Analysis Paralysis – Why I Need To Re-evaluate My Life (and why I need your help)

analysis paralysis - supermarket scene from hurt locker
Edit: Since first writing this article, I have managed to deal with the feelings and scheduling conflicts detailed within. It was simply a change in focus and attitude that enabled me to overcome my issues. Successful people will always be busy – but I have learned that there will always be enough hours in the day to provide for our needs as individuals. It’s truly amazing how much we can accomplish when we eliminate wasteful activities. The time is always there – it’s how we use it that counts.

I feel trapped right now. Whatever the opposite of a ‘rut’ is, I am there. My mind is being torn in a multitude of directions – quartered without the hung and the drawn. These metaphorical horses are tearing me apart and if I don’t do something about it soon, my withdrawal from sanity will edge ever closer.

The problem is that my life is filled to bursting point. I love learning – I’m passionate about developing new skills and improving myself in every way possible, but at what cost? I currently see life as a buffet and my brain is being a greedy bastard.

My mind is getting fat!

I feel sluggish. This diet is rendering me worse than useless.

There’s a fine line between wanting to improve and doing too much and I seemed to cross that a long time ago. As with any type of calorie surplus diet; it feels great for a while but sooner or later your body will raise the white flag in a state of hopeful surrender.

We generally ignore this. There’s an obesity epidemic. We want more, whatever the cost.

My mind is full. It is bursting at the seams and as a result I have lost my mental fitness.

My concentration levels are withering away. That’s what happens when you entertain the idea of a million and one things. You have no idea what to do. This is the essence of analysis paralysis.

This is my affliction and it is damn time I found a cure.

Analysis paralysis – what is it?

Our friend Wikipedia states;

Casual analysis paralysis can occur during the process of trying to make personal decisions if the decision-maker over analyzes the circumstance with which they are faced. When this happens, the sheer volume of analysis overwhelms the decision-maker, weighing him or her down so much they feel overwhelmed with the task and is thus unable to come to a rational conclusion.

One of Aesop’s many fables; ‘The fox and the cat’, describes this state perfectly.

In this story, the fox, a cunning and clever animal, would boast to the cat that he knew of a hundred different ways of escaping the pack of dogs that were chasing them. The cat however, knew just one way and when the sound of the barking came ever closer, the cat immediately scarpered up the nearest tree, leaving the fox in a state of confusion as to which of the many methods to choose, and hence, was caught by the chasing pack.

The fox was paralysed with choice and it led to his ultimate demise.

Former nightclub bouncer and renowned author Geoff Thompson experienced over 300 fights and altercations whilst working the doors during the late 80’s. He claims to have knocked out the vast majority of these men because, unlike his opponents, he had one punch. That’s all he needed.

While everyone else would run their mouth with an air of false confidence, trying to fathom out the best way to deal with the situation, Geoff knew that he had one punch and he used it time and time again.

He had a routine that he never deviated from. Slow controlled breathing to control the sudden dump of adrenaline generated via each altercation. Enough space to enable the left hand to rise up and create a fence to keep the other guy from getting too close. A stock phrase that was uttered with absolute conviction, ‘Look, I don’t want to fight, please leave.’ Everything was planned and deliberate.

If this didn’t work and a physical confrontation was inevitable Geoff would just ask a simple, yet confusing question;

‘By the way how is your mother?’

Crack!

Before the other guy even registers a ‘what the fuck?’ a left hook connects with devastating accuracy. In his confusion, he simply failed to see it coming.

He was overloaded with a combination of fear and a million decisions. He wanted a fight, but he couldn’t control his mind. Alcohol and anger will do that to a man.

He was paralysed with choice.

Ok, here’s the deal

Here is a list of what I’m trying to juggle in my life right now; unsuccessfully I might add.

  • 20 hours a week (not including travel) teaching guitar
  • 20 hours a week studying for a degree in Software development
  • 5 hours a week writing articles for this site and guest posting (2/3 a week)
  • 10 hours a week researching/writing for Cracked.com
  • 8-10 hours a week (on average) either in the gym or doing some form of exercise
  • 5-7 hours a week studying German
  • At least 7 hours a week practising guitar

Of course this is being supplemented by ordinary stuff like socialising, going out and fantasising about my next Breaking Bad marathon.

I can’t do it all. I feel like I am a Jamie-of-all-trades and a master of fuck-all. I’ve tried to cut out the fat but my mind keeps worrying about the stuff that I’m not doing instead of what’s important.

I can’t win.

My mind is paralysed with choice. Analysis paralysis has a grip on me and I cannot shake it off.

I would love to focus on this website full time. The rush of excitement when I ponder the potential of Psycholocrazy, especially if I spent 40 hours a week writing articles, guest posts, networking and developing a product, is truly exciting.

Where could I be in 12-18 months if I focused on this? Could the internet generate a full time income? That’s my dream and there is no reason why it couldn’t become a reality.

But I am midway through a degree. I can’t just stop because I would forever regret it. Having a degree would mean easier access in acquiring a visa for certain countries. Being a software developer could potentially land me a lucrative career if things go tits-up and I have to get a ‘real job’.

I’m also future-proofing myself as society is embracing technology at a scintillating rate. This will only gain momentum in the next 5-10 years.

When the machines rise up and turn us into slaves, at least I’ll have the knowledge to hack their AI and lead the resistance, John Connor style!

Back to reality for a moment – what about my current job? 18 months of blood, sweat and tears has enabled me to build a roster of almost 25 students. I need money to pay for everything and this is my main source of income.

Ok, so next?

Cracked.com pays $200 an article. It takes roughly 10-20 hours of research before acceptance is possible, with another 5 or so to produce the final draft. This is the best freelance opportunity on the internet and I am lucky that I have this as an option to make extra cash.

I always wonder what would happen if I devoted myself to this full time? 5/6 articles a month? It’s possible and it would enable me to travel whilst earning online – again, which is the dream.

Yet, I can’t travel and do a degree at the same time – even though I do it online. They don’t let you take exams through t’internets, unfortunately. Morons!

Ok, next?

Being a guitarist and teacher, I want my shredding skills to be as sharp as possible, yet I barely have time to practise. I feel like a fraud because my ability seems to diminish with each passing day and it won’t be long before I’ve regressed into the axe-man equivalent of Justin Bieber.

Ok, so I’m not bad by any stretch of the imagination but any guitarist will tell you they could always get better.

What about the gym? I have been training for 15 years and this is part of my identity. It feels terrible when I skip a session and without a consistent schedule, I struggle to maintain my diet.

I genuinely hate this, perhaps more than anything.

Finally, my German studies are virtually non-existent.  I would love to be able to gain conversational fluency in another language and I know that just 6 months of serious, dedicated study (with a few months in Germany) would solidify the vocabulary that I have picked up over the last 3 years.

Ich habe eine schlechte Kopfschmerzen.

So what the hell do I do?

Why can’t someone just upload these skills into my brain like in The Matrix?

Where can I get hold of some NZT-48 like in the movie Limitless?

Why can’t I just be content to work in a cubicle for the rest of my life? Ignorance could be my bliss – in an alternate universe this may be so…

But alas, I am here, so let’s sort this shit out!

It’s time to get ruthless

CHROME time trackerLook at that. Seriously, look at it! In the last 2 years, that is how much time I have wasted on the internet. Well, this tracker, which you can download from the Chrome store, only counts the movement of your mouse and any typing. Not idle time spent staring at boobs.

Idle… yeh right.

That’s minutes. Not seconds. MINUTES!

It’s crazy.

If you’re like me and you need to stop procrastinating then download it and you’ll see exactly what you need to cut out from your internet diet. I’ve already made inroads to change this, so that’s something I’m thankful for, but still – it will take more than an app to de-clutter my life.

I’ve also tried doubling up on various activities. For example, listening to German whilst in the gym or reading course material on public transport. But it’s not enough to actually make a considerable difference.

It’s no use. I must learn how to narrow down my choices and cut away the fat. I realise that without focus my life will continue to be a myriad of theory without the application – the possible without the probable – a cheque that my existence cannot cash.

So I ask you, my extremely cool and attractive readers. How do you cope with a hectic lifestyle? Do you have any advice for me? Or are you in exactly the same boat? Please let me know in the comments below…

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About Jamie

Jamie is a guitar teacher and writer who hates the typical 9-5 existence. After quitting his job to enter the world of guitar tuition, he created this blog to document his thoughts and struggles as he takes on societies norms armed with nothing more than his cheeky wit and undeniable charm - Give his Facebook page a like, add him on Twitter or follow his Google+ page and he will repay you with even more awesome words!

Comments

  1. What is it that you want to achieve long term? What’s the bigger picture?

    Jamie – it IS about focus. And about having the balls to decide ‘this is the direction I’m going in’. And yes, that means having to drop some things – things that you’ve already put a lot of work into.

    So choose. Which things are you dropping in favour of those that will help you form the bigger picture?
    Razwana recently posted..Taglines. Taglines. TAGLINES !My Profile

    • The long term goal is financial freedom. Location independence.

      I know something has to give way but deciding what to drop (or postpone) is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. Unless, it’s possible to do the lot somehow.. that’s why I’m also trying to think outside the box to see if there is a solution..

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Hi Jamie,
    Here’s something you could try to get things done in less time. It goes like this.
    You choose two activities to work on within a certain period of time.
    The two activities need to be mentally “orthogonal”, i.e. they require different types of mental effort.
    Whenever you start to lose your concentration on one activity, you switch to the other activity.
    Think of it as resting one set of “mental muscles” while you work the other set.
    In your case, it could be alternating between researching and practicing guitar or between writing and learning German.
    This should help you replace some of the idle time with productive time.
    Robert Bell recently posted..Strategies for sticking to a healthy diet (Part 3)My Profile

    • Hey Robert – I like that approach, and you’ve taught me a new word too!

      Guitar is physical learning, so I could follow that with some german learning which is mental (but no effort required). I could then pop to a cafe and do 3/4 hours of my degree (which is active mental effort) and then follow that with an hour of something less intensive, like researching. Good idea. Thanks!

  3. Have you considered reaching out to some of the bigger guitar teaching websites? You obviously have the writing skills, maybe you could get hired as a writer or video instructor or whatever. There are writing opportunities that offer similar pay that require less work. So you could go that route too and just pursue general writing. Plus if you really break it down, 200$ for 10 hours work is 20$ per hour. If you can find opportunities to write shorter, less research intensive posts for 30$, you would be making more money with less work.
    Ragnar recently posted..Can You Afford To Not Be Meditating? (And How To Get Started)My Profile

    • Haha thanks, but I don’t think I have writing skills at all. I’m not one of these people what can sit down and churn out an article in 30 mins. Every one takes a lot of effort.

      I like the idea of breaking up one big article/payday into smaller articles/paydays – kind of like moving sideways instead of backwards. Good idea, thanks!

  4. Hi Jamie,
    I have almost the exact same woes. Its funny you mention analysis here, because as an INFP I analyse and dream to the point of going insane. I think that looking back at everything at the end of life and being confident that you did your best should hold some weight. Also I agree that sometimes you must simply pick one thing to focus on, but inwardly reserve that analysis part of yourself for after work. I’ve always envied the people who are content with 9-5jobs and little dreaming room, but part of a dreamer’s happiness is wrapped up in what if’s. I think you have ultimately two options: 1) try to calm down a little bit mentally and continue the way you are until the choice becomes very clear to you. 2) Pick one and pursue it with all of your might, and be happy with the knowledge that you have given something your very best. Then stop analysing and focus on something else. I wish you the best. I am in a similar situation myself.

    • You know what Rachel, picking the main project and putting most of my energy into it seems to be the best way in the short term. It’s better to master one things rather than be average at many. Again it’s knowing WHAT to choose which is the kicker.. You’re right about calming down. I definitely need to do that! I could do with following Ragnar’s advice and start meditating! http://tangiblefreedom.com/can-you-afford-to-not-meditate/

      • Jamie,

        First of all, thank you for reaching out. It’s refreshing to have someone admit they don’t have all the answers. It’s also engaging to have someone ask for help instead of giving advice. That being said . . . my suggestion is that you follow Rachel’s advice. Use your exercise as time to settle your mind. After you’ve done that, something will inevitably shake loose. You are probably doing something you feel you “should” be doing that is in juxtaposition to what you are actually drawn to do. I usually pay attention to the stuff that I give short shrift to, and eliminate it. If I feel tired and anxious when I think about, I scrap it. However, if I feel alive and scared/energized considering it, I try to follow that inspiration (or at lease when I’m not watching Project Runway reruns ;-). Hope that helps. Something tells me you’ll figure it out if you give yourself the time to let things shake loose – like what Rachel said.

  5. Holy crap Jamie you need to get off Facebook ;)

    Seriously though, 99 % of all people struggle with “analysis paralysis” — or, information overload — as I like to call it.

    I think I’ve improved a lot in this regard over the past year — especially since I too juggle a bunch of things (my blog, membership & giving speeches in toastmasters, my master’s studies, gym, reading, etc…).

    The things that have been the most helpful for me have been:
    1. Minimize internet use (unless directl related to my to-do list for the day).
    2. Do my priority #1 things first. Then I usually find I have some time over.

    After a while this opens up some time.
    Ludvig Sunström recently posted..How to Use Social Proof to Your AdvantageMy Profile

    • Yes haha, but I use it for chatting to just a few people really. There are far worse addicts than me!

      The problem with the internet is I need it for my degree, german, researching and writing.

      Christ that’s a horrible thought… I can’t escape it!

  6. This may not be helpful because you are trying to fit a 75+ hours into one week and sleep and have time on the internet (it’s addictive).
    I spend way too much time on the internet because it often diverts me from going into that dark place. So I allow myself a certain amount of time every day (I cheat).
    The most successful approach I’ve ever used is on a diagram I have beside my computer (cause I’m there a lot). It’s three circles inside each other.
    The outer circle has “Sphere of Concern” (could write “Sphere of No Influence/Control”) written beside it. The second is “Sphere of Influence” and the third is “Sphere of Control.”
    When I get stuck, I write down my top 5 complaints about my life and assign them into one of the three categories.
    Starting with my Sphere of Concern (no influence /no control) I have to make a decision on whether or not to let go of it. If I can’t decide, I have to “rephrase” it so I can put it into the Sphere of Influence or the Sphere of Control (bored yet?).
    Then on to Sphere of Influence…I figure out a way to rephrase each one and put them into my Sphere of Control.
    Then I look at my Sphere of Control list and pick ONE action I can take to deal with each one. I find that depression sucks the energy out of me and “life” just piles up. So instead of being paralyzed or beating myself into a bloody nub, I try to find a way to move forward. Perhaps by doing that it will become clear whether or not you are expecting too much of yourself?

    • Hi Erika, ahh so you use the circles as a way of breaking down your problems/tasks so that they can be ‘re-assembled’ into something that you can manage.. did I get that right?

      I understand how you use the internet as a means of keeping you occupied – I still use the TV for that now, even though I rarely watch what is on. Unless I’m studying, then it always goes off.

      And yes, I am expecting too much of myself – maybe as a way of overcompensating for wasting so much of my twenties being a lazy git!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  7. Jamie, I’ve competed in bodybuilding and I only weight train 5 times per week for 1 hour tops.

    That’s only 5 hours. Are doing other sports? Are doing a lot of cardio too? That could be cut back. Are you counting the time it gets driving to the gym? Why is it so much?

    And 7 hours practicing guitar? Thank you sir for the motivation. I haven’t been practicing enough.
    SEBASTIAN recently posted..It’s Called MentorshipMy Profile

    • Hi Sebastian, yeh the 8-10 hours covers 5×45 minutes weight training plus a few days of cardio on top and the odd outside run here and there. When I’m purely bulking the hours comes right down as I don’t do cardio and I get in and out as soon as possible. More time eating!! :D

      Yeh 7 hours isn’t enough.. I remember the days I used to practice 7 hours A DAY! Oh how I wish to revert back to that.. I will one day, soon – maybe when my course wraps up between September – Feb, As a treat!

  8. Hey Jamie,

    I’m gonna simplify this and ask out of everything you’re doing, what do you prefer, and what seems like a need?

    And coming from someone with an exercise education, I’ll tell you that no matter how hard you train, the older you get, the harder you’ll have to work to maintain what you have.
    If this is your passion, then great. But if you’re doing it out of a sense of ‘have to’ – it’ll be a never ending chore as opposed to a form of well-being and enjoyment.

    I think that the answer(s) will come when you (or anyone on your position) stops trying to figure it out – if that makes sense. We are capable of overtraining our brains just as we’re capable of overtraining our bodies.

    Every decision I make these days follows the gathering of information (intellect), allowing it to sink in, quieting my mind, listening to my emotions (what makes me feel joy or anxious about whatever thought pops up in reference to the subject) – and taking action based on this.

    So whatever you feel naturally aligned to do, I say do. Whatever feels like a ‘have to’ – put it out there that you’re looking for a way to simplify and see what solution(s) show up in your field of possibilities.

    Then the right gadget, program, person or technique may find its way to you – or you may decide something isn’t as important as you thought it was and you’ll put it on the back burner, etc.

    Hope that helps. But as you may know by now – I always look toward self-awareness as a way to seek solutions – as I know how easy it is to complicate life. :)
    Dana recently posted..When New Year’s Resolutions Go BadMy Profile

    • Hi Dana, I too have an exercise background and I’m all to aware of the creaking body and mounting injuries. Life is painful :p

      The thing is, I love all the items on my list apart from the degree, but I am past the halfway point and having spent so much money on it already, I will see it through to the end. The gym will always remain high up there and so will this blog. German and Cracked/article writing will take a back seat for the next couple of months methinks, but who knows, that could change at any time.

      Honestly, my gut instinct tells me to keep doing the lot. I feel very aware of what my instincts tell me and I always live my life by how I feel rather than how I think. I ask myself, what will happen if I keep doing everything? Is this ridiculous?

      I totally agree with you about overtraining our brains.

      Reading your comment has been a help and a hindrance.. haha. On one hand I take in what you are saying about doing what feels right, and I have been over thinking things lately so it’s good to have a reminder, but on the other hand I ‘feel’ like I should continue doing the lot…

      Arghhh!

      Thanks for your advice!

  9. Hi Jamie,

    One question came to mind when I read what you wrote about your German classes. You said your German skills are currently non-existent, yet you would love to gain fluency in this language. Maybe you don’t really need to learn German that much and therefore don’t need to be hard on yourself for not having time for it?

    All the best.
    Hiten recently posted..Why It Pays To AskMy Profile

    • Well. I’m more extremely rusty than anything. I know a lot of words but not the ability to put them together yet. Yet, while learning German (along with Spanish and French afterwards) is very high on my list of priorities, it is at the bottom of the pile, which goes to show how much I want to do all of the items on my list!

  10. I highly recommend the Landmark Forum for looking at what’s important for you and your life. They’ve re-jigged a lot in the courses over the last 4 or 5 years, it’s given me a great perspective on life.

  11. Sounds like a plan Jamie,
    I think the best thing to do right now is to stop thinking of all the things you have to do and to just focus on the one small thing you need to do at present and simply do it.
    I’ve lost count how many times i’ve done what you did (which is very common by the way) and simply give up even tempting it due to the feeling of overwhelm and the seeing the momentous task ahead of me, and not realising that the only way to get there is by taking it one step at a time.
    Do all you can bro. It doesn’t have to all be done in a year.
    Pick one or 2 things from that list and work it as best you can, until you achieve it. Then tick them off and work down the list.

    • The one thing at a time route is definitely the best I am finding. To just focus on the present task at hand and not worry about anything else until that time comes.

      Of course it doesn’t solve my problem, but it does enable to tackle the workload without undue stress and worry. Thanks for your advice.

  12. Lei Lani lucero says:

    I am late to this party, but I have just discovered your site. Thanks for the insights I gleaned from your articles on depression (I am not the one who is depressed, and I am desperately trying to understand so I can JUST BE THERE for the love of my life)
    I look back and try to figure out how I was able to:
    A: work full time (60+ hours per week)
    B: be a single parent to a young child
    C: continue my education one or two courses at a time
    D: serve on the board of directors for two organizations
    E: be the president of the PTA at my son’s school
    F: volunteer with high school kids learning robotics
    G: still being able to smile, and sleep and have fun
    After that main crush was concluded (by walking across the stage and getting my BSME) I stopped, and thought about what I wanted to do, and what responsibilities that I had taken on that I still wanted to do. Everything that I have kept in my life is by choice, maybe not every day, but every so often, I review what it is that I am doing, and make the conscious decision to do it and to do it with all my heart, mind and soul.
    I accept the responsibility of being a mom. I own it.
    I accept the responsibility of my career. I own it.
    I don’t ‘find the time’ to do things, I make the time for what I want to do.
    Maybe not the best advice, but it is what I was able to do, and I hope it maybe opens a new channel in your thought process to help you.

    • Hey, the party always continues.. :-)

      Thanks for your advice, and I definitely admire your workload. I’ve come to believe that we always have enough time in the day to do everything.

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