impact on my key deliverables?
- If I didn’t make this decision at all what would be the impact?
- When is a decision required?
- What am I afraid of? (in relation to the decision we’re thinking about)
When over thinking becomes more of a habit it’s as if your mind has trouble switching off. In which case meditation becomes a valuable tool for re-wiring your brain, allowing you to defrag, and destress. What’s great is you can do this in 5 minutes.
I meditate for 5 minutes in the morning and in the evening. And when my mind is really racing I’ll take a couple of minutes for a quick mediation to still my mind and then begin again. The more you practice it the easier it is to do it. And by more I mean frequency not duration.
I’ve also noticed that meditation helps me drawn upon my intuition easier. Which leads me into my final point.
5. Listen to your Intuition
We regular analyse situations using our intuition yet when we get caught up in over thinking we shut this facility out.
Our intuition isn’t some hairy fairy thing. It’s our brain on super processing power, sizing things up and comparing to previous events and experiences and coming up with a decision. Usually this decision enters your head as a short sentence, like 1-4 words.
It’s by acting on our intuition that we improve our intuition. Also if you’re asking “where’s the data to support the intuitive answer?”, well sometimes that only becomes apparent when you move it to action on the intuition.
To calm your mind and make better decisions take one of the 5 areas I’ve mentioned and work with it. Then if you want to come back and work with another that’s fine. Just don’t try and do all 5, you’ll only be adding to the overwhelm in your mind.
Until next time
Go and be the difference in leadership