Just get moving: Overcoming digital paralysis

moving-day I’ve finally up and moved. Welcome to my new home here at WordPress. And, apologies for being out of touch for so long.

See, when I started this blog back in 2010 over at Typepad, that platform was all kinds of modern and full-featured. But, digital years are like dog years. Seven years later, my non-mobile responsive site on a limited-access platform wasn’t looking so new and shiny anymore.

I knew I had to migrate the blog over here. I just never seemed to get around to it. Despite being in the industry for fifteen years, my actual technical skills are fairly limited. I’ve set up WordPress blogs before, and I knew how easy it was to fall down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out how to do those million things right, from design to functionality to site admin. The actual work involved felt daunting. Because I never felt like I had enough time to finish the task, I never actually started it.

I’d fallen into the classic digital paralysis trap: Because I couldn’t do everything, I stopped myself from doing anything. Which is why it’s been nearly two years since my last post.


The thing is, plenty of companies suffer from digital paralysis, too. The rate of change in digital is too fast for most corporations to keep up.

Information overload is partly to blame. There’s just so much advice out there, and much of it is good. But you can’t possibly hope to apply all of it right out of the gate.

Let’s say you’re a marketing manager for a small company. You want to start producing social content, but you’re not sure where to begin. So you read blog posts and consult experts and attend conferences, and learn about the million and ten things you need to do to get it right: Customer and competitor research, personas, user journey mapping, social calendars and tools, setting up an editorial team, a publication schedule, content curation, keyword researching, SEO optimization, paid promotion, influencer nurturing, setting up an analytics platform, reporting and optimization…

It’s enough to paralyze even the smartest, most resourceful marketers. You start to feel like if you can’t do everything, it means you can’t do anything. No wonder so many programs fail to even get off the ground.

So here are some tips to overcome digital paralysis:

  1. Just start. Pick something. Anything. Just get started. Inertia is the enemy of all productivity. Choose something small you can do today. Maybe it’s a full campaign. Maybe it’s just a tweet. But get something out there.
  2. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. That old adage is a helpful reminder. Anything you do, from learning a language to building a website, can always be endlessly improved. You will never get to that elusive state of “perfect”. Get it to good enough for now, and then get it in market. Your 70% of something is better than the perfectionist’s 100% of nothing.
  3. Fail boldly. This was one of my improv teacher’s favourite sayings. It applies equally here. You’re going to fail at some point. Everyone does, especially in the incredibly complex world of digital marketing. But commit to it. Fail boldly, spectacularly, passionately. Fear of looking foolish is the biggest enemy to learning.
  4. Pick a few trusted advisors. There’s so much advice out there coming at all of us from all corners. It can be crippling when you spend all day reading blogs, watching instructional videos, and being told by industry professionals that you’re doing it wrong. Most of it is just noise. Handpick a team of advisors — real life or virtual — and follow their advice. Everyone else, feel free to tune out as clutter.
  5. Don’t worry about the Joneses. It’s useful to audit your competitors and benchmark players, and peek at case studies and award-winning campaigns. But only for inspiration. Don’t stress about what everyone else is doing, or you’ll fall into the trap of trying to emulate them. If you innovate, they’ll be chasing you instead.
  6. Think impact, not size. There are so many different things we can do these days in the digital sphere. Most companies can’t possibly do even a fraction of them. Choose a select few things that make sense for your brand, and do  those things really well. As for the rest? Well, maybe later. Or maybe not at all. They don’t matter. Focus.
  7. Ask for help if you need it. Marketers today are being called upon to do more and be experts on more than ever before. No single person can be great at everything. Don’t be afraid to call in for help from a teammate, or, if necessary, hire an expert, if you’re presented with a particularly daunting challenge or need to do something very niche or technical. It beats wasting time spinning your wheels.

This is by no means the final look and feel of this blog. I’m in my new space, but it’s still kind of a mess, with everything in boxes in the middle of the floor. I’ve got a default theme and a few placeholder images for now, with lots of plans to remodel and decorate. Eventually.

But I’m here in the new space. I overcame marketing paralysis today. And I’m writing again. The rest will follow.