Analysis Paralysis

Published:  11/17/2023

This post is about acting despite uncertainty. When you have multiple appealing paths to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which to take because saying yes to one option might prevent you from saying yes to others. This indecision can leave you paralyzed.  

A few years ago, I was between projects, and I wrestled with how to fill the space in my schedule. I considered learning a second language, studying guitar, learning to surf, creating another website like STATSprofessor or, …. While I debated, the space in my schedule sat empty. It would have been better to start doing any of these things rather than squander my time debating endlessly. Ironically, I didn’t want to waste time by starting something that I might not stick with.

The better option would have been to just start working on something (for example, learning guitar) until something better came along. As it turns out, I did eventually commit to learning the guitar (years later than I could have). There was no benefit to losing all those years. Why didn’t I commit sooner?

After all, I liked guitar, but I wasn’t sure that I liked it “enough” to commit a bunch of free time to it. This was silly. I should have jumped in earlier. It was only some free time at stake.   

If a project will consume so much of your time that you will need to rearrange your life to work on it, then you should take your time deciding if you should take the leap, but if the opportunity cost of working on something new is low, you should begin right away.

In summary, favor acting over analysis because time can’t be stored and saved. It will pass whether it is used or not, so don’t waste your time overanalyzing whether to do something. Think before you act, but if you are stuck on deciding the best path among a list of good options, just pick one and take action.