How to Overcome Decision Paralysis

I make a lot of decisions. Some are HUGE. Some, tiny. For example:

  • What am I going to have for lunch?
  • Should I run or lift?
  • What should my workout be?
  • Should I watch Law & Order now?
  • Oh, a new Chicago Fire? That's next.
  • Should I call Grandma?
  • Where do I want to go on vacation?
  • I wonder how Drew & Paula are doing?
  • Were there any new jobs posted?
  • I need to ship that order. Oh look sunglasses.

Sure, you could call this brain pong -- but, really it's just a look into all the decisions randomly dispersed over the course of my day.

Each decision takes effort.

Should you forget about it? Act on it? Delegate it? You mean I have to make a decision to make a decision? Yes.

Even this blog post was a decision.

I hadn't written in a couple months.  My blog was quiet. And I know a lot of people don't read this, but I don't write for readers. I write for myself. It helps me process what I'm thinking.

And I've been thinking a lot lately.

About my company, happiness, priorities,  relationships, and health.  Some of that list has been bearing down on me for months. (You know, the "What the heck am I doing with my life?" questions.)

This paralyzed my brain.

It's hard to eliminate some decisions because, to make sure you're making the right decision, you solicit feedback from others (your family & friends).

This makes the decision complex.

Mom said this. Sara said this. Brittany said this. Ryan said this.

So, I thought I'd take some time to write down what I'm doing to eliminate decision paralysis (after all, it's incredibly important to make decisions). Because something has to happen. Whenever I'm pressed with a decision that affects my life one of two things happen: I either push it off -- or worse -- don't make the decision at all.

5 strategies to overcome decision paralysis

1. Talk to less people

Less is definitely more. When I'm having trouble making a decision, I call the people best suited for the situation. Maximum people allowed to give me their two cents? Three. The more people I talk to, the more opinions. The more opinions, the harder the decision gets. Talk less, listen more. Make up your mind.

2. Runs on auto-pilot

My morning is a well-oiled machine. From 6am - 9am, I know what I'm doing -- and it doesn't change. This eliminates any decisions. Curious what it looks like?

  • 6:00 - wake up, stretch, get ready for the gym
  • 6:30 - 7:30 - gym time
  • 7:30 - 8:00 - get stuck in traffic & shower
  • 8:00 - 8:30 - Breakfast and make to-do list for the day (no laptop)
  • 8:30 - 9:00 - Email - then pause inbox

After 9:00, I hammer through my list. However, I lose structure given meetings, phone calls, deliveries, etc.  (Oh, random cravings for dark chocolate).

I'm trying to bring structure to the rest of my day. Choosing a time I "go home", go to bed (usually 10pm), and what my life looks like after work (which never ends for a small business owner).

3.  Eliminate options

I only buy American Eagle jeans. Yes, I'm 26, but they fit great - and they're affordable. I (try to) only shop at Price Chopper. It's familiar and I'm out in 10 minutes since I buy the same groceries every week. I watch four TV shows on Hulu Plus because I don't have cable. They are all scheduled into my week.

These are easy decisions.

I've trained my brain to think there is nothing else. Yes, I could shop at Hannaford or Trader Joe's (their chocolate-covered turbinado sugar coated almonds are addicting), but shopping at Price Chopper down the road wins out every time.  I could buy other jeans, but it'd take too much time to find the cut and size that fits - at the right price. Speaking of time....

4. Ask for help

Whenever I find myself stuck on a problem or thinking "I wonder if....." I just ask. There are no stupid questions. And I reach a decision faster.  This means picking up the phone and calling. Or simply asking the produce guy where the bathroom is. The more time you spend thinking about making a decision, the more you waste on things that are more important to you (like friends & family). Why do you think Simon Cowell only wears black t-shirts?

5. Plan ahead

I know what's coming up this week, so I plan to make decisions. Those decisions are sometimes scheduled in my Google Calendar. Some are recurring - others spontaneous. For example, I travel a lot on the weekends. Meals are always a decision. So, I find restaurants I'm going to or buy all my meals at the grocery store. Now, I'm not only prepared for the weekend, but I'm not tempted by the food at all these festivals.

What do you do to help yourself make decisions?

Photo courtesy of JakeCaptive