Doubt Paralysis: A One-Way Ticket to Anxious Town

TimeTap is in the business of time management.

Not the same type of time management you see written about in books in the self-help section. We’re not telling you not to waste the time you’ve been given or assuming that, had you not stumbled on our website, you would be lost in its constant passing.

Rather, our time management business is more about giving the power away while keeping the control. With our online scheduling system (and, dare I say, with most online scheduling systems) it’s about displaying the availability you’ve set (your control) to your clients to let them book (their power).

And yet, I’ve talked with so many people lately who, in the constant rush and inundation we have to “get used to” with the 21st century, feel like they have no control at all. Often, I feel like I’m in the exact same boat.

If you’re an entrepreneur or a small business owner who manages your own schedule, you very likely hear, “Wow, you must love the freedom that gives you,” from friends, family, and jealous ex-coworkers. You will agree with them not wanting to sound ungrateful for this opportunity that diligence and luck has carved out for you, but there’s this nagging lie in that agreement.

What is that lie?

I think that lie is you’ve got 60 items in your inbox, only 10 of which you want to open and only 2 of which you want to reply to.

I think the lie exists in the distinction between managing your own schedule doing what you love and dealing with the inevitable minutiae of running a business.

I think the lie exists because as freeing as it is to not be beholden to anyone if you don’t respond to the constant 21st century demands, you still feel the urge to keep pace and realize you need help to do it: someone to work with, an employee perhaps.

The lie is that while we believe greater amounts of autonomy and freedom will increase our happiness, we actually end up paralyzing ourselves with that freedom.

There are so many choices and in the space where you debate which demand on your time is more worthwhile, you doubt as to whether you’ll ultimately make the “right” decision grows.

And that just may be the point of the lie us autonomous folks feel we’re telling to those lovingly envious of our freedom. That, as it turns out, happiness didn’t come from quitting my corporate career, starting my own company, and doing what I love. Happiness came because that’s what I decided to feel, but in the troughs of those doubts, deciding to be happy with whatever direction you go is tough.

We can choose to be happy 

We can choose to be happy 

Day-to-day, we may have to deal with constant, growing, and competing demands for our attention. Usually, some of us multi-task to try to keep up, but deep down we might not feel like we're doing a good job at it.

For all that technology has done for us, we can’t overlook how much of our attention it demands--especially with the constant connecting with people--and therefore the anxiety it gives us when we don’t feel like we’ve kept up with it.

I say this to say, it’s not wrong to be a small business owner, field comments from others about how freeing that can be, stay gracious in their presence but silently respect the challenging counterbalance you find yourself in: between freedom and dealing with all the things you didn’t necessarily sign up for.

My advice is to recognize those doubts as they come up. When you start going over how many things you have left on your infinite to-do list, you’ll feel that urge rise where you’re doubting any action you want to take:

“If I spend my time answering emails then I won’t get that content up on my website. But if I spend time getting content up on my website, I won’t have time to return the emails to get appointments in the door. I really need to get some social feeds going, though, and I don’t know anything about social; I should buy a book on it. But I already bought a book on online marketing last week that I haven’t finished nor even just the first action item that it assigns…”

Every time you turn your attention to a new thing that needs to get checked off your to-do list, you battle with it and yourself because you still feel connected to the last thing you’ve rattled off in your head.

Now there have been compendiums written on list making and effective goal setting. I won’t offer any advice there because, quite frankly, I shouldn’t be giving such advice. As mentioned, my advice is to simply recognize yourself having this train of thought. It is a train with a one-way ticket to anxious town: find your own way out.

Once you recognize that you are choosing to think this, you can then choose to think something else.

You can choose to think, for instance, that “I’m glad I tackled my inbox this morning as it was getting really hairy and I’ll carve out some time to get some content written for my website this afternoon.”

For people with the freedom to choose their own schedule, you will have doubts on whether you’re spending your time on the right things. But you have to act. You can’t dwell on doubts. It is much more effective (and much less time-wasting) to decide that you’re happy with whatever decision you’ve made and to act.

I’m not perfect at it, but it is something I work on constantly and consciously. When I notice myself traveling that train of doubt, I’ll stop it in its track and say aloud how happy I am that I got x, y, and z done and how good it will feel to have a, b, or c done. Then I choose and do.

Doubt can be paralyzing, but the best news is, if you can recognize it for what it is, it doesn’t have to affect you.