Overthinkers Unite! Today, We Will Not Decide!
Have you heard of analysis paralysis? Maybe you have even experienced it.
This happens when we have too many options, too many variables to consider, and this situation makes us unable to make a choice. And don’t forget that not making a decision is a decision.
What happens is that we are afraid of making the WRONG choice (because as humans, we do more to not lose than to win). Psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper conducted a study that proves this. To summarize, they were trying to understand what is the optimal number of choices to help people take action.
They set up a jam display on a supermarket, with 24 varieties of jam. A lot of people stopped but not many bought. Then, they tried a display with only 6 varieties of jam. Fewer people stopped to look, but more people bought compared to the 24 varieties. This means that having more choices is not always better.
Think about it, if you like berries and have to choose between strawberry, cherry, raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry… it is going to be hard to pick! But, if you have mango, apple, orange, and strawberry (and berries are your absolute favorite) you will easily pick strawberry. And you will do so without thinking about the “what ifs” of picking any other berry flavor.
This means that we need information to make good decisions… but not too much information. We have to do research, but just the right amount. Last time we talked about the WHY of research and today we are going to talk about the HOW of research.
If you are a decision maker, this article will give you some tools to optimize your decision-making process (geared to marketing and business decisions but the framework is valid for many other things).
Keep in mind that this is coming from two OCD-type A-Maven-Nerds, so we feel your pain of wanting to make the “perfect” decision every time.
The Perfectionist Guide to Good Enough Decisions
MATT: Here is the secret to conducting valuable research . . . don’t trust what you initially find.
Many people don’t know, but I actually went to Law School when I graduated college. I only made it three semesters before realizing I made a terrible decision and dropped out. Although I did not graduate, I did pick up important skills including a cynical attitude toward research. My professors always had us dig deep into casework. We never presented an argument without detailed research because of how often laws, commentary, and thoughts change.
It was easy to find data for your side of a case, yet that data might be outdated or incorrect. For that reason, we always looked for the most recent case precedent, laws, and scholarly commentary.
The same concept should be used for your research as a student or professional. Do not just Google information without digging to see if what you found is accurate. Seriously, we could get rid of all “fake news” if people would just check sources.
Here is an example that happens frequently when we are conducting market and competitor research for a client. Alejandro and I will look for the most effective communication strategy for a specific industry. It could be social media, blogs, newsletters, or something else. Recently, I found statistics that suggest newsletters are the ideal strategy for a client. This data was found on a reputable website, yet they were citing another source. Here is when I asked myself, where is that statistic coming from? I did a little detective work and found the citation, which was a hyperlink within a paragraph.
Once I landed on the source, I simply hit ctrl+F and typed in the statistic. It was nowhere to be found. At that moment I had two choices, present the data even though I couldn’t verify it or do more research. I did more research.
The issue is that many people simply take the first data point as truth without checking to see if there is accuracy behind the number. What really puzzles me is that with the internet, verifying items is relatively easy. Just Google your stat and make sure you can find the basis of where the statistic was originally published.
Digging a little will allow you make a proper decision as you will be using verified data.
ALEJANDRO: If you are still reading, it means you know that research is valuable. For this reason, I’m going to go straight to the point. I’ll share with you two methodologies we use at Elisha Consulting when conducting market research.
The first one you will be able to use for anything you do. It will help you understand any market, and how people are thinking about a particular topic. The second one is specific for creating a smooth user experience (UX) on a website.
This is a FREE tool that you should always use when you are conducting research. What it does is that it tells you the interest over time of a specific keyword. You can then segment the geographic location, the timeframe, the categories, and the type of search (web search, image search, YouTube search, news search, etc.)
Google Trends will also give other top keywords related to the one you searched, that also have high interest. Including rising keywords, which are the ones that are seeing the biggest increase in search frequency lately.
The best part is that you can, and should, download all this data to an excel spreadsheet. In marketing, this is useful because it will inform:
The topics we should create content about
The different keywords we should rank for
The keywords we should include in headlines (H1s) and sub-headlines (H2s) of our blogs
The keywords we will then use to do SEO and keyword research on other tools like SEMrush
But basically, what Google Trends tells you is how people are thinking and acting about a specific topic.
The second one also involves Google, but it requires a bit more work and thinking.
This involves searching on Google for the top websites of any industry you want to compete in. Let's say you are creating a personal blog and you want to know how to structure your website. How many top menu options/sections should you have? What should you name each of those sections? What type of content should you have in each section?
This process goes back to something we’ve talked about several times. To create you have to consume. So, before you can be competitive in any market, you first have to understand what is happening in each market. The first step is to check the websites of your direct competitors and see how they structure their websites (you should write this structures down so that you can compare all of them side-by-side).
After this first step, you should also do some research on top websites of other industries. If possible, industries that are not related at all. That is how you mine for ideas that are “outside the box” of your current industry. Remember that Innovation Doesn’t Exist! There is Nothing New Under the Sun.
Then once you have all this data gathered, you have to do one of the simplest but hardest things to do… you have to think!
To do a 5-minute speech you have to prepare for 5 weeks or more, but if you want to do a 5-hour speech you can start right now without preparation… it is the same with an elegant website with a great UX.
I can make a website structure in less than 10 minutes and I will just create as many navigation options (and sub-options) as I can think off. We will put an About section, a Products sections (and then list all the products in a drop-down menu), a Services section (and then list all the services in a drop-down menu), a Media section, a Blog section, an E-guides section, etc.
Have you ever navigated a website like that? That has about 10 options on the top-bar menu, and then 10-20 more drop-down menu options per each top section? It gives me a headache just to think about it!
On the other hand, what about those pages that have maybe 3-5 options on the top-bar menu, and then maybe 5-8 options within each drop-down menu? Those are the pages where you find what you are looking for easily. This makes you navigate it for several minutes… and sometimes these are like a virtual maze that makes you go from section to section, spending sometimes hours reading articles, watching videos, and engaging with the content.
You know what happens when people spend a lot of time on your website because it has amazing UX? Google rewards that page and says “Hey, people are going to this website and spending a lot of time on it. This means people find it valuable so we are going to rank it higher so that more people can find it, and keep finding value, this way people keep using Google to find the answer to their problems.”
Now you know why this blog, with just a handful of people writing for it, has been able to outrank (for some keywords) websites as big as Entrepreneur, Tai Lopez, Reddit, US News, and others… because we do a lot of research on the topics we write about, and our content is focused on creating value for the reader.
Pro Tip: To stop overthinking and start doing you need to change your mindset and get comfortable with facing your fears (fear of failure, fear of criticism, etc.). This book will help you start changing your mindset.