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  • Deb Zahn

6 Tips for Escaping Analysis Paralysis and Building the Consulting Business of Your Dreams

Building a profitable consulting business is all about making choices. The problem is that there are so many decisions you have to make—maybe more than you expected—and often too many options to consider. It can easily and quickly get overwhelming. You have to decide:


Getting Stuck in Analysis Paralysis

But what if you get stuck because you are afraid of making a mistake or not certain if you are making the right choice? Or you are so overwhelmed by all the decisions that you can’t sort out which ones to make first, so you try to tackle them all at once.


If you are like many consultants, you may spend days, weeks, and even months overanalyzing or overthinking decisions you need to make for your consulting business. You continually gather more and more information in hopes that the right choices will become obvious.

Hello, analysis paralysis!

The problem is that all the time you spend thinking, rethinking, and thinking again means that you are not taking action to get consulting clients and build your business.


Six Tips for Getting Unstuck

There are many things you can do to get unstuck. Here are my top 6:

1. Embrace that you can make good-enough decisions and still be wildly successful. My consulting business is built on me making good-enough decisions about what to do. I always give make deliberate decisions, but I don’t give into my perfectionist tendencies. Why? Because I know that perfectionism is the biggest mistake I can make because it keeps me stuck. I also know that only taking action that feels perfect to me doesn’t necessarily or even often lead to better results. Sticking with good enough lets me make more good decisions than bad and, by doing so, build my business.

Here’s what I do to keep moving forward:

  • I decide what I want the outcome to be.

  • I get some information and input from folks who have gotten that outcome.

  • I devise a reasonable plan to get the outcome I want.

  • I act on that plan.

  • I pay attention to what happens.

  • If it works, I do it again. If it doesn’t, I make adjustments.

Boom! Simple and repeatable.


2. Recognize that mistakes are normal and informative. I did not become a successful consultant because I didn’t make any mistakes. I’ve made plenty! The key is to learn from them so you can make better decisions going forward. That means pausing and reflecting on what did and didn’t work and deciding on what you will do differently next time. Iknow that can be difficult because it’s easy to feel ashamed of making mistakes and beat yourself up about them. But that's just another way to stay stuck. Instead, shift your mindset to recognizing how normal it is to make mistakes and that each one has a gift for you in it. The faster you accept those gifts, the faster you can get back on track and take more fruitful action.

3. Decide on the criteria you will use to make your decisions before you try to make any. Getting lost in assessing and reassessing all the options and debating with yourself endlessly is an easy trap to fall into. What I do is I decide ahead of time what criteria I will use to make the decision. For example, if I am making a decision about what pricing model to use, I will first determine that my decision will be based on the model’s ability to ensure I get paid for all my value, its ability to serve my business goals, the ease with which it allows me to manage the project with the client, and so on. I decide on the criteria before I start to consider the options or even gather information. It makes assessing each option and eliminating options easier.

4. Reduce your options to a manageable number. The goal here is to eliminate first and decide second. If I do a first pass at assessing options against my pre-determined criteria, I will eliminate anything that doesn’t match most of the criteria. That then reduces my options down to a more manageable number. Using the pricing model example, it’s easier to choose between two pricing models than every possible pricing model.

5. Limit the time you spend trying to make decisions. If you know that you spiral into analysis paralysis, then give yourself a deadline. For example, if you need to do some market research to identify the range of prices that consultants charge for what you do, you could give yourself a two-week deadline. Within that two weeks, you will talk to people in your market, do some research online, or however you can get information to inform your decision about your pricing. After your deadline, you focus on the next decision because you have good-enough information to determine a price and test it in your market. If you’re working on writing your bio for your website, you might give yourself a one-hour deadline to write it and edit it. That’s it! No fussing over it for days because the value of that extra time is likely marginal or nil. And you can use the time you save to focus on actions that generate revenue, such as reaching out to prospective clients.

6. Borrow decisions from other smart, successful people who already figured it out. You don’t have to make every single decision about your business all by yourself. If other smart people you trust already did their due diligence and made decisions, go with their choices. Save yourself the time and energy for decisions that only you can make. For example, if someone you trust has the same or similar needs than you and they did their research to select a their, say, scheduling system, ask them the pros and cons. If the one they picked sounds good enough, go with that. I did that with most of the systems I use, and it has worked out fine! I get to save my time and brainpower for big-ticket decisions that only I can make.


Making Deciding and Taking Action Your Thing

Here’s the deal: having a profitable, sustainable consulting business—the one you are dreaming of—is always going to be about making decisions. That’s never going to go away because, in addition to being an expert consultant, you have to be a savvy CEO of your business. And one of the main things that CEOs have to do is make decisions.


But if you can get your mindset in good place and make it easier for you to decide and act on your decisions, the sooner you’re going to be able to get to the good part, which is doing the work you love and having a life and livelihood you want.


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