I got stuck.
It’s been about two years since I founded a company called Jotform. The number of employees (I) has increased from one to four. We had thousands of loyal users. People appreciated how our online forms made their lives easier. A simple concept, but it looked like it had legs. I was becoming more confident that the startup I started was really sustainable.
Then I got an email from an old friend. Google was all about ringing online forms. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who felt the potential of automated forms. Suddenly I was faced with a dilemma. How can you keep your company growing in an increasingly competitive field? And more quickly, how can I keep the light on and not turn it off?
I struggled with different options. We could follow in the footsteps of many founders or seek outside funding. You can also fine-tune your products and business models. Or you can just give up and find a cushy job as a programmer for someone else’s company. The more I tried to imagine where each choice would lead, the more difficult it was to make decisions.
At some point, if we can do in-house what we’ve been doing for our customers, which is automating the busy work, we’ll be able to continue the journey on our terms, which is without funding from VCs. It occurred to me that I might be able to get some bandwidth. It may not have been the perfect choice – there would inevitably be bumps in the road – but I chose it and ran. I put my whimsical startup into action and started automating as many processes as possible. Spoiler alert: It worked. We overcame the first obstacles and are still growing 17 years later.
Whether you’re faced with a career-altering decision or an everyday dilemma, analysis paralysis, or overthinking decisions until they become impossible, can leave you feeling stuck. I have.Fortunately, strategies such as automation, the subject of my new book automate busy work, helps overcome the paralysis of analysis for major and minor selections. Here, I’ll take a closer look at some of the strategies that have worked in my entrepreneurial journey.
1. Stop looking for the “right” thing
When making decisions, we often assume that there is one right answer. Whether we’re deciding on a career path or asking someone out for lunch, we try to think for ourselves about the ideal outcome, but we end up thinking within ourselves.
According to Stanford University professor Baba Shiv, Rational analysis may get you closer to a decision, but not the final choice. Analyzing different options requires swapping one outcome for another, and the complexity of each scenario makes it virtually impossible to determine which outcome is the best. That’s why Shiv recommends adjusting your intuition when weighing trade-offs.
And since there is no objectively “right” choice, Barry SchwartzA professor of psychology at Swarthmore College and author of The Paradox of Choice, he advocates being comfortable with “enough.” It doesn’t mean to settle for mediocrity. That means making decisions carefully considering the information available and not worrying if better options exist. Schwartz also recommends setting limits to your research.
Suppose you are planning a vacation and are researching hotels. Limit your research to three websites and don’t wonder if a different hotel was better after booking. Each option comes with tradeoffs, and no matter which resort you choose in the Bahamas, the farther away you are from your office, the more likely you are to have a great vacation.
2. Focus on subsequent actions, not decisions
Another problem with analysis paralysis is putting too much emphasis on the decision and not enough on the aftermath. In the words of Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNeely: harvard business review Author Ed Batista writes: But I spend far less time and energy worrying about ‘making the right decisions’ and more time and energy making sure my decisions are right. “
Batista explains: “Simply choosing the ‘best’ option does not guarantee that things will work out in the long run, any more than making a suboptimal choice is doomed to failure or unhappiness. Ultimately, it is what happens next (and in the days, months, and years that follow) that determines whether a particular decision was “right”. “
Imagine you are considering whether to enroll in a graduate program to take your career to the next level. Decisions are undoubtedly important, but it’s the subsequent decisions that really make the difference. If you choose to go to graduate school, take it seriously. Study hard, network, and take advantage of your hard-earned experience. If you choose not to go, you may be able to dedicate the time you would otherwise spend on other fulfilling experiences. Or come up with different ways to get the training you need.
Just moving through the decision-making stages allows you to focus on the work that actually matters.
3. Automate routine processes as much as possible
By now, we are all familiar with the concept of decision fatigue. Making decisions is exhausting, especially when you’re paralyzed and unable to choose your path. Moreover, research shows that the more choices we make, the lower the quality of our decision-making, and in some cases, the lower the quality of our decisions. result It can be extensive.
Automation is one way to consistently eliminate many of our day-to-day decisions. As I explain in my book, the first step in automating a busy job is to analyze your day-to-day tasks and identify a workflow, a series of interconnected steps that produce a result. is. Suppose you send out a newsletter every week. The workflow looks like this:
- Research Newsletter Topics
- Draft newsletter
- Send draft to editor
- Review edits and update newsletter
- create a newsletter
- create a newsletter design
- Add Email Recipients Manually
- Send newsletter manually
It might be one item on your to-do list, but it’s actually a lot of steps and decisions. But automating it, for example by creating a design template, creating an email list that automatically updates with new signups each week, and scheduling newsletters to go out at the same time every week, nearly half of the decisions are made. becomes unnecessary. your workflow.
It’s worth taking a step back and taking time to identify your workflow throughout the day. Then figure out how to automate as many steps as possible. Not only will you get back the time you’ve spent, but you’ll also store your mental energy.
Personal experience shows (and research agrees) that we overanalyze our decisions. I feel nauseous It doesn’t help. It can even deplete our mental resources and make the final decision even worse.
That’s why, instead, we can practice letting go of the idea of ”the right choice.” We put our energy into ensuring success in whatever choice we make. Leverage automation to eliminate redundant decision-making as much as possible.
As Patty Johnson writes HBR, “There are very few ‘right’ answers in business. But making decisions, even if they later seem incomplete, has the advantage of reducing uncertainty for the company and the rest of the team. “
Both you and your team will benefit from your ability to overcome analysis paralysis.