Analysis paralysis is overthinking to the point that decision-making comes to a standstill. It is the opposite of productivity and it leads to anxiety.
We make many decisions throughout any given day… what to wear, what to eat, what to say, what to do… and more. Some decisions are easy to make because it’s the next logical step or thing to do. Others, like whether or not to change jobs or buy a house, can be mentally exhausting because there is a pressing fear of the unknown.
Sometimes we’re so afraid of making bad decisions that we don’t realize indecisiveness and getting stuck actually becomes a bad decision!
Fortunately there are some steps in the decision making process that helps reduce analysis paralysis.
- Think smaller.
Instead of looking at a decision from all angles, think of it in terms of smaller decisions. This will help in prioritizing and breaking a big decision down into more manageable parts.
We do this all the time without really recognizing it. For example, we may think “what’s for supper” but that quickly becomes a smaller question of “what’s in the pantry/fridge” because the answer to that question guides our decisions.
Turn “what movie am I going to watch on Netflix” into “am I watching a comedy, documentary or action movie?” You may still spend some time scrolling through choices, but narrowing to the genre has lifted some of the decision-making already.
Jeff Bezos didn’t start Amazon with billions of dollars, warehouses and the superstore of the Internet. He started Amazon in his garage, selling some used books.
Thinking smaller doesn’t have to mean small results, it actually is a path for getting unstuck!
2. Learn, but don’t dwell, on past bad decisions.
Everyone makes bad decisions and some have more severe consequences than others. Dwelling on them doesn’t do any good, but learning from them is where you can create a different outcome by not repeating the same mistakes. For every bad decision, there’s another decision with a successful outcome. It’s easy to forget all the good decisions when one bad decision overshadows the rest.
Be sure to extend grace to yourself by thinking about the good decisions you have made.
If you had a previous relationship that didn’t end well, it doesn’t mean all future relationships are going to end the same way. It allows you to take what you learned about yourself and others to future relationships that are stronger and healthier.
3. Weigh the pros and cons of decisions
This is usually the first strategy that comes to mind when weighing a big decision. It can be helpful just to get your thoughts down on paper. While it may not result in an obvious solution, it at least helps you take those initial first steps.
Many guru’s have come up with fancy names for this process, such as making a decision matrix or grid analysis, but they are all really different visual representations of pros and cons. They allow you to compare options and think more logically instead of emotionally. They allow you to put your decisions through a type of information filter that helps you move forward. Moving forward is making progress!
4. Set a time limit
If you continue to go back and forth on a decision, give yourself a time limit so you can move on. There is freedom when you know a decision will be made within the next hour, by the next day, or by the next week. It gives your mind a chance to rest and it’s sometimes in those moments of rest when we gain the most clarity.
This is easy to apply to things like making progress on getting organized. Analysis paralysis takes the form of perfection paralysis and a vision of the “perfect home.” Thinking in terms of setting a limit to “spend tomorrow afternoon getting my clothes on hangers” is a much easier and manageable task than “cleaning out the whole closet.” These time limits help us achieve mini-goals and make progress toward big goals.
5. Seek counsel from someone who’s opinion you trust.
Everyone loves to share their opinions! But when it comes to decision-making and problem-solving, you want to be selective about whose opinion you seek for counsel.
If you are trying to improve your financial situation, consult with someone who you trust for financial advice.
Be prepared that someone may be critical or lead you toward a solution that is “safe” out of genuine concern. These is generally well intended “advice from the heart” but you also need the perspective of someone who may be more neutral to the situation. For example, you may be stuck in a job that’s creating mental health and stress issues, but a parent may caution you to stick with it because it provides a stable income and benefits. Someone more neutral to the situation may be able to help you consider different job options that meet both your financial and physical needs.
Ultimately the decisions you make have to be the ones you make for what’s in the best interest of you and those around you will be impacted by the outcome.