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Productivity tips, calendar hacks, & product updates from the Reclaim team.

What is Decision Paralysis? How to Prevent in 4 Steps
April 18, 2022

You’re staring down a monstrous task list, still catching up on last week’s deadlines, with new project notifications pinging for your attention, a laundry list of personal to-dos running through your head, and you just – freeze. You don’t know where to start, so instead you find yourself anxiously procrastinating, doing nothing (or anything else) instead.

Sound familiar? 

Decision paralysis, aka analysis paralysis or choice paralysis, usually hits at the most inconvenient time – when you really need every single minute to be getting things done, but just don’t know how to choose, where to start, or what to tackle next. 

While you can’t avoid busy weeks altogether, you can limit this kind of overwhelm with the help of task prioritization, strategic time management, and a few mindset changes. In this post we’re going to share a 4-step guide on how to better prioritize your time and prevent decision paralysis in the future (because we know how much it sucks). 

What is decision paralysis?

You’ve likely already experienced the paralysis over where to start in a crazy task list, big decisions in your personal life, or even over your dinner choice at a restaurant with an expansive menu. But what exactly is decision paralysis? 

Decision paralysis is the lack of ability to decide out of fear of making the wrong choice. It can occur when you’re presented with too many choices that are difficult to compare, instead becoming overwhelmed by all of them and not choosing any of the options – effectively paralyzing yourself from making progress. Even if you do finally make a decision, battling analysis paralysis can sometimes be so mentally exhausting that you don’t have the energy left to follow through with action on your choice. 

The average person is estimated to make around a shocking 35,000 remotely conscious decisions a day! And while freedom of choice is generally to be celebrated, Psychologist Barry Schwartz argues the modern ‘Paradox of Choice’ has actually made people feel more paralyzed and dissatisfied, rather than free and happy. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated the issue of choice paralysis by fuelling stress levels and feelings of uncertainty. In fact, 32% of surveyed adults said in 2021 that they sometimes feel so overwhelmed that they struggle making basic daily decisions like what to eat, or what to wear. When you top that with increasing workloads for individual contributors, managers, and senior executives due to The Great Resignation, it’s unfortunately not surprising that 78.7% of people are stressed out by increasing task lists with even less time to get everything done. 

And the busier your schedule, the more overwhelming it can be to be decisive with your limited time. As your task list grows in “choices”, so does your risk of analysis paralysis. From getting through all of your work tasks, personal responsibilities, and finding time for your habits, hobbies, and rest – trying to make the best decisions can put a lot of strain on your wellbeing, despite being pursued in the name of productivity. Working to better prioritize your time can help you build out a realistic schedule that supports your goals, lets you get more done in less time, and takes some of the decision-making pressure off your shoulders. 

4 steps to prevent decision paralysis

If you often find yourself procrastinating and stressing out over an overwhelming to-do list and a busy schedule – follow these helpful steps to get clear on your priorities, reduce decision paralysis, and learn how to stop procrastination from derailing your daily progress.

1. Recognize decision paralysis

You might be wondering: why do I procrastinate? Sometimes just breaking ground on your task load is overwhelming because the insurmountable weight of decision paralysis makes it feel impossible to choose where to begin. Other times, deciding between two tasks that both seem urgent feels like too much pressure, so we procrastinate starting on either. When you notice your decision-making starting to feel more anxiety-inducing than usual, recognizing it as analysis paralysis in action is an effective step in preventing it from escalating.

Signs of decision paralysis:

  • Being overwhelmed by your task list
  • Doubting your capabilities
  • Procrastinating on starting a task
  • Overcomplicating your options
  • Not being clear on your priorities
  • Putting pressure on perfectionism
  • Dreading deadlines 

If you feel an onset of choice paralysis creeping in with these common symptoms, it’s time to do some preparation for success over procrastination.

2. Prioritize your choices

It's hard to make a choice without a clear look at your options. Outlining your objectives is a foundational first step in beating analysis paralysis. 

Writing out a master list – that is, a to-do list that covers literally everything you have to get done – is a great way to face the beast (if you will). This in itself is a smaller task that can feel more doable compared to everything else, and by brain dumping it all in one place, you can actually move some of that stress out of your head and create a visual overview of what needs to get done.

And a lot of times, making the choice of what to work on next is hard because everything on your to-do list feels equally important, but it actually isn’t. A great way to break down this misconception is to sort all the tasks in your master list in order of urgency and priority. Take a look at each task and set your due dates, estimate how long each task will realistically take, and assign whether it requires deep work vs. shallow work to get done. The end result will be a practical list of cognitively demanding tasks that will need bigger chunks of dedicated focus time, and smaller to-dos that can be handled more quickly – all in order of priority by when they’re due and how important they are to your goals.

3. Create an action plan & time block your calendar 

Now that you have an organized task list in place, it’s time for an action plan. You may be surprised to learn that only 53.5% of planned tasks actually get completed every week. This is in part because we often overestimate how much we can take on, underestimate how long our tasks are going to take, and rarely account for unexpected changes in our schedule or priorities. 

The practice of time blocking to-dos onto your calendar can boost productivity up to 80% by simply breaking your day into dedicated time slots to work on one particular task. It also allows you to defend your time through your calendar so you’re not overrun by meetings that may not be high-priority for you. Not to mention, time blocking reduces context switching as you’re limiting yourself to one task at a time, which can help you block those distracting complementary tasks from pulling your attention from what’s in front of you. 

So this also has to help with decision paralysis, right? Time blocking your calendar can significantly reduce decision paralysis because you’ve already put in the hard work of pre-planning how you’re going to allocate your time in the week. Instead of forcing yourself to make hard decisions all day about how to spend your time, you can just look at your calendar to see what’s up next and stick to this plan to meet your goals and deadlines. Time limits also make tasks feel more manageable because there’s a clear finish line, which is why approaches like the Pomodoro technique can be so effective.

4. Automate your decision making

Imagine you have a perfectly productive Monday planned out, but an urgent 3-hour meeting is suddenly scheduled over your afternoon, so now you have to spend an hour you don’t have to manually rearrange your overscheduled time blocks throughout the rest of your week. While saying “no'' to unproductive meetings is much easier when you can justify not having the time through an effectively time blocked weekly plan – it’s also necessary to stay flexible for when unexpected urgencies and high-priority meetings do arise.

If you’re already time blocking your calendar, you know how time-consuming it can be to manually readjust your entire schedule when things change. Fortunately, there are some pretty awesome automations you can set up to time block your calendar without sacrificing flexibility. 

The Reclaim.ai smart calendar app is a must-have for busy professionals as it automatically finds the best time for you to work on your Tasks around in your existing schedule, by priority and due date. And when something unexpected comes up, Reclaim auto-reschedules all of your time blocks around what you need to prioritize next so you don’t have to stress about replanning your entire week, and can continue to work off your updated schedule without the added pressure of decision making. 

Stop procrastination due to decision paralysis & get more done

Decision paralysis is a common challenge that can result from the combination of being overloaded with options, increasing workloads, added daily stressors, and the natural human desire to make the best choices and offer only our best work. 

Take some of the pressure out of decision making by getting clear on your true priorities, creating an action plan through your calendar, and implementing smart tools that help you create a flexible schedule that aligns with your goals. From here, you can begin to disarm procrastination caused by analysis paralysis, and be more productive every week.

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August 31, 2021

Weekly Status Reports: 3 Steps to Reduce Meetings & Boost Productivity

"This meeting could’ve been an email.” We're all thinking it. Even 71% of senior managers feel their meetings are unproductive. Reduce meetings and boost productivity with weekly status reports.
The Best Time to Meditate? Prioritize Self-Care
August 26, 2021

The Best Time to Meditate? Prioritize Self-Care

The best time to meditate depends on your intention and your schedule. But no matter when you meditate, you can reap the benefits. The important thing is that you make time for this healthy habit.
Top 6 ADHD Organization Tools
August 24, 2021

Top 6 ADHD Organization Tools

Staying organized can feel like a constant battle for people with ADHD before you find your ideal rhythm and workflow. Here are the top ADHD organization tools to help you become more productive.
No-Meeting Days: Top 4 Advantages & How to Start at Your Company
August 19, 2021

No-Meeting Days: Top 4 Advantages & How to Start at Your Company

Are meetings consuming your workweek? 78% of people feel their meeting schedule is out of control - see how one no-meeting day a week can improve your productivity, team morale and prevent burnout.
Calendar Heroes: Ben Hutton, JSON Schema Specification Lead at Postman
August 17, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Ben Hutton, JSON Schema Specification Lead at Postman

Working as JSON Schema Specification Lead at Postman, Ben shares how he balances priorities while developing the JSON Schema strategy and it's tooling, and supports the open-source community.
Calendar Heroes: Shay Kingsbury, Program Manager | Go To Market at Hootsuite
August 11, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Shay Kingsbury, Program Manager | Go To Market at Hootsuite

Shay Kingsbury at Hootsuite shares how she balances priorities while leading merger and acquisition integration and Go To Market for Sparkcentral at the social media marketing and management platform.
Using Slack ‘Scheduled Send’ + Reclaim.ai to Schedule Messages
August 10, 2021

Using Slack ‘Scheduled Send’ + Reclaim.ai to Schedule Messages

Slack released a much-anticipated feature in June of 2021: scheduled sends for Slack messages. This, paired with some awesome Status syncing capabilities from Reclaim, can help you become a rockstar Slack communicator and role model for your team.
Calendar Heroes: Michele Wiedemer, Manager of Customer Education at Snyk
August 9, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Michele Wiedemer, Manager of Customer Education at Snyk

Michele Wiedemer at Synk shares how she balances priorities while developing the education training program for security champions and developers at the open source security platform.
Best Time to Exercise? Morning, Afternoon or Whenever
August 4, 2021

Best Time to Exercise? Morning, Afternoon or Whenever

Exercising for as little as 15 minutes a day can increase your lifespan by as much as 3 years, and you’ll sleep better and feel less stressed too. Here's how to optimize your workouts for the best time of day.
Make Time to Read: 5 Practical Tips for Busy People
July 28, 2021

Make Time to Read: 5 Practical Tips for Busy People

Reading has amazing benefits, and 35% of people want to do it more. It increases verbal intelligence, makes you a better leader, reduces stress, and fends off Alzheimer’s. Here are 5 tips to try out.
Calendar Heroes: Rohini Pandhi, Product @ Square
July 26, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Rohini Pandhi, Product @ Square

Rohini Pandhi, a Product Lead at Square, shares her style, tools and methodologies for balancing priorities while leading the product efforts for one of the top digital payment companies in the world.
15 Best Slack Apps for the Future of Work
July 22, 2021

15 Best Slack Apps for the Future of Work

Check out the top 15 Slack apps productive teams are using today to build and support the future of work at their organization across calendar management, project management, status updates, HR and team building.
Calendar Heroes: Q&A with Connor MacDonald, CMO at The Ridge
July 19, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Q&A with Connor MacDonald, CMO at The Ridge

Connor MacDonald at The Ridge shares his style, tools and methodologies for balancing priorities while leading the marketing vision for the brand that brought the world the first RFID-blocking wallet.
Clockwise vs. Reclaim.ai: 8 Key Differences in these Smart Calendar Tools
July 7, 2021

Clockwise vs. Reclaim.ai: 8 Key Differences in these Smart Calendar Tools

We get asked almost every day: what's the difference between Reclaim.ai and Clockwise? While we're both in the smart calendar space, there are some key differences to consider.
Naming Calendar Events: 5 Calendar Etiquette Tips
July 2, 2021

Naming Calendar Events: 5 Calendar Etiquette Tips

Need to create better calendar event titles to communicate context to your invitees, colleagues and incoming schedulers? Calendar communication starts with the first thing people see: the event title.
Lunch Breaks: 5 Ways to Improve Your Productivity
June 22, 2021

Lunch Breaks: 5 Ways to Improve Your Productivity

Want to improve your quality of work, energy level, and creativity? In this article, learn 5 ways in which taking a lunch will actually boost your productivity.
Effective Meetings vs. Pointless Meetings: How to Tell the Difference & Prioritize Your Own Time
June 17, 2021

Effective Meetings vs. Pointless Meetings: How to Tell the Difference & Prioritize Your Own Time

Learn the 5 key differences between effective vs. pointless meetings, and 3 tips to avoid unnecessary meetings getting booked on your calendar.
3 Ways to Find Work-Life Balance in the New Normal
June 10, 2021

3 Ways to Find Work-Life Balance in the New Normal

You want work-life balance, but work and life can't separate into equal halves. Forget balance, here are three ways to make work-life harmony a reality.
Reclaim just raised $4.8M in seed funding! 🎉
May 26, 2021

Reclaim just raised $4.8M in seed funding! 🎉

We're excited to announce that Reclaim has raised $4.8M in seed funding led by Index Ventures. Here's what comes next.
Pareto Principle: Using the 80/20 Rule for Priority Management
May 25, 2021

Pareto Principle: Using the 80/20 Rule for Priority Management

How to use the Pareto Principle 80/20 rule to block time for your priorities.
3 Single-Tasking Tips to Improve Your Focus
April 28, 2021

3 Single-Tasking Tips to Improve Your Focus

While you may think multitasking is a skill you can master, only 2.5% of people can do it effectively. Your brain performs best when “single-tasking”, focusing on only one thing at a time.
How to Create a Smart Calendar
April 22, 2021

How to Create a Smart Calendar

A smart calendar can help you simplify calendar management and boost productivity. Here's how to create a smart calendar so you can take control of your busy schedule.
Time Management Advice - Top 3 Problems & How to Solve Them
April 9, 2021

Time Management Advice - Top 3 Problems & How to Solve Them

Most time management advice is out of touch with reality. Here are the top 3 problems with it and how to solve them.
Announcing the Planner Beta: a New Way to Manage Your Workweek
April 5, 2021

Announcing the Planner Beta: a New Way to Manage Your Workweek

We're excited to announce that Planner is now available in public beta for all Reclaim users. Planner lets you prioritize and schedule all your Tasks and Habits exactly the way you want, every week.
4 Time Blocking Planner Approaches to Squeeze More From Busy Schedules
March 25, 2021

4 Time Blocking Planner Approaches to Squeeze More From Busy Schedules

Time blocking is the habit of mindfully scheduling daily and weekly tasks to get everything done as efficiently as possible. A time blocking planner is used to organize your new, efficient schedule.
Context Switching Is Destroying Your Workday: Here's How to Fix It
March 16, 2021

Context Switching Is Destroying Your Workday: Here's How to Fix It

How do you stop context switching from eating into your productive time? We look at tactics to help you reduce task switching and improve your concentration at work.
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