Article Date: 9/1/2010

Analysis Paralysis by Another Name
o.d. to o.d.

Analysis Paralysis by Another Name

Many of us procrastinate to some degree. But when it threatens to disrupt your career, it's time to take action.

Chief Optometric Editor

I'm sure you've heard the term "analysis paralysis" used to describe people who analyze the issues to the point at which they never make a decision. While in some cases this might be accurate, in others it's just another name for procrastination. If you've put off important tasks over and over again, you're not alone. In fact, many people procrastinate to some degree — but some are so chronically affected by procrastination that it disrupts their career.

The key to overcoming this destructive behavior is to recognize when you start procrastinating, understand why it happens (even to the best of us), and take steps to better manage your time and decisionmaking.

Why we procrastinate

In general, procrastination occurs when you put off things that you should be focusing on right now and instead, do something that is more enjoyable or that you're more familiar with. The procrastinators (your staff know who you are) work as many hours as others (and often work long hours,) but they invest their time in the wrong tasks. Many don't understand the difference between urgent tasks and important tasks, and they jump straight into getting on with urgent tasks that aren't actually important. Often, they feel they're doing the right thing by reacting fast. Or, they may simply be driven by the person whose demands are loudest.

Another common cause of procrastination is the sense of being overwhelmed. Procrastinators may not know where to begin a task. Or, they doubt they have the necessary skills or resources. So, they seek comfort in tasks they know they can complete. Unfortunately, the big task isn't going to go away.

Some other common causes of procrastination: waiting for the "right" mood or the "right" time to tackle the important task and "fear of failure or success." Perhaps the most common reasons for procrastination are underdeveloped decision-making skills, poor organizational skills or a desire to make everything perfect.

Warning signs

Some warning signs of procrastination:

► Filling your day with low priority tasks from your "To Do" List.
► Reading an e-mail or request more than once, without starting work on it or without deciding when you're going to start work on it.
► Sitting down to start a high-priority task, and almost immediately going off to make a cup of coffee or check your e-mails.
► Leaving an important item on your "To Do" list for a long time.
► Regularly saying ‘Yes’ to unimportant tasks that others ask you to do and filling your time with these instead of getting on with the important tasks already on your list.

If you're honest with yourself, you know when you're procrastinating. To solve the problem, identify your priorities and address them first. Putting off an unimportant task isn't procrastination, it's good prioritization.

Why, you might ask, do I think I know so much about procrastination? Simple, I'm the guy writing this editorial on an airplane an hour before the deadline I've been aware of for two weeks. I write with such authority because I am a master procrastinator. OM

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2010