Everything you need to know about analysis paralysis and how to overcome it

Don't be a hamster on the wheel.

Harper's Bazaar India

Imagine a world without choices. We wore the same outfits every day, ate the same food and went to the same office to do the same mundane job. Sounds like a dull and incredibly boring dystopian world, doesn't it? It tells us that choices are a good thing. It keeps things interesting. After all, variety is the spice of life. However, this is true only to a point. When you have too many options, you’re just going in circles trying to land on the right one. It’s like looking for a specific needle in a stack of needles which can be overwhelming and intimidating. If you agree, you might be the victim of analysis paralysis. Try not to overthink this.  

Analysis paralysis or as American psychologist Barry Schwartz called it, the paradox of choice, refers to the incapacity to make choices or decisions because of overthinking and analysing. It’s like diving deeper and deeper into a subject but never actually reaching a conclusion. And while making well-informed decisions is always ideal, reaching a point of analysis paralysis can negatively impact you in several ways. Think about this— would your workplace prefer someone who makes quick decisions that get the work done with whatever means necessary or someone who takes days and weeks pondering over every aspect to do the task perfectly? It’s going to be the first option. The inability to make choices quickly is a significant obstacle. And it affects your personal life too. The more you delve deeper trying to find just the right thing to do, the more it sucks you in. 

If you feel like you’re reading your life’s story, here is how you can overcome the state of analysis paralysis. 

Set a hard stop deadline  

The first step to jump-starting yourself out of analysis paralysis is recognising the state you’re in. Once you acknowledge the downward spiral, give yourself a deadline to stop researching, worrying or whatever it is that is holding you back from making a decision. Make that time limit public by telling your friends, co-workers or family. This way the deadline will feel real and you will feel a need to stick to it. Or they can hold you accountable. Once the deadline comes to a hard stop, make your decision with whatever information you have. Don’t spend even one more day, hour or minute worrying about its outcome. 

Curb your curiosity 

Okay, example time. Let’s say you have to buy a refrigerator. You start researching the different ones available in the market and wonder whether you should get a single-door one or a smart double-door one with an ice dispenser. You make a long pros and cons list and stay up every night reading fact after fact about each one. Just like that, three weeks have gone by and you’ve shape-shifted into a hamster running on a wheel. Your extensive research has left you drowning in details. And we’ve learned the hard way that details are the enemy. They are one of the primary routes into analysis paralysis. The way out of this vicious circle is to simply stop spiralling and recognise the parameters you truly need to make the right choice and what is all the extra information that will be living in your head rent-free for no reason at all. 

Small actionable steps 

Don’t think of the decision you have to make as a sword that is looming over your head. Instead, change your perspective and approach. If you break the decision down into small actionable steps and give yourself attainable goals, it will seem far less intimidating. Not to mention, taking smaller decisions faster is better than being stuck with one big decision. Wouldn’t you agree? It’s all about keeping the momentum flowing so you don’t get stuck in the analysis paralysis quicksand.  

Progress over perfection  

Hear us out before picking up your pitchforks— being a perfectionist isn’t serving you. Despite what millennials and boomers have taught us, it’s not a flex. If anything, pondering over the same decision for hours and days and months to make sure it’s absolutely perfect is hampering your growth by not allowing you to move on. And of course, perfectionism is always followed by its two side kicks— guilt and shame. Instead, focus on progressing in your career, relationship or whatever it is that has you stuck. 

We don’t know who needs to hear this but sometimes, when the decision you have to make is not earth-shattering or life-altering, it’s okay to just choose and move on. It doesn’t have to be flawless. Pick whatever option you think will have the least negative impact and go with that. And if you feel like you’re stuck, take a step back and reevaluate the situation before diving into more research and then overthinking that research. Trust us, it’s a well and you will drown.