For many professionals, decision-making is an acquired skill. Sure, some people have impressive natural conviction and can make choices on the fly. But most of us need to invest time and energy into honing our abilities to sift through possibilities and select the best possible course of action.
If this sounds familiar, then you’ve probably experienced “analysis paralysis,” also known as “decision paralysis.” This phenomenon occurs when you feel overwhelmed by the variables of decision-making and respond with total inaction. It’s an understandable reaction, but decision paralysis can also prove problematic, especially if you’re dealing with a time-sensitive situation.
5 Red Flags of Decision Paralysis—and How to Move Past It
1. You feel overwhelmed by options.
Perhaps the most common cause of decision paralysis, an overabundance of options can ultimately prove crippling to those who struggle to make definitive choices. The best way to handle this often involves narrowing down the possibilities as you might when answering a multiple-choice question on a test. Are there any courses of action that you can immediately eliminate? Start there, then continue sifting through the remaining selections until you’re left with only two or three. Then, you can closely scrutinize this smaller pool of choices, which will make it easier to come to a strong conclusion.
2. You approach decision-making as a solo endeavor rather than a team activity.
Even if you’re a manager, that doesn’t require you to make all decisions on your own. In fact, working in a team dynamic makes it not only possible, but also important to consider the opinions of your colleagues and to use their input to reach a final position. Ask your reports to weigh in on choices that affect them, and you’ll have an easier time choosing an option that works for everyone.
3. You don’t trust your gut instincts.
Of course, a strong manager won’t make crucial decisions based solely on their “gut instincts” but will instead use solid pieces of information to inform their choices. However, don’t fall in the trap of ignoring your internal reactions. Use your gut responses as a jumping-off point, then gather concrete facts to help you ascertain the right move.
4. When it’s time to make a choice, you procrastinate.
Challenging situations are natural breeding grounds for procrastination; putting off a tough decision removes it from the here-and-now and seems like a valid method of stress relief. However, it’ll ultimately work against you, especially if the choice is time-sensitive. Ignore your wish to shove the tough decision in the background and instead face it directly.
5. You’re disproportionately worried about consequences.
The higher the stakes of a decision, the more challenging it can be to think of a plan. Fear of “getting it wrong” can majorly complicate the process—and, in some cases, you’ll be better-served by removing the pressure you’re placing on yourself. Take a moment to consider the outcome of a “wrong” decision. Will it cause problems that are impossible to correct? Will anyone be hurt or financially destroyed by this choice? If the answer is no, then moving forward and preparing to handle any snafus that happen as a result of your decision is the most efficient (and productive) course of action.
Written by Taylor Tobin for Fairygodboss.