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Do you ever feel like too many options exist and this leads you to overthink which choice is the right one? Welcome to the world of analysis paralysis — a catchy term for the inability to make a decision because you don't trust yourself to make the right decision. Once you’re stuck in this circular thinking pattern, it can affect everything from important work decisions to deciding what to order from a to-go menu. 

So, how do you beat analysis paralysis? Read on for some personality-backed tips.

Why do people get analysis paralysis?

Analysis paralysis can affect anyone at any time. The key factor is you feel unable to decide because you’re over-analyzing each choice and its implications. Once caught in the loop of analysis, you’re “paralyzed” and no closer to a definitive answer than when you began. 

Falling into an analysis paralysis cycle is linked to anxious thought patterns, perfectionism or the fear of making wrong decisions. But you don’t have to have an anxiety disorder to fall prey to this habitual overthinking.

If you’re a Type A personality and a perfectionist, you may experience analysis paralysis when no option seems like the “perfect” solution. And while you may never have put a name to your overthinking before, analysis paralysis isn’t anything new. Some English literature experts propose Shakespeare’s titular character in Hamlet had a bad case of analysis paralysis. The terminology exists at least as far back as the 1970s, according to The Oxford English Dictionary.

How analysis paralysis can impact your life 

While it doesn’t seem like such a big deal to take too long to choose something from a menu, analysis paralysis can wreak havoc on your personal growth. Spending too long to decide (or not making a decision at all) may lead to missed opportunities, regret and stagnation. 

For example, if you take too long to decide whether to leave your current job for another promising job opportunity, you may miss the application deadline. Or you wait so long that your chosen company picks a more eager candidate. In either case, you stay in a position that doesn’t benefit your career growth because you missed the chance to take action.

This stagnation in decision-making can also affect your mental state. The less you make decisions, the more you second-guess your ability to do so — and on and on goes the merry-go-round. You may notice yourself analyzing minor choices, such as which laptop to buy or which coffee shop you should grab your co-worker’s drink orders from.

Tips for overcoming analysis paralysis 

Because analysis paralysis can become a serious problem that prevents you from making fruitful decisions, it’s vital to work on overcoming this cyclical pattern of behavior.

Here are some ways you can overcome analysis paralysis. 

1: Practice the three Rs — reflect, recognize and reassess. 

The first step to beating analysis paralysis is to reflect on the why. Is there a recent event that caused you to fear making decisions, or is this a lifelong pattern rooted in your desire for perfection? Is perfectionism destroying your happiness? Understanding why you’re struggling to make decisions quickly will help you with the second “r,” which is to recognize. 

Recognition is half of the battle for any personal growth journey. Once you recognize you’re engaging in a behavior, you can stop and remind yourself you’re doing it. From there, pause and reassess. 

To illustrate, I have a habit of catastrophizing. I overlook positives and jump to the worst-case scenario when stressed and anxious. But because I recognize that I do this, I can now take a moment to reflect, recognize and reassess my thoughts. 

This same technique can help you realize when you’re overthinking a decision, and you can take this information to look at your decision-making process more objectively.

2: Challenge yourself to make small, everyday decisions quickly.

One of the issues people with analysis paralysis face is the pattern of distrust in themselves. Because they’re so focused on each avenue of possibilities, they eventually stop trusting themselves to make the right decision. If this sounds like you, you can start challenging yourself in real time to make small decisions fast.

The next time it’s your turn to choose a spot for a company lunch, don’t overthink it. Pick a place that stands out to you. Debating over which outfit is the best choice for a job interview? Decide within 10 minutes.

Creating a timeline can help you feel a sense of urgency and take the sting out of wondering if you’re making the right choice, which leads to the next helpful tip.

3: Give yourself a deadline to make decisions. 

Don’t worry — large-scale decisions don’t require you to make an ultra-fast choice. But to prevent you from taking too long to decide and getting caught in analysis paralysis, you should give yourself a deadline for each tough decision. Not sure whether to find a new apartment or renew your current lease? Give yourself a time frame that makes sense (within the confines of your lease expiration date, but not so fast that you overwhelm yourself).  

Make a logical framework for your decisions. Maybe a five-minute decision deadline for tiny choices like where to have lunch, a few days for a mid-size decision, and up to a couple of months for a large-scale decision. These deadlines can be flexible to allow for particular scenarios. You can’t wait months to accept a job offer — the key is to prioritize and give yourself a time frame to take some pressure off but remind yourself that you can’t spend forever circling all possibilities.

4: Engage someone else in the process of elimination. 

Sometimes you need a little help. Decision-making can become more manageable if you allow yourself to do three things when you feel overwhelmed:

  • Make a pros and cons list for each possibility to see your potential outcomes. Make these lists quickly, and don’t linger. Eliminate choices as early in the decision-making process as possible, and then step away if you’re stumped. 
  • Talk to a trusted friend, partner or coworker about the options and engage them in the process of elimination. Sometimes, a third-party perspective can help you break out of analysis paralysis.
  • Take some time away from the decision-making process. If you’re too stressed to tackle a significant decision, consider taking some well-deserved paid time off, a weekend away with family or some good old-fashioned “me time.”

5: Trust in the process of letting go.

Many people get stuck in analysis paralysis due to the desire for the perfect life outcomes. Life isn’t perfect, and you can’t control everything, so sometimes making a less-than-perfect decision is the best you can do. Don’t wait too long looking for the perfect solution. Instead, learn to accept that life is about letting go of control. Picking the best choice of the batch is within your control, but don’t delay the decision too long and regret dragging your feet later.

Say goodbye to analysis paralysis 

It isn’t easy to overcome a cycle of anxiety-provoking overthinking. But once you learn how to recognize that analysis paralysis is holding you back, you can begin the process of becoming a better decision-maker. Try not to pressure yourself, remember no outcome will be perfect, and practice recognizing when you’re veering too far into overanalysis territory. Make tiny decisions every day and see where they take you; this can boost your confidence and help you become a quicker decision-maker, even with the big-ticket items. Most of all, learn to trust yourself. In the end, you’ll learn to take more control over decisions.

Cianna Garrison
Cianna Garrison holds a B.A. in English from Arizona State University and works as a freelance writer. She fell in love with psychology and personality type theory back in 2011. Since then, she has enjoyed continually learning about the 16 personality types. As an INFJ, she lives for the creative arts, and even when she isn’t working, she’s probably still writing.