Analysis Paralysis

By Tom Horvath

image of woman deciding between two different paths to represent analysis paralysis“Analysis paralysis” is another term for “overthinking” a decision. We face many decisions in life. Some we make too quickly (like acting on addictive impulses), and some too slowly. This blog focuses on making decisions too slowly. (We also leave out the sequence of smaller decisions we might make over years, that lead to an occupation, a partner, or a hometown we may or may not be satisfied with)

How can we match the amount of time and energy we devote to a decision with the importance of the decision? Let’s focus on decisions like what movie to see, what birthday card or present to purchase, what meal to order, what color to paint a room, or how to state something (such as when writing an email or blog!). If you start “going down a rabbit hole” in your decision-making process, here are some questions and guidelines to consider.

How much time do I think a decision like this one should take? Do I want to spend one hour deciding on a two-hour movie? You could set a deadline.

Am I considering too many options? Am I experiencing choice paralysis? You could reduce the number of options you are considering (to a handful or less).

How much will I gain by gathering even more data or evidence? How many movie reviews do I need to read? “The best is the enemy of the good.” You could be satisfied with good enough. Think of all the time you will save!

What happens if I choose the “wrong” one? Will it matter tomorrow, next week, or next month? You could remember that very soon you will likely not think about this decision at all.

How easily can I undo the decision later? Buying something expensive would legitimately involve more time that something inexpensive. You could establish how to undo the decision later if needed. Take more time to decide to the extent that the decision is harder to undo.

Do I have a decision-making process? For a simple decision these steps are not needed, but for bigger decisions they can be helpful.

For larger decisions you could engage in a process and keep notes about it, for example:

What is the decision to be made?

What is the relevant information?

What are the options?

Costs/benefits of each option?

THEN: Decide and move forward.

LATER: Consider what you have learned, especially if similar decisions will be needed in the future. Acknowledge your successes as well as what needs to change.

If you’d like some help working through analysis paralysis, our individual therapy services may be a great fit. Please don’t hesitate to reach out – you don’t have to navigate it alone!