How to Prevent Decision Paralysis

{Illustration by Lynda Farrington Wilson on Etsy}

A group of doctors are told that they have a 67-year-old patient suffering from arthritis in his hip. He’s taken a bunch of medications, and none of them have helped. The next step is a hip replacement.

The doctors find out that the patient hasn’t tried a medication that may alleviate the symptoms which would mean that he wouldn’t need surgery. Forty-seven percent decide to try the medication before replacing the patient’s hip.

Another group of doctors were given the same scenario, except they were told that the patient hasn’t tried 2 medications that might alleviate his symptoms. This time, only 28 percent of the doctors opt to try medication first.

I would think that the doctors would be even more hopeful that one of the medications would help this poor guy before replacing his hip. I’ve had a family member who’s had this procedure—and it ain’t pretty. The physical therapy is painful and arduous.

So, what happened with these doctors? Well, Chip and Dan Heath {the authors of Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, affiliate link}, say it’s decision paralysis.

Too many choices are actually a bad thing.

Do you ever spend 30 minutes just figuring out what to do next? Do you waste 15 minutes deciding what blog topic to write about? Do you put off building your website, because you’re trying to decide between two different business names?

That’s decision paralysis at its finest.

Identify where decision paralysis affects you.

I know that I’ll waste at least 20 minutes deciding on a blog post topic when I sit down to write unless I already have something scheduled. I also know that if I put too many things on my to-do list, I’ll waste an hour of the day trying to prioritize.

Ask yourself these questions:

1. Are you putting anything off, because it requires making a decision?

During consulting sessions, I’ll have clients who say things like, “I know I need to get a printer, but I don’t know which one to get,” or “I’ve been planning my Etsy shop for the past 6 months but I haven’t started it, because I can’t decide on a name.”

You can’t see the future. You don’t know what decision will be the best one until you try. Make an educated guess, and go with it. If you have to change it later, then change it. But, just thinking about something, hoping that an answer will suddenly appear is a waste of time.

2. Where do you waste time in the day?

I guarantee that if you have a to-do list that could never be accomplished in one day, you waste time. When you have a to-do list that you know will get done, you can wake up and do one thing after the next until they’re all done. And, they get done faster, because you get rid of all that “decision making” time.

Prevent decision paralysis.

You can easily take steps to prevent decision paralysis by scheduling everything. When I wake up in the morning, I’ve already scheduled my top 6 priorities {that’s how many things I put on my to-do list}, so I get to work. I accomplish things a lot faster.

I also schedule blog posts in advance. If I’m running low on blog topic ideas, I schedule “blog post topic brainstorming” as one of my to-do items, and I try to plan at least the next month of blog posts. When I sit down to write, I already know what topic I’m writing about. This makes things super simple.

When you schedule stuff, you take the “decision making” part out of the equation which means you minimize decision paralysis. And, you maximize taking action.

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22 Responses to How to Prevent Decision Paralysis

  1. Dana Phillips February 23, 2011 at 7:53 am #

    seriously, it’s like you’re writing a book about me!!! i waste so much time on little stuff, it’s really annoying! and i just let it stop me! lately i’ve been waiting to do things til i get everything in place. but i’ve started moving forward and gotten over some ant hills that i felt were mountains! this post has come at a perfect time :)
    thanx again April – you rock.
    dana

    • April February 23, 2011 at 10:10 am #

      Hey Dana! I’m glad this could help :)

      It’s so easy to spend tons of time just thinking and thinking and thinking about things–or planning and planning and planning. And, the real way to make your goals happen is to take action even if you don’t know the answer. Making your best guest is all you can do sometimes.

  2. Adriana February 23, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    I totally remember learning about this while studying psychology in college. I hate in when my academic past comes back to bite me in the bum.

    But scheduling all my blog posts in advance (on the recommendation of your blogging program) really has helped me to cut out hours and hours of “decision time” from my week. Thanks for the great suggestion!
    Adriana recently posted..350 Pet Portraits

    • April February 23, 2011 at 10:11 am #

      Hahaha…so true!

      I’m so glad the blog program is helping you save time–because you make such beautiful art. And, if you don’t have any time, then you can’t make it.

  3. CC February 23, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    I’m soooooo guilty of this. I tend to research and research and then I have too much info. Crazy cycle! Thanks for the post! Right now I’m trying to decide on a new company name so I can do a blog, website, etc……..
    CC recently posted..Scarlet Red Silk Flower Pin Brooch Bridesmaid Mothers Day ChichiChick USD 1500

    • April February 23, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

      You’re welcome CC! Glad it came at a good time :)

  4. Mayi Carles February 23, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    Couldn’t agree more! And if this is true, then on the flip side we also have to create products + services + posts that don’t perpetuate decision paralysis, but instead communicate a clear message + call to action. Too many instructions to enter a giveaway + to many services to choose from + too many products to scan, these could all catalyze decision paralysis, right? We might think we’re being generous for giving out so many options but in reality we might me sabotaging our conversions. This is definitively something I need to think about more! Anyhoo, thanks for sparking something to reflect about this happy Wednesday April :)

    • April February 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

      Definitely Mayi! Thanks for adding that to the conversation. I’m working on redoing my consulting services–and I don’t want to offer too many options. And, often people don’t know which one they actually need unless the services are clearly outlined and different.

  5. brandi February 23, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    I do try to plan everything on my calendar that way the decision is already made. If I forget I know I forgot because I will take too much time to decide.
    brandi recently posted..My Bunnies

    • April February 23, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

      Thanks for sharing Brandi!

  6. Bobbi February 23, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    After listening to you talk about this subject on the Etsy Symposium, I realized that this is a huge problem for me. I’ve been using your prevention techniques and it’s really made a difference for me in my day to day. I’m glad you wrote about it again today; I was planning to blog about my recent experiences with this issue, and being able to link back to you fit in nicely;)
    Bobbi recently posted..Decisions Decisions

    • April February 24, 2011 at 6:36 am #

      Yay Bobbi!!! I’m sooooo glad :)

  7. Meghan February 23, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    Oh April, you’re just so smart and so well written. What a relief to know that I’m not alone on this issue. I know that I avoid decisions because I’m so afraid the one I’ll make will be the wrong one. But I’m learning so much from you and these other great bloggers offering education that I can’t just keep learning only, I must release. I must put into practice. And I’m getting really pumped to do so.

    • April February 24, 2011 at 6:43 am #

      Thanks Meghan! I appreciate your kind words :)

      I’m super happy that these posts are encouraging you to take action. All you can do is make your best educated guess, try it, and if it doesn’t work, try something else.

  8. Brooke February 24, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    I tend to overthink, over-research and over-analyze. This leads to long delays in actually getting anything done. Whenever I am brave and just go for it, I seem to reap rewards.

    Thank you for this post/reminder!
    Brooke recently posted..10 Steps to a Custom Order

    • April February 25, 2011 at 7:37 am #

      You’re welcome Brooke! Thanks for stopping by to comment :)

  9. Marcia Lacher February 24, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    Thanks so much. I’m off to work.
    Marcia Lacher recently posted..Cloche Hat for Women in Tan Felt with Dark Blue Flower

  10. Sarah Stephen February 24, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

    Thanks so much for this. I am guilty of this self sabotage on a daily basis. Looking foward to a more productive me.

  11. Sansan February 25, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    Thank you for all your bits of wisdom!! I suffer from decision making paralysis+wasting time and this gives me a push to snap out of it!
    Sansan recently posted..Heavy Metal Constellation Dangle Earrings

  12. Kristin February 25, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    So far, all your topics are speaking directly to me. I have recently started to acquire the tools to add a new element to my jewelry. I’m headed mainly in one direction but I am feeling pulled toward so many different interests. Missing a few elements preventing me from just jumping in to create has been tripping me up, along with learning the new technical stuff. In a way that might be a stop on the slippery slope to crap excuses. There is plenty I can do. Thank you so much for putting these roadblocks into words so I can take a hard look at what prevents me from just getting to work.

    When you have your list of 6 to do items, are those items mostly or only creative business focused or does it depend on the day and circumstance? Specifically, do you include things like washing laundry and mopping the floor?

  13. Darlene Webb December 9, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    Missing a few elements preventing me from just jumping in to create has been tripping me up, along with learning the new technical stuff. There is plenty I can do. lately i’ve been waiting to do things til i get everything in place.
    Darlene Webb recently posted..Cancer Tattoos Tumblr

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