How to identify and stop the analysis-paralysis cycle

Are you plagued by overthinking? Unable to pull the trigger on decisions large and small? Relating to Chidi from The Good Place a bit too often nowadays? You’re not alone.

‘Analysis-paralysis’–where groups or individuals are unable to make a decision and therefore make no decision is a common phenomenon. And analysis-paralysis is only becoming more common nowadays thanks to globalization, the Internet, and social media.

How does someone get paralysis by analysis?

We first heard about analysis-paralysis and decision fatigue on the podcast, The Happiness Lab, when host Dr. Laurie Santos interviewed psychologist Barry Schwartz about his book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. He also has a great TED talk on the topic.

The “paradox of choice” posits that as possible options to a single decision increase, an individual’s satisfaction with their ultimate choice decreases. One would expect that having many choices would make one happier and less stressed since they could more readily find an option to fit their needs, budget, and timeframe. However, according to studies, the opposite occurs: people are more stressed. Ample opportunities lead to over-analysis, and over-analysis leads to paralysis.

As Schwartz wrote:

Ever find yourself browsing three pages into Google search results for reviews of different air purifiers? Or with 1,000 tabs open to different floral dress options? It might feel casual and not particularly stressful at the time, but Schwartz is pointing out that living in a world where we can endlessly research any option makes us not more confident in our decisions, but more stressed by them. To make an uninformed choice during the Internet age feels reckless.

How to overcome the coma of analysis-paralysis in 6 steps

1. Understand why you struggle with self-doubt

What is the real cost of making the wrong decision? How can you become more confident in your choices?

2. Remember that “planning is not doing.”

Some advice we found on the Reddit board r/getdisciplined–people like to research and plan and browse their options

3. Small consequence? Only allow yourself a short timeframe

With small decisions, don’t waste time and mental energy analyzing your options. Cinnamon or chocolate cereal? Syrah or cabernet wine? The world won’t end if you chose a wine that pairs poorly with your dinner.

4. Accept that nothing will be perfect

When it comes to tough decisions, you have to ditch perfectionism. Hard choices always come with trade-offs. Make a move and deal with any consequences rather than letting yourself become stalled.

5. Use consequences to make better decisions in the future

Instead of worrying about what you might be missing out on and letting that stall your decision-making, adopt the mindset that you can learn from any consequences to make better choices in the future.

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