Someone asked me a few weeks ago what “paralysis by analysis” means, and more granularly, what it means when I say I’m a “blue”. For those in the public service who have done the various personality profiles with the Lego Block souvenir, you’ll know that it is a shortcut to thinking about about how various personality profiles tend to act and how best to communicate with them. Lots of people like Meyers Brigg profiles, but I never felt they were very accurate for me. By contrast, the Insights Discovery profile DID work well, and I liked the way of remembering it:
Give me details
Be brief. Be bright. Be gone.
Show me you care
Make it fun and interactive
While everyone is all four colours simultaneously, and may even switch dominant colours in different situations, I tend to be a dominant BLUE. My wife is TEAL hehehe as she prefers green at times but often defaults to blue. Don’t tell anyone, shh, but sometimes I think she aspires to yellow. At work, in a management situation with bosses, I’m blue and red; with my team, I’m red and blue. At star parties, I look like a yellow. At home, with Jacob, I am often a green.
But blue is my dominant colour, an analytical introvert. In management literature, people frequently refer to “paralysis by analysis” and it often comes in two forms for blues. First and foremost, the pop psych and behaviouralists use it to refer to people having too many choices and not being able to choose. Research has shown, for example, that if you present someone with the options for 50 types of soup to buy, they struggle to make a decision; if you narrow it to 5, they grab and go. Lots of restaurants think huge menus attract more customers for the variety (no mention of the challenge of running a kitchen with that many food choices to stock, cook and serve well), but it often works against them…customers often have trouble deciding because the choices are so different. They’re practically comparing apples to oranges.
The second use of the term is often with respect to policy analysis, where people become so focused on ensuring they have painted a full and complete picture, of say a country landscape, down to the last detail. Is the barn the right shade? Did I get the lighting right under that tree? Should the cow in the meadow be looking towards us or away? Meanwhile, they’re totally failing to answer people who want to know why the barn is on fire, was anyone hurt, who set the fire, how can it be put out, and WHY ARE YOU PAINTING AT A TIME LIKE THIS? The analysis becomes so detailed and granular that you lose all perspective as to what might matter. In business speak, people often respond, “Can we take this up to the 10,000 foot level maybe?”. Pulling back to see what is really important. Where they can have 5 big choices, not 50 small ones.
Enter the domino
For me, I like the “too many choices” idea, but don’t really like the paralysis metaphor for policy as I think it fails to adequately nuance two sub-options. The first sub-option is already above, i.e., too many details. However, a second sub-option is more like domino theory to me. And it is where I run into problems when I’m trying to do a major reorg at home. I’ve already broken a few logjams this year, but here’s an example of a big one that was remaining and how it can paralyze me.
My garage has about fifteen types of things in it, besides a car:
- Garbage and recycling
- Bicycles or shovels
- Lawnmower or snow blower
- Tarps (on top of a shelf)
- Xmas lights
- Garden tools and basic cleaning supplies
- Car and bicycle parts
- Balls and beach toys for Jacob
- Golf clubs and hockey sticks
- Tools (manual and power)
- Work bench
- Astronomy equipment and tables
- Spare wood
A bunch of them have obvious places to go either by function (garbage, ladder), by season (bicycles, lawnmower, toboggans), or storage in a bin on a shelf (garden, cleaning, parts). The garage is a 1.5 car garage (two if really small and nothing else is in there!). The real question is how to arrange a few key things that tend to be inter-related as well as linked to other domino options inside the house, or shifting things seasonally to the backyard storage shed.
As listed above, I have two bags of balls that Jacob and I have accumulated over the years. Soccer balls, volleyballs, cheap balls for screwing around with, basketballs of different sizes. Do I have too many? Yes. Would I like to purge? Yes. But while I could in theory decide between the four soccer balls, we have played with them at the park all at once kicking them back and forth down a long field with Andrea. It’s more fun kicking multiple balls between the three of us, a sort of quick chaos, than waiting for the ball to come back to you after passing through two other people. Equally, though, there are some balls in there that would be great to use in a pool, if we put one in next year. I love having lots of balls in the pool to play volleyball while we float around. Some with traditional beach balls, some other balls too for a bit of oomph and weight. Soooo, do I purge? When?
I’ve thought of purging the beach toys but it gives us an option for going to the beach, particularly if we don’t have access to the cottage anymore. But not as needed if we buy a pool. Decision and options are still pending on that.
For golf clubs, it should be easy, right? Wellll…Jacob has a set of his own, and he’s likely outgrown them. We didn’t get out this year, and we were thinking of buying him a new set. But now his uncle can’t play anymore, and isn’t much taller than Jacob. It would be a fair option for him with some good clubs. I also have a few “extras” that I tend not to carry in my bag as I have trouble controlling them. When I retire, I hope to play more often, and maybe then I’ll be able to use them. Do I get rid of them? Do I just store them long-term in the shed? Do I see if they are anything Jacob will want when he’s a bit taller? I don’t know. Heck, even for the winter, I would like to put them away in the shed, but there’s an indoor driving range nearby and with us both being at home all day, I was hoping to go to the range after school a couple of days a week maybe. But it’s not clear if they’re going to be open or not. If I put them in the shed, it’s hard to open in the winter. Meh.
Tools should be easy, and for the most part, they are. I KNOW what I want to do! Yay. Except not quite where I’m going to store them in the garage…on existing shelves, new shelves, this wall or that wall? Am I reconfiguring? I have them mostly sorted as part of a purge this summer, which was great. But now I have to “finish” and some of the other options are holding me up.
I have a workbench in my garage. It was a gift from my inlaws, 6′ x 2.5′, nice and sturdy 2×4″ construction. And I love having it, but I’m not a big handyman. I don’t use it that much. Heck, often I use it as a bench to store stuff on and around, not work on it. But I like it a lot and I don’t want to get rid of it. In an ideal world, I would move it down to my basement, and keep it there. Except I don’t really have room for it down there until I finish purging my books. Another domino in the way.
I have my astronomy equipment in an old IKEA wardrobe, 2’x3.5″, and while it keeps everything relatively clean inside from dust, etc., it’s not a great design. Multiple small drawers, I end up piling some stuff. I’d much rather have solid shelves, but I’ve never bothered to modify the box. And now the real dominoes come into play. If we build a pool in the backyard, it takes up the whole yard. If we DON’T do a pool, we’ll put in a trampoline, and I’ll have enough room to do a full observatory. So with a pool, I need to keep my gear in the garage and have a way to move it to the backyard simply and easily. I have a Gorilla Cart chosen that I would use for that purpose, looks great. On the other hand, without a pool, I would store most of my big gear IN the observatory with a lock on the door and locked storage inside. Which option do I need? Depends on if we put in a pool. And if I buy the cart, I need to have a place to put it (either where the wardrobe is now or where the workbench is).
And then we come to a bunch of spare wood that I have for making shelves. I know the layout of my basement for 90% of what goes where. I’m okay with it, I’ve got a good layout in my head. Except for that last 10% where I need some storage for cables, maybe some small office stuff for drawers, a bunch of current papers, some non-current papers (like in a filing cabinet), and I have a very defined space where all this can go for length and two different heights. In an ideal world, I would just build the shelves and layout I need to maximize all that space. But I already have some simple IKEA furniture to put there, and no other use for it. And to be honest, I’m not the greatest of handymen. I can do functional, but it isn’t awesome-looking when I’m done. But if I’m going with my “dream office”, shouldn’t I be willing to pay for the stuff that actually looks nice too? Sigh. Yet I’m talking about dominoes, and the end result is that it would be GREAT to use the wood I have for that; or to use some of it to build a small doghouse cover for my astro cart in the garage so that I can park it in the right spot with my astro gear all in it, ready to go to the backyard, but without risking dust and dirt getting on my astro gear. I have the wood, I know the design, I don’t really have the talents to pull it off, and it takes time.
And the biggest domino of all? I want to actually park my car in the damn garage instead of in my driveway. It annoys me to scrape and brush snow WHEN I HAVE A GARAGE!
This is the way of the analytical blue. I can see how all the dominoes line up, and I know that some of them need to fall first or I’m just putting in place interim solutions that are a waste of time. But the biggest lever in the mix right now is whether or not we’re putting in a pool next summer or going with a trampoline and observatory reno, and I can’t tip that domino yet. I likely won’t know until spring. In the meantime, things have to move.
Breaking the logjam
I needed to break the mental logjam, and while I’ve been letting it percolate for awhile, I just need to make the decision and live with it. It’s not the ideal scenario, but it’s workable and things can start to move. And I can get my car in the garage before the end of the year.
A. I’m ripping out some wooden shelves and putting in two new sets of tall shelves. At the front of my garage, I have a small set of hand-made wooden shelves. I made them pretty roughly, mostly aiming to have a shelf about chest height where I could store bicycles for the winter. There are various toys, balls, beach stuff on them, but it isn’t a great use of space, and I need to just bite the bullet and get good sturdy shelves that go up 6 feet. I ordered two sets from Home Depot, so now I just have to empty the existing shelves, rip the old wood ones out, assemble the new ones, and put them in place. Then I can start finishing sorting my tools and putting them on there in well-labelled bins.
B. I’m putting a pin in the observatory option, as I have repeatedly before. Instead, I ordered a good cart to transport all my equipment from the garage to my backyard rather than having to make a whole bunch of trips to lug it around. I debated heavily the idea of the “cover” for the cart in the garage, and while I have some ideas for the future, more for short-term coverage than long-term coverage, I’m going to upgrade my IKEA wardrobe with some sturdy shelves of my own design. They’ll be functional, they’ll work easily, and I don’t have to worry if they don’t look super special, because the wardrobe doors will cover them when closed. But it will be a LOT more functional than what I have now. I think, but am not 100% sold yet, that I’ll be able to get rid of a smaller “side” wardrobe too. I’ll need to store the cart in the garage, but I have an option for that too.
C. I’m going to shift a bunch of stuff in the garage. I’ll keep the golf clubs that are in bags in case the dome opens, and move the extra ones to the shed. I’m going to get rid of a bunch of extra wood I have, as I have everything in the house “built” where I need to have stuff built already, so there’s no reason to hang on to it. It’s good shelving, and I’ll use a bunch of it for the wardrobe, but I’m jettisoning the rest of it and it will give me lots of room to hold balls and beach stuff that can stay in the garage
D. I’m going to (temporarily) disassemble the workbench. I would love to move it as is to the basement, and I have a potential option to do that, but I’ll have to check a couple of things first. Otherwise, I’ll take it apart, move it to the basement, and reassemble it when I’ve got the rest of the basement finished and the books purged.
E. I’ve decided what I want for storage in my last 10% of the basement. Part of it is a bookshelf (new), part of its an existing drawer unit from IKEA, and another is a filing cabinet option from something Andrea is repurposing from the office upstairs. It’ll work, and it fits the space. No need to break out the power tools and sacrifice the look, and it allows me to tip the “wood stock” domino and purge it from the garage.
F. Much of the other options stay where they are. Garbage and recycling, tarps (albeit tied up), Xmas lights, garden tools and cleaning supplies, car and bicycle parts, toboggans and my ladder.
Today I choose to break a mental logjam for my garage setup. Or at least to make the decisions and form a resulting plan. I still have to implement all of it. Gulp. On the other hand, I did find time today to also write a long post, work on some trivia options for work, and clean two out of the four bathrooms in the house. All while fighting a sore tooth in my mouth that is giving me a headache but my dentist isn’t open until Tuesday and I don’t really have a lot of time to worry about it this week anyway.
What choices are you making?