Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

Mary’s Weekly Articles and Valuable Tools

Subscribe below and get Dr. Mary Kelly’s
weekly newsletter in your inbox.


The Analysis Paralysis aka What I Learned About Project Management From a Truck Driver

Academics are trained to be perfectionists, to overthink solutions, and to view a problem through potential research options (even if some are considered irrelevant, improbable, or impossible).

It is hard to be a perfectionist, because it means the job is never finished. You can always tweak that presentation to make it better. You can run another study. You can research a little more. You can create another experiment. There is always more to do. You can always read more explore more, and learn more.

This is why my first book took 7 years. I over-thought the project and myself into inactivity. It never seemed good enough, not perfect enough, so I edited, re-edited, and edited some more. I took out chapters, added them back in, and then let the manuscript sit for months.

We’ve all heard:

“Do it right or don’t do it at all.”


“Every thing worth doing is worth doing well.”

Then Alan Weiss said, “Strive for success, not perfection.”

What I heard, was “Git r done!”

Focus on getting things done instead of agonizing over the 1% of unending adjustments that ensures that a project is never completed.  

I found more advice from great authors and kind people.

“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”
― Michael J. Fox

Why can’t we give a job 100% and be satisfied?

Sometimes it is the nature of the work.

I was eating a club sandwich at the counter of a truck stop in Pennsylvania next to a truck driver. He told me that he loved his job. Why? “When I do a drive and make a delivery, it is done. I never have to think about that load again. When I am in-between trips, I have no work concerns at all. There isn’t anything to think about so I have no stress.”

My new truck-driving pal will probably live to be 110 years old. He does his job and when it is completed, it is over and he moves on to the next job. He doesn’t worry about any past mistakes and he doesn’t fret about perfection. He gets the job done. That’s it. And he is really happy.

To start and finish a project is bliss.

Being caught in the paralysis of inactivity because of tiny imperfections is ridiculous.

Don’t overanalyze your project. Don’t use information overload to transform your molehill into a mountain.

Perfect would be nice. Accomplishment is better.


  1. David

    Done is more profitable than perfect. Thanks, Mary Kelly! 🙂

  2. Carly Alyssa Thorne

    Getting stuck in criticism or over analysis something is truly the very setback that will send you down that path of failure and defeat and quick. Thank again for yet another brilliant article on how not to do that….

  3. Brian Hawkins

    As a driver myself, and with all of those quotes going through your mind, which is a little scary btw lol, I think it’s cool that a fellow trucker helped you get past a mental hurdle. 🙂

  4. Robin Davidman

    Great advice, Mary. I’ve been a victim of over-analyzing and it only leads to stress. It takes practice to learn to be decisive but once you are able to do that, you will feel a burden lifted and you can concentrate on just getting the job successfully done.

  5. Klaudia

    Thank you so much for such interesting post!
    I learned my lesson (the hard way) that over analyzing is not really helpful – it’s just slowing down the process to almost complete stop and there is no progress just because we are “over-thinking” things.
    Just get it done, do as best as you can, learn and move on!

  6. sally

    Being a Project Manager myself I am able to well empathise with the thoughts expressed in this article. Excellent work indeed…..


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *