Three Steps To Overcome Analysis Paralysis

The Prompt

I found myself going through a decision that took four hours. I cycled back and forth with the same thoughts. I would follow one line of thought, only to cycle back to the start when I hit a block.

Or, I would swap to another line of thought (also repeating the same thoughts countless times over), only to hit another block.

And repeat ad nauseam.

So I want to write up a quickstart guide to get through this.

The Analysis

1) Focus on what your real question is.

Stop thinking the same things. Start thinking about what the real question in your mind is. What are the criteria you are aiming for? What is your desired outcome? When you hit the roadblock, what is implicitly stopping you?

Use this to hone in on what you want to focus on. What are you deal-breakers, nice-to-haves, and so on?

Knowing this will help you set some priorities.

2) Prioritise the criteria you want in order of significance.

Setting a hierarchy of priorities will help you weigh alternatives against each other. If you don't do this, you end up assuming both options are equally as good.

If two values conflict, you will be able to value it relative to the next best alternative. The goal is to get to making a choice.

3) Remember you're allowed to change your plans.

Often, you want to plan things out to the end. But this makes it harder for you to commit and make a decision.

So remember that you're allowed to make tentative plans. They are just as valid decisions as any other. This means seeing how things will go, and then committing to re-evaluating at the end of a week.

Maybe you can keep in mind if a key-condition was met. This will help you evaluate your position at the end of the week, and also keep you from making a decision out of fear of irreversability (which is just not true anyway).

The Conclusion

I find it easy to fall into a mindset of finality, and I want to get out of it. This guide will hopefully be able to snap me out of it. Sometimes, it's hard to even recognise that you're repeating your thoughts when you get too lost in the same patterns.

Another big point is that there are often values or implicit assumptions that I need to accept to move forward. This may be some hard hurdles, inevitable tradeoffs, or unreasonably optimistic expectations. And I think my subconscious knows that they are unreasonable.

So forcing myself to confront these points would help me move forward to make an actual decision. And get back to actually doing something real, rather than waffle about in my head. There's a big difference between actual analysis and straight-up redundant repetition.

Subscribe to Attempted Thoughts

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.