Self Sabotaged by Research

Posted by on Feb 24 2015

A woman in one of my mastermind groups posed a question recently: Why did she spend all her time doing research and never actually get on with doing the thing she was researching?

She loved looking up information, finding resources, interviewing people, gathering facts. But taking these facts and applying them to her business seemed to always be put on the back burner.

It’s called “analysis paralysis.” The idea is this: if I could just gather this information, if I could just find that fact, if I could make this checklist a bit longer — you get the drift. As a small business coach, I see this my clients get caught in this trap all the time.

The cause is simple: It’s easier for many people to research than to do the action work because gathering research is often a successful task, while acting on the research is fraught with the possibility of failure, stress, or pressure. We stay in the research mode because it’s safe and we get a lot of positive feelings about having uncovered the information we need.

Don’t get me wrong, research is vital. I’ve seen many businesses fail to thrive because they haven’t done the marketing research necessary to see if people want to buy the service or product they want to sell.

The key, as always, is balance. When you find yourself doing more and more research, then you can bet you’re procrastinating on the “doing” side of things. You have two choices:

  1. Try to figure out why you’re not doing the work, or
  2. Just do the work.

Either choice is valid, but guess what? Choice 1 is still “research!” 🙂


16 comments for now

16 Responses to “Self Sabotaged by Research”

  1. Kim Wolinski, MSW -- "Dr. DeClutter"

    Excellent “boink” in the head article for me to “accidently come across” today! HAHAHA

    I am one of the QUEENS OF RESEARCH…which works great when I have a deadline for a “real” project and can file it when finished. Buutttt, I love researching and finding out “about everything” so much that nothing else gets done some days! ARGH! Being self-employed this is a plague for sure.

    Thank you so much! Onward…

    22 Sep 2005 at 6:17 pm

  2. Karyn Greenstreet

    Hey, Kim, I’m happy that the blog boinked you on the head :).

    I’m a big fan of the idea that being self-employed is an opportunity for personal growth. Gee, where else can we see all our little quirks in action???

    04 Oct 2005 at 12:16 pm

  3. maria

    Hello Karyn and Kim,

    And I thought that I WAS the
    queen of research and procrastination. !It’s nice to
    read that I’m not alone.

    I’m beginning to understand though
    that the only cure for this is
    simply:”Just Do It”.


    17 Apr 2006 at 8:04 pm

  4. Karyn Greenstreet

    I told one of my clients the other day, “Do you research everything you need to know before changing the baby’s diaper? Or do you just do it because it needs to be done NOW?”



    25 Apr 2006 at 2:06 pm

  5. Easier said then done to figure out why or just do it. What steps would you take and how would you apply this to

    02 Sep 2010 at 10:05 am

  6. I love to research too! One of the reasons behind researching instead of acting, for me, is it is soothing. I never thought of it as successfully completing something. It can soothe me to explore other options when I’m feeling stuck or frustrated in my current situation. I’ve learned that for now, I need to focus on what I’m running from and make it the best it can be. For me, adding something new to make me feel better isn’t always the best route for me to take.

    So, I agree that is so important to know why I’m stalling out. And, sometimes it’s ok to stop the action but I must stop the research too!

    Then, other times when the timing is right and the motives are pure, I go for it 🙂

    02 Sep 2010 at 11:50 am

  7. I used to be in denial but it is true. Anything that is out of balance is likely to fall. 🙂

    02 Sep 2010 at 3:55 pm

  8. Hi Karyn!

    Thank you for this post!

    I think that, in my case, I have a very natural tendency to “know everything before make a decision” this is in one hands and is being like this my entire life, from buying a new house or taking care of my baby!!!! (LOL) But then I take actions, and well oriented actions.

    But, since I am a new business owner, I found that I have fear of put myself out there… so the information I keep in my computer is working like my protection!!! Yes, it is true… I have observed that before I make the next progress in my business I need to know EVERYthing, and it is not fun, it isn’t good for my business…

    So, off course, preparation is good, but too much “preparation” is a big big fear!

    So I am learning that there is not need to do it perfectly, “just do it” is fine…I use to had a wrong concept about “being an expert” and many professionals have that too.

    Best regards,

    02 Sep 2010 at 6:33 pm

  9. Karyn Greenstreet

    Think of it this way: as a business owner and an expert, you will continue to learn about your topic for your entire lifetime. And as you learn new things in the future, you’ll have new things to share with your audience. 🙂

    08 Sep 2010 at 7:22 am

  10. I finally decided – like you’ve said here, Karyn- that I could try to figure out why “fear” and “futzing around” keep showing up, or I could acknowledge them but move on.

    So in a corner of my vision board, there’s a picture of two tiny decorative bird cages; pasted on the cages are the words “fear and futz.” Acknowledged, but in their home! And much smaller than any other vision board picture. I taped a post it note to my desk: “Stop at Futz.” Meaning – just move on; it’s not going to get any better – you’ve done your best if you’re futzing!

    Awesome presentations at NAPO, by the way!

    15 Sep 2012 at 7:17 am

  11. Karyn Greenstreet

    That’s a very clever idea for your vision board, Sue! I’m looking forward to hearing how it goes for you.

    15 Sep 2012 at 10:33 am

  12. BAM! One day I posted something similar to this on my FB wall: Note: You, yes *you*, have everything you need, right now, to make progress. You don’t need one more self-help book or resource. Get going.”

    And you know what…it was a huge hit! Research is great, but you gotta do the work!

    26 Feb 2015 at 8:05 am

  13. PaulaV.

    Love the fear and futz birdcages. I am a multi-passionate so it’s in my DNA to learn all kinds of things that interest me. I love to research and am project oriented. I often think I could create a job for myself as the researcher for people who don’t like to or don’t have time to do it.

    And yes I can fully admit that it’s a form of procrastination at times for me as well. If it’s important to my business I kind of end up researching it to death. Like right now figuring out the new cloud POS systems that sync with an eCommerce site. Since I have no history with this and have relied on my dinosaur cash register I really have to weigh the pros and cons of taking this step and all the initial time it will take to set it up.

    I make deals with myself….do this important stuff then you can go read about something or “research” for 30 minutes or whatever. Still working on that!

    26 Feb 2015 at 10:15 am

  14. Thanks Karyn for another interesting topic of discussion. This phenomenon can especially relate to the new entrepreneur who is developing the confidence and competence in all areas of building and growing their business.

    I have heard the term “infobesity” thrown around for the research mode compared to the doing mode, which makes me think of “too much” of something is not healthy. One approach that has been successful for me and my clients is to put a boundary around the research time. For example I will research for 1 hour on x subject on Fridays or I will spend 3 hours over the week researching x. The second part of that approach is to decide how much time will you choose to spend in research mode and how much time will you choose to spend in the “do” mode. Figure out what is your best formula for you.

    26 Feb 2015 at 10:34 am

  15. Hi Karyn,
    I too loved your Brilliant Reframe of Research being an action, successfully done.
    I work with people suffering from Self Sabotage in areas of life.

    ‘Just do the work’…Good idea.
    May I add a little TiP?
    If someone’s been stuck in SelfSabotaging habits for a very long time this might help:
    START by doing it for the smallest amount of time. (2 minutes)
    Some people, unfamiliar feeling of success, scare the beJeppers out of themselves when they have a BiG success. They fear they won’t be able to repeat it so why try again? and run back to our research loving habits with renewed vigor.

    JusT Do It…is PoWerFuL advice. Thanks for the reminder.

    26 Feb 2015 at 11:11 am

  16. Excellent article Karyn.

    I agree with this, business owners sometimes want to find the perfect alternative to their problems, and the solution is to select any option and take action now, and learn from the experience and eventually have success.

    Agustin Torres

    13 Mar 2015 at 9:19 pm

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