analysis paralysis

Decisions, decisions, decisions. . .  Most of us are fortunate enough to have choices in our lives, but too many choices can begin to overwhelm.  Are you struggling with a decision right now?  You may be dealing with a decision that can have significant life implications (which career to pursue, where to live, who to date) or more mundane choices that you still want to get right–which printer to buy, which phone plan to sign up for, what color to paint the bathroom.

Here are a few guidelines for getting out of “Analysis Paralysis”:

If a decision needs to be made soon:

  • Give yourself a deadline, then gather the information you can.  When it’s time to make the decision, you will know that you’re making the best decision you can with the information you have at the time.  Then, make your decision and start committing yourself to the outcome you’ve chosen.  Most decisions aren’t perfect–rarely is there a solution that is 100% correct.  Sometimes it’s as imperfect as 49% to 51%, but if you need to make a choice, do so and move on.  Often, the way things turn out depends on what you make of it–continued ambivalence after you’ve made your decision may undermine the outcome.  If the decision can be reconsidered, give yourself a set date to reevaluate your decision but don’t spend every day trying to re-make your decision.  And if the decision can’t be reconsidered, then don’t dwell on it–move forward.

If your decision does not have a deadline and you’ve been thinking and gathering information for a while:

  • You may want to take a break.  It’s okay to take a few months off from wrestling with a major decision–this is not the same thing as denial or procrastination!  You may be emotionally exhausting yourself by ruminating over a decision to the point that you’ve lost perspective.  If you’re not making progress, force yourself to take a break.  Set a date in the future and reevaluate then.  Sometimes, letting the dust settle helps bring about clarity; I’ve seen this strategy help many times.  And remember, many decisions don’t have a definitively right or wrong solution–you have to make the best of an imperfect situation.
These strategies build on the concepts introduced in Stop Worrying–you have to mentally discipline yourself to shift your thoughts away from unproductive ruminations and worries.

Your assignment for today:

If you’re struggling with analysis paralysis, use one of these strategies to push through.  If you’re not struggling with any decisions right now, think of a time when you made the right decision, particularly if the decision turned out to be right because you made it work.  Remember these strategies for decisions you will make in the future.

If you need a reminder of how fortunate we are to have choices in our lives, here are two biographies that may help you gain perspective:

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl

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