Follow these tips to overcome analysis paralysis and stop overthinking everything


Choosing a bunch of flowers for a friend should be a pretty easy task.

After all, it’s just flowers. Yet for many of us, even this simple decision can be a minefield.

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Analysis paralysis is the state of over-thinking about a decision to the point that a choice never gets made[/caption]

Standing gazing at the blooms to pick from, you begin to worry.

Will the friend think roses are too romantic? Are daffodils boring? And don’t white flowers signify a bereavement?

Welcome to the world of chronic indecision – or analysis paralysis– where even small, everyday decisions can seem impossible.

It can happen anywhere, from supermarkets with a whole aisle dedicated to yoghurt to the infinite pages of ASOS.

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Even making small, everyday decisions at the grocery store can seem impossible[/caption]

And if you’ve ever wandered around the sandwich shop for 20 minutes at lunchtime trying to choose what to eat, you can relate.

However, for many of us, chronic indecision isn’t just annoying – it can hold us back at work, in relationships and even from finding happiness.

What’s more, the overthinking that’s part of analysis paralysis has been directly linked to depression and anxiety, and one can fuel the other.

“Indecision is anxiety-provoking,” says Andreas Kappes, a social behaviour and learning lecturer at London’s City University. “People who are already prone to depression and anxiety suffer more from chronic indecision. And if you are depressed, one of the biggest symptoms is that you can’t make decisions.”

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Analysis paralysis also leads to greater anxiety, indecision, paralysis, and dissatisfaction[/caption]

Research shows that those who suffer from this state of mind can waste half of their working day considering problems rather than acting on them.*

Plus, our cognitive function severely declines during stressful periods, which makes it even harder to make decisions.

Modern life has opened up infinite choices – the plus side means 23 different flight times or 52 Tinder matches – yet the downside is these infinite choices can end up feeling like a burden, leading to a debilitating internal monologue.

But there are ways to begin to get a handle on analysis paralysis and overcome it.

Be a morning person

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The best time to think through big decisions is in the morning before breakfast[/caption]

An adult makes about 35,000 decisions a day, and they start as soon as your alarm goes off. Will you hit snooze or drag yourself out of bed?

According to Andreas, if you’re struggling with a big decision, the best time to think it through is before breakfast.

“Research suggests that the later the time of day, the more incapable of making decisions we are,” he says.

“The reason this happens is not clear-cut, but it comes down to what’s known as ego depletion – the more mental exertion you’ve endured, the less able you are to make decisions as the day goes on, as you have a limited pool of mental resources that can be used. The problem you are considering may not be a problem in the morning.”

So if you’re prone to losing hours to trying to decide which holiday to book, plan what you want out of a break on your morning commute instead of wasting precious time after work.

Phone a friend

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Chatting to someone you trust can help bring clarity[/caption]

It’s hardly a shock that things often appear so much more significant in our own minds than in the minds of others.

We might be frantic over finding the “right” interview outfit, but chatting to someone you trust can help bring objectivity and clarity. “For example, if I have an event to go to and I can’t decide which trousers to wear, I ask my wife,” Andreas explains.

“Outsourcing decisions is a much faster – and crucially less stressful – way of dealing with them.”

Stop and listen

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Writing down your feelings and thoughts will make you feel more in control[/caption]

Knowing the science behind how you’re feeling can be the key to overcoming analysis paralysis.

“When we think about indecision, it comes down to three conflicts,” says Andreas.

“One: that there is something I want, but I am afraid of failing or being rejected. Two: that there are two things I want, but I can’t decide. And three: there are two things I don’t want and I can’t decide. At these points our biological system naturally slows us down and makes us wait, because our instincts tell us that something is at stake. Different people might slow down more as they are more cautious, while others might be quicker to decide.”

Take the time to stop and think about what it is you’re feeling, then try writing down as much of this as possible. You should feel more in control and better-equipped to make a decision – and stick to it.

Limit your choices

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The infinite choices and matches on dating apps can end up feeling like a burden and can be anxiety-provoking[/caption]

“This theory relates to what is called choice overload,” explains Andreas.

“Instinctively we think that more choice is better – we believe that the more options we have, the more likely we are to make a good decision. But research shows that more choice is anxiety-provoking – we can’t implement ways of evaluating so many things.

“Take dating, for example. Consider having 26 matches on a dating app, or meeting two potential partners in a bar. Choosing one of the two suitors would lead to less questioning of whether you made the right choice. When there are more options, research suggests we are less likely to be happy with a decision because there are more unknowns. It’s counter-effective – ‘maybe the grass is greener on the other side.’ If we can limit choices and value them more, we can eradicate that feeling.”

Embrace it a little

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Differentiate between big and small decisions, after which you give the decision the level of attention based on its importance[/caption]

It’s not an inherently bad thing to be indecisive – Andreas says that it can be a useful safety device when used in the right way.

“The reason we’re programmed as we are is because it’s often beneficial for us to stop and consider what matters. Someone who doesn’t have that can be impulsive, and that’s not always great either.”

We just have to find a happy medium and try to keep perspective instead of sweating the small stuff. So when it comes to buying flowers, remember your pal won’t care what you bring – they just want to see you. Which makes life decidedly more simple.

Try flipping a coin

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Flipping a coin can help you with making small decisions[/caption]

Yep, really. “When it comes to small decisions – like whether to have blueberry or strawberry yoghurt – this really works,” Andreas says.

“Usually, when we leave the outcome up to fate we have a natural reaction, instantly feeling either regret or joy. So if the coin implies you should pick blueberry and you feel disappointed, the right decision for you is strawberry.”

Sometimes you need to stop thinking

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Sometimes you have to accept that not every problem can be solved by thinking it through[/caption]

If all else fails, recall a time when you’ve tried to talk a friend out of an anxiety or irrational fear.

They know the feeling doesn’t make sense but that knowledge doesn’t eradicate the fear.

“Accept that you can’t out-think yourself, and put the problem to one side,” Andreas says.

“We believe we can solve any problem just by thinking it through enough, but that’s not always possible.”


  • Source: *Lexis Nexis


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