Have you ever been faced with an important decision to make and have had the feeling like you’re stuck at a standstill, afraid to move? You might ask yourself, what if I make the wrong choice? Or, what will others think of my decision? And so on and so forth, like a broken record, you keep coming up with more and more questions to answer in an attempt to rationalize the choices that you have in front of you… but you never seem to arrive at a decision.
Whenever life throws us challenges and gives us decisions to make, it is easy to lose our footing when self-doubt sets in. With all of the technology and information that we have readily available at our fingertips, collecting justifiable evidence and sources to aid us in our decision making has never been easier – but it has never seemed so difficult, either!
Here is the plain truth about choices and making decisions, though: No one ever wants to make a wrong one. And because we all want to make the right decisions, we become so wrapped up in analyzing every possible outcome of our choices that the fear of choosing wrong creeps in and causes anxiety, stress, and, well, paralysis in our ability to ever make a move.
This conundrum is known as Analysis Paralysis and I discuss it more in depth on Episode 073 of my podcast, Productivity Paradox.
Here, I’ll share a few ways that you can Fight Analysis Paralysis when it rears its ugly head.
If you recognize that you are at a standstill in your decision making, review the goals that you have set for yourself and reassess your values. If you have choices in front of you, ask yourself which choice best aligns with your goals and your values.
If you can be mindful in your decision making and make your goals and your values a priority, you are less likely to be bogged down by the endless cycle of What Ifs that crop up when you start overthinking.
A question that I like to ask myself whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed is, will this matter to me 1 year from now, 5 years from now (and so on)?
If the decision that I am stuck on is not something that will affect my goals or will have much of an impact in the long-term, I consider it to be a small decision – and I am more likely to nip overthinking it in the bud.
Just like you can notice the symptoms of a cold coming on before it really starts, our bodies have a way to let us know when we are overthinking.
To prevent overthinking, it is important to notice the physical and mental signals that your body emits when it occurs: Are you stressed or feeling anxious; does your breathing get shallow, or your heart rate go up?
All of these can be signs that you’re overthinking and it’s important to take notice so that you can prevent them from derailing your decision making in the future.
When you are aware of an important decision coming up, prioritize time to make your decision in the morning when you are well rested and have the most brain power and willpower to give it the attention and focus that it deserves.
Give yourself a time limit to make your decisions. This could be a simple limit set by marking a day on your calendar and using it as a hard deadline, or it could be a specific time limit in which you use a timer and allow yourself ten, twenty or thirty minutes to weigh your choices and make a decision.
I’ve got a quick mental trick to share with you about Parkinson’s Law that may help. It’s one of my favorite methods that I use when I need to prioritize my time. It’s the idea that work fills up the time we allot for completion. So, if we give ourselves two weeks to do one task, we will make sure it takes up that entire time. In reality, it’s stress and tension that takes us much of our time. When you’re realistic about the time needed for tasks and projects, you’ll be more focused instead of stuck on the small details that prevent you from moving forward.
If there is research involved in your decision making, you can structure your day and prioritize your time in the same way. That said, it is important to set a boundary for how much information you consume: Set a limit on how many sources you look through, and do not waste time on sources that aren’t helpful.
It is also important to determine what you want to learn in your research and to keep a specific goal in mind so that your research is focused doesn’t lead to overwhelm.
If you are someone who keeps multiple tabs while browsing, set a limit for how many you allow open at a time while doing your research. Keeping the clutter off of your desktop and your browser can keep the clutter (and overwhelm) from your mind, too!
For more advice on structuring your work day and managing your time effectively, check out my recent post that breaks down how to schedule your day, so you can maximize your free time and become better prepared for those unexpected challenges that have a habit of throwing us off track.
Pay close attention to this last tip, because it will have a huge impact on how you view your decisions as you move forward…
We often hesitate in making decisions because the fear of making the wrong choice is so deeply rooted in us, but there are very few decisions in life that are truly permanent… Remember, you can change your decision later if you feel like you need to switch gears!
Have you had any bouts of Analysis Paralysis recently? Share what helped you to overcome it in the comments below and be sure to listen to Episode 073: Stop Overthinking & Take Action for even more tips and strategies you can use right away.
To be productive we have to be willing to make choices and take action. @inkwellpress