How to eliminate analysis paralysis

Over the first decade of my programming career, one trend became very obvious to me. I noticed that I could always increase my efficiency dramatically in the 11th hour before a deadline. It took a long time to see (like a decade), but I finally saw the truth…

I now know:

  1. Without the deadline; I had Analysis Paralysis
  2. Analysis Paralysis is caused by fear
  3. Analysis Paralysis is specifically caused by the fear of making decisions

In the 11th hour before a deadline, I made decisions immediately, where as without the deadline, I’d ponder endlessly. Once I realized this, it was very easy to fix; Get all the information, give myself a time limit (1-5 minutes), make a decision, and start.

This was an incredible productivity boost!

Here’s how I streamlined my own personal development process to ‘get all the information’:

  1. I list all my options for each design decision
  2. I pick the best option(s) based on pros/cons (may be more than one)
  3. I list the risks of the best option(s)
  4. Then for each risk, I design & write a ‘conclusive’ proof of concept
  5. If the proof of concepts prove it will NOT work, then I toss the idea, pick another one & repeat.

A few things to keep in mind:

  1. A ‘Proof Of Concept’ is a minimal app to prove something. (mine are usually 1-6hrs)
  2. If 2 or more options are equal, I give myself a time limit (1-5 minutes) and make a decision … any decision, and don’t look back.
  3. Trust yourself to be able to deal with any problems you hit which were not take into account at design time.

Copyright © John MacIntyre 2009, All rights reserved

WARNING – All source code is written to demonstrate the current concept. It may be unsafe and not exactly optimal.

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