How are you in decision making? Do you spend a long time thinking over every single decision, because you are afraid of making the wrong choice? Do you feel a need to analyze every single option before you come to a conclusion?
If so, congratulations — you “suffer” from analysis paralysis. Analysis paralysis is the state of over-thinking about a decision, to the point where a choice never gets made, thereby creating a paralyzed state of inaction.
As much as I’ve no problems making major life decisions quickly and precisely (I took less than a few months to realize my life purpose, a month to realize my boyfriend (now husband) is the one for me, and less than two months to decide to quit my day job to start my business), I used to suck at simple, daily decisions. From buying an external hard disk, to choosing the color to get for my new lip gloss, to deciding what to have for lunch or dinner, these were the little decisions which could leave me stumped for a good 15 minutes.
Needless to say, such indecisiveness would drain me of my time and energy. I would feel panicky over having to pick the “right” option and would get “stuck” with decision making. What should rightfully be simple decisions would explode into complicated messes as I would hunt down all options and mull over them obsessively — hence making it near impossible to arrive at any decision.
This was in the past though. Today, I’m prompt with both small and large decisions. This guide shares 10 key tips that I applied to break out of analysis paralysis. Tips #1, #3, #5, #6, and #7 have been particularly crucial for me.
Tip #1. Differentiate Between Big and Small Decisions
Firstly, differentiate between big and small decisions. Then, give them the attention they deserve based on their importance.
A big part of my analysis paralysis in the past came from treating all decisions as if they were life altering when really, they weren’t. While my meticulousness helped with life decisions like finding my soulmate and discovering my life path, it was very draining with other decisions because I would invest much time and energy in them even though they didn’t warrant the effort.
Are you stumped by a decision right now? Ask yourself:
- How important is this decision?
- Will the outcome of this decision make a difference a year from now?
- What’s the worst thing that can happen from this?
Give a decision only the time and effort that it deserves, based on its importance.
If the decision isn’t going to make any major difference to your life in a year’s time and there are no serious consequences that will come out of it (e.g., picking the wrong color for your post-it notes), then it is a small decision. Chill and let go. Spend as little time and effort as you can to nail it.
If a decision will create major impact in your life even after a year and there are serious implications from making the wrong choice (e.g., marrying someone you no longer feel right about), then that’s a big decision. Set aside proper time to think over it; delay if necessary. I have a guide “How To Make Life’s Hardest Decisions” to break out of these dilemmas.
For anything in between, give it some level of thought, but don’t let it drag for too long.
Tip #2. Identify Your Top Objective(s)
Before entering into the decision making process, identify your top objective(s) for this decision. Then, use that to guide you in your decision making. This will help you to arrive at a valid decision quicker.
For example, many people often want to collaborate with me in my business. From promoting their products, to promoting their campaigns, having me create a course for their portal, to creating a new offering together, these are examples of pitches I get every week.
My criteria for this decision is simple: exposure for my blog. Will I gain any exposure for Personal Excellence from this engagement? is the question I ask myself. If the answer is “no” and they are simply trying to get free exposure with minimal/no contribution on their end, then it’s usually a “no”. In knowing my end objective, it helps me to be quick and decisive since I can immediately assess the option that’ll help me to realize my end goal.
Tip #3. Perfection is not the key; “Moderately okay” is
Unless it’s a life-altering decision, perfection isn’t the key. Your role is to pick a moderately okay decision in a fair amount of time, then move forward after that.
Why do I say that? That’s because every option has its pros and cons, and it’s very hard to be in a situation where the perfect choice is available right there and right then. While you can work through and hunt down the perfect choice, it comes at a high cost. The 80/20 rule applies, where you need to invest 80% of effort just to achieve that incremental 20% improvement in your final decision.
Now, if the decision is a life-altering one, then it’s worth to invest time and effort to get the perfect pick. However, if the decision isn’t going to make a big difference in your life a year or two from now (see Tip #1), then it doesn’t matter whether you make a lousy, a not-so-lousy, or an awesome choice — the difference between the options will never create any far-reaching consequences. Even if you pump in hours of hard work to arrive at a top-notch solution, it will never result in a significant difference in your life.
This doesn’t mean that you should just pick a random option for all decisions: after all, negative effects can accumulate over time to create a huge negative impact. However, it does mean that you should go the 80/20 way and go with a moderately okay selection and not hunt down a “perfect” choice.
Tip #4. Eliminate the Bad Options
Next, eliminate the bad options. Having a flood of options can clutter up the decision making process, so eliminate the bad ones right away to make it easier to assess. Refer to your objectives for making this decision (see Tip #2), identify the options that will definitely not meet your objectives, and get rid of them.
The ones that are left should be the considerably good ones, which then allows you to make a more pinpointed assessment.
Tip #5. Pick One and Go — Don’t Look Back After That
If you are stumped by the options and you are not sure which one to pick… then just pick one and go. Don’t look back after that.
While this may seem reckless, it actually isn’t. The reason why you have shortlisted these options is because they are reasonably good. If it’s really crappy, you would have eliminated them as per Tip #4! Now, no matter which option you pick, you will miss out on the benefits exclusive to the other options, since each option probably has its unique pros and cons.
Hence, rather than agonize over which one to choose, it’s more important that you select one quickly and make the best out of it. In doing so, you will create your perfect outcome — simply because you made the commitment to make the best out of it.
Tip #6. Let Go of Your Childhood Stories Surrounding Decision Making
Part of the reason for my past analysis paralysis is because my dad would always tell me to be prudent and to only buy the things I need (he still does that actually). Even though I grew up frugal, my dad still chides me over any new things I buy because he perceives them as wastage. “钱很难赚，不要乱乱花” is what he always says (translated from Mandarin means, “It’s hard to earn money; don’t spend it carelessly.”).
Hence, I became irrationally resistant to bad choices. Is this the best option? I would always ask myself. Is there a better option? What if I don’t like this later on? What if there are hidden cons to this option? What if a better option comes up later? That would mean that I’ve made a bad decision!
Eventually, I realized that I was living under the shadow of my childhood stories. For example, every decision has its pros and cons, and it’s unrealistic to think that I have made a bad decision just because there are one or two things I don’t like about it. Even if I have truly made a bad decision, it’s silly to beat myself up over it since everyone makes bad decisions at one point or another. It’s more important that I learn from my mistakes and focus on the positive side of each situation, rather than focus on the bad side.
If you constantly freeze in the face of decisions, and your paralysis seems to have a life of its own, then it’s possible that there’s a childhood story driving you to act this way. What is your childhood story for decision making? How can you let go of it?
More on childhood stories and how to let go of them: What Childhood Stories Are You Reenacting in Your Life Today?
Tip #7. Set a Hard Time Limit
Set a hard time limit for your decision. Your time limit should be based on the importance of the decision (refer to Tip #1). Since time is relative and every decision is different, there is no hard and fast rule on the limit. Personally, I limit myself to more than two minutes for small decisions and no more than a few days to weeks for mid-level decisions. For big decisions, technically I allow myself to take as long as needed, though I always come to a conclusion within a couple of months.
Tip #8. Delegate the Decision to Someone Else
This tip is a little sneaky since you are effectively removing yourself from the decision-making process and shifting the decision-making responsibility to someone else. However, it works if you trust the opinion of that person and you’re okay with not handling the decision.
I recently put this at work in my business. A few months ago, I hired a permanent admin assistant — sort of like my right hand person — to take care of my admin work. This includes making administrative decisions on my behalf, after which I’ll review and approve or amend where needed. By doing so, I never get too involved in the admin work, which prevents me from going into analysis paralysis mode in my admin decisions.
Tip #9. Get the Opinion of Someone You Trust and Go with It
The second to last tip is to get the opinion of someone you trust and go along with it. This is slightly different from Tip #8 in that you still take ownership of the decision even though you’re basing it on someone else’s opinion.
I often do this when I’m shopping and can’t make up my mind. Usually I narrow it down to two options, after which I’ll consult my friend whom I’m shopping with and/or seek the advice of the store assistant. If their recommendation makes sense, I’ll go along with it; if not, I’ll pick the one I prefer. Either way, getting their opinion accelerates my decision-making process since I get more inputs to help me decide what I really want.
Tip #10. Channel Your Energy into Other Things
If you are still in analysis paralysis mode despite the nine tips, it’s possible that you simply have extra energy that’s not being channeled into more meaningful areas!
For example, I notice that I sometimes obsess about things simply because I have the bandwidth to do so. I’ll ask myself: Are there more important things I can do now than hyper-analyze this decision? What more important tasks can I divert my time and energy to? How can I get started? Be it writing a new article, replying important emails, working on a new course, or creating a new video, I’ll then get to those things right away rather than obsess further on the decision.
Interestingly, as I do that, the decision becomes smaller in magnitude and I’m able to come to a conclusion after a short while.
So if your analysis paralysis is coming from having too much excess energy, then channel that energy into other tasks. Find more important tasks to devote yourself to. You’ll be much more productive this way; you’ll also find yourself getting clarity in your decision as you spend time away from it.
Read the original article in full: Stop Analysis Paralysis: How to Be Fast and Decisive in Decision Making | Personal Excellence
Featured photo credit: LendingMemo via flickr.com