Every single day, each of us face thousands of decisions. This may not seem possible, but we spend little time on the vast majority of these choices. Decisions about breakfast, your outfit for the day, and the route to work generally require little thought. These types of choices are based more on gut instinct, intuition and habit. But the bigger decisions can be more challenging, especially when there’s several different choices. In these situations, it’s easy to put off the decision and procrastinate. But often what we call procrastination is actually decision paralysis.
What is decision paralysis? Decision paralysis refers to our inability to make a choice because obstacles get in the way. Anxiety, perfectionism, and the inability to focus are all potential barriers that might cause us to be indecisive. And instead of being productive and accomplishing something today, we find ourselves stuck procrastinating. Fortunately, there are strategies that can us in overcoming procrastination. And if used on a regular basis, we can escape the decision paralysis that often sets us back.
Why We Get Stuck in Decision Paralysis
Believe it or not, there are a number of reasons we might find ourselves stuck in making a decision. One of the most common reasons today is the fear of missing out, or FOMO. Thanks to social media and the Internet, it’s readily apparent that choosing one thing means sacrificing another. And when all the choices look like fun, it becomes increasingly harder to choose and easier to procrastinate. In these instances, overcoming procrastination requires recognizing that your fear is unjustified. And a few techniques can help with this.
In addition to FOMO, decision paralysis also occurs is more likely when we strive for perfection. In these situations, even choosing the right nutrition bar at the store can take half an hour! But rarely does this extra time actually improve our efforts in making the absolutely perfect choice. According to the 80/20 rule, quick decisions are generally correct 80 percent of the time. But in order to increase those odds another 20 percent, significant time investments are required. For some decisions, like choosing a nutrition bar, that extra 20 percent simply isn’t worth it.
The other reason we have trouble overcoming procrastination tendencies is simply a lack of focus. Perhaps we’re distracted by other thoughts. Maybe, there are too many things to consider. In any case, decision paralysis may also occur when our attention is subpar. This is particularly common among individuals who have attention deficit disorder. In these instances, overcoming procrastination requires techniques to improve your concentration and focus. In the process, you’ll be better able to target the one likely to be the best.
(Want to read more about making decisions and overcoming challenges? Check out Ed Kopko’s book, PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success!)
7 Tips for Overcoming Procrastination
Naturally, it helps to identify the root cause of your decision paralysis. But even it you’re unsure, the following tips for overcoming procrastination can help you. In essence, these are important steps that you might consider no matter what decision you face. Not only can they help you focus, but they will also help you have greater clarity along the way.
Define Your Goal
With any decision, it’s important to know your primary goal. Without a clear idea about what you’re trying to achieve, decision paralysis becomes more likely. Thus, the first step in overcoming procrastination involves knowing your primary objectives. This will naturally improve your ability to focus and make a better selection.
Eliminate the Bad Options
Remember all those multiple-choice tests in school? The best strategy was always eliminating the answers you knew weren’t correct. The same is true when trying to avoid decision paralysis. Get rid of the choices that are least likely to work. A short list of options will inherently help you make a decision.
Set Realistic Expectations
As the 80/20 rule suggests, perfection is not a reasonable expectation for most decisions. Instead, match your level of effort to the importance of the decision. Sometimes, overcoming procrastination can be best achieved by realizing there’s some room for error. Not every decision has to be scrutinized in excessive detail.
Set Time Limits for Deciding
Procrastination is defined as putting off a decision to a later time. Therefore, a great strategy for overcoming procrastination involves setting decision-making time limits. Establish a deadline for making a choice, and hold yourself accountable. You might even tell a friend about your deadline so they can hold your responsible as well.
Get the Facts Straight
Particularly if it’s a tough decision, it never hurts to get the facts. Do a little research. Get someone else’s opinion. This, in addition to knowing your values and goals, can help you narrow the choice down to a select few. The odds of making a great decision will be in your favor then.
Identify Any Fears
We’ve already mentioned FOMO, but other fears may also exist. Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, and persistent childhood fears can cause decision paralysis. By identifying any fears present, you can address them and empower yourself in overcoming procrastination.
Be Positive and Confident
Decision-making is an active process that requires energy. It therefore stands to reason that positive decision-making demands positive energy and confidence. Strive to keep a positive attitude and allow yourself some room for error. The positive energy you provide can significantly help you in overcoming procrastination.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
When we place so much pressure on ourselves to perform well, decisions can sometime be incredibly hard. This is when decision paralysis sets in and causes us to avoid making a choice. But not making a decision only prolongs the agony, and sometimes, it leads to additional problems. Overcoming procrastination requires that you recognize your avoidance for what it is. Appreciate your desire to make a good decision, and show yourself some self-compassion. And use the above techniques to help you reduce the risk of decision paralysis. With the right approach and attitude, you can be not only a good decision-maker but an efficient one as well.