How to Overcome Analysis Paralysis and Make that Hard Decision

My previous post was about the virtue of decisiveness. It was about how hesitancy drains our life energy and wastes our most valuable asset, our time. This post is about a four step method to help you overcome the analysis paralysis and make that hard decision.

Why do we get stuck in analysis paralysis?

We get stuck in analysis paralysis, because we don’t have any criteria to base our decision on. We aren’t sure what our options are. We don’t write down our analysis. As a result, our minds are blurry. We don’t have mental clarity. Therefore, we don’t dare to make a decision at all.

How easy would it be to decide, if you had a crystal clear picture of the situation that you’re in? This method enables just that.

Step 1: Determine your Decision Criteria

This is the first dimension of your decision matrix. What criteria would you base your decision on? Here are some criteria to decide on a major to study at a college.

  • Fulfillment. How much do you enjoy it?
  • Job opportunities
  • Potential impact

Step 2: Determine your Options

Your options are the second dimension of your decision matrix. Some decisions may be yes or no questions. In other cases, you have more options, such as deciding on a car to buy. Write down all of your options.

Suppose that you have three options to study at a college: arts, law, and politics.

Step 3: Analysis

Now, it’s time to construct our decision matrix. You can do this step with pen and paper or with a computer. Make a table with the criteria on the top and your options on the left.

FulfillmentJob OpportunitiesPotential Impact
Arts
Law
Politics

Once you’ve constructed your table, fill it in. Don’t fill it in with checks or crosses. Don’t fill it in with single words, such as poor, fair, or good. Write down everything that you can think about. You want to empty your mind by putting every concern in your mind on to the paper or screen.

If you’re facing a yes or no decision, you can also use a pro-contra template. In that case, you need a table with two columns only. Write down all the reasons for the decision on the left hand side and all the reasons against it on the right hand side.

Step 4: Decide

If you do a good job in the third step, the decision will appear right in front of you. If it doesn’t, let the analysis sink in. Sleep over it for a night or two. Then make your decision. Don’t procrastinate.

Let the universe decide for you.

If you really can’t make a decision between your options, that means all of those options are equally good for you. By not making a decision, you’re actually making the worst decision, missing all the opportunities in your options list. Luckily, there’s a way to overcome that too.

Write down all the options on small papers, put them into a bag, and draw one of them at random. Now, that’s your decision. Forget about all the other options and follow up on your decision. Start the action, get things done, and achieve something extraordinary. That’s thousand times better than wasting your time and energy in analysis paralysis.

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.