Have you ever found yourself lost for an answer when your friend asks you simply, “Where do you want to go for dinner?” There are just so many places to choose from.
I mean, you could invite her to come over to your house, as your fridge is stocked full of fresh vegetables and all the toppings needed to make a great salad; but you also love the triple cheese, deluxe pizza from the pizza place down the street. Sometimes, you may even find yourself shrugging off the decision with no idea where or what to suggest. If this situation sounds like something you would find yourself in, don’t worry, you are not alone.
Simply defined, decision paralysis is the act of over-analyzing and over-thinking situations to the point where no decision is made, and thus, no action is taken. And the fact of the matter is decision paralysis is more common than you think.
In today’s society, we are bombarded with choices upon choices, ultimately overwhelming us rather than simplifying our daily lives. Stepping into a coffee shop alone can inundate some people with countless choices to select from for a simple cup of Joe.
Alternatively, many of us have an incessant need to always make the ‘right’ decision. Our perfectionist society has not made this gnawing necessity any easier to overcome, as we have become conditioned to fear making a mistake and worse yet, fail.
Regardless of the reason, there are many causes to decision paralysis. Therefore, not only is it important to focus on what causes it, but also on how to manage it, and eventually prevent ‘decision-making stagnation.’
Almost everyone will experience a form of analysis paralysis in his or her career and/or personal lives. Therefore, here are a few productivity tips that will help you get started on the path of making a concrete decision, and making whatever conclusion you choose, the right one.
Strategies for Overcoming Decision Paralysis
1. Prioritize The Importance of The Decision
Many decisions you have to make on a daily basis are not actually that important. For example, deciding where you want to go for dinner is probably not the most pressing decision you will have had to make in your day. Ever heard the saying ‘pick your battles’? Now relate that to your decision-making process. It is important to prioritize your decisions. Can you imagine a life where all your daily decisions required you to do extensive research? You would be exhausted by your first waking hour! That is why identifying and analyzing how important any given situation is, is critical when prioritizing decisions.
One way to do this is creating a decision matrix. Developing a decision matrix, will help you evaluate and prioritize a list of options. “The matrix is useful for looking at large masses of decision factors and assessing each factor’s relative significance.” It forces you to brainstorm the criteria needed to make a good decision and then asks you to assign a relative weight to each criterion. Once you have weighted the criterion, it asks you to assess each alternative against the criterion and then multiply each option’s ranking by its criterion weight. The last step involves adding up the points for each option, and “the option with the highest score will not necessarily be the one to choose, but the relative scores can generate meaningful discussion and lead the team toward consensus.”
2. Set Goals
Setting goals is a major step in our decision-making process. Knowing what results you want is a powerful tool, and should be used when making a decision. One of the main reasons why some are so indecisive is because they don’t know what their end goals are.
Imagine someone waking up in the morning, getting ready, heading out the door, and aimlessly walking about – they don’t know where they are going, so they just walk for hours-on-end trying to figure out where to be and what to do.
Setting goals helps us to narrow our thinking so we have a clear direction of where to go and what to do when we arrive. Remember to set S.M.A.R.T goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
When our goals are unclear, analysis paralysis may occur because we have to over-think everything we have to do, rather than concentrating on the main objectives. Setting goals help clear our minds of external clutter, and instead, focus our energy on getting stuff done.
3. Set a Deadline
Setting deadlines, much like setting goals, is critical for preventing decision and analysis paralysis. Everyday we are presented with decisions that need to be made. Some of these decisions are pressing, and some can be put on the back burner.
To make life a little bit less complicated, consider setting deadlines for matters that definitely require your final ruling. Setting deadlines that are closer in present-time, and have a definitive end-date, help accomplish tasks more efficiently because they take away any ambiguity.
In turn, this helps minimize the possibility of over-analysis and maximize productivity by urging you to come to a conclusion versus overthinking your choices.
4. Decisions are Often Not Permanent
No one is perfect; we all make mistakes. More times than not, decisions aren’t clear-cut with a right or wrong answer.
Comedian Louis CK puts an end to nagging decision-making obstacles by stating, “If you’re 70% happy with a decision, just go for it.”
Are you someone who overthinks certain matters that should only require a quick decision? If so, you are in good company.
It is important to remember, though, that sometimes, making a decision and having a final verdict is simply good enough. Spending more time on deciphering between choices can be a time sucker, and as Elizabeth Gilbert said “done is better than good.”
5. Take Action
There is no doubting the importance of mentally sifting through ideas and thoughts prior to taking action. Some, however, get stuck in this process. If you think of your mind as a power tool, imagine the countless possibilities that you could tackle once you find your mind’s additional source of power and potential!
When people get stuck in rehearsing their ideas in their minds, decision paralysis, inhibiting action, often occurs because ideas sit longer and longer, becoming stagnant.
Take action. Call up a friend, tell them your ideas – the more people that know about your ideas, the more you will feel accountable into actually taking action. The more you articulate your positions, the more energy you give them, and the more alive they will become. Making the decision to take action creates momentum for even more actions to follow.