Analysis paralysis, why it kills productivity, and how to overcome it

Analysis paralysis is a sly productivity killer. Starting from the moment you awake at dawn, you’re confronted with many decisions. In reality, people make about 35,000 choices per day! Certain decisions could be just as easy as deciding which outfit you wear to work, whereas others are more complex, like whether or not to pursue an opportunity for a new career.


While it’s recommended to be mindful in your decision-making process, there are instances that you can go beyond thinking to confusion and overwhelming. This can be described as analysis paralysis.

What Is Analysis Paralysis?

Analysis paralysis, also referred to as “paralysis by analysis,” is the condition of overthinking or analyzing all circumstances to the point that a decision is delayed or is never made and then impedes the outcome, as Barry Schwartz called this the paradox of decision making.

Analysis Paralysis: What is it?

Analysis paralysis is another illness that people suffer when they get caught up in a dilemma or circumstance and cannot make a choice. The disorder may affect a group of people or individuals when they are faced with many options or solutions and have to select the best option. There are many reasons why this issue could arise, such as getting equally valuable data regarding all of your options or making the wrong research criteria.

What Kinds of Decisions Lead to Analysis Paralysis?

Certain decisions are easy and won’t make us feel overwhelmed or confused, but there are certain kinds of decisions that could cause us to go into analysis paralysis, such as the following:

  • Career
  • Family
  • Marriage/Relationships
  • Finances

Because the decisions we make in these areas could greatly affect our health as well as our future and that of those we love, we are more likely to be in a constant state of analysis paralysis on decisions like these.

The possibility of making a bad decision in any area could weigh heavily on our minds and can cause us to overthink and ask too many people for their opinions.


Therefore, when we try to gain clarity in our decision-making by gathering information and reflecting, we get overwhelmed and lost, and making a confident, clear decision may seem difficult.

Why do people tend to overthink while making decisions?

To understand why many people have this problem or are prone to overthinking the issue, you first need to know how decision-makers make their choices.

In an interview, American psychology expert Herbert Simon clarified the matter and said that the majority of people make their decisions using two methods:


Some people satisfy. They choose the first option according to their specific needs or select the option that seems to meet their requirements efficiently.


Some tend to maximize. They do not settle for the cheapest option. Instead, they search to find better and more effective options.

Within these two groups, the maximizers are people who tend to overthink the decision-making process, hoping to get the best deal or solution, and frequently suffer from analysis paralysis.

In addition, many studies have shown that the majority of people analyze things over and over again to justify their possibility of failing. When the moment arrives to make a decision, it is common for people to overthink and delay things or delay their actions to avoid making a wrong decision.

It’s also evident that a lot of people are enticed by the numerous choices; with more data and statistics available, it is difficult for many to make good decisions. If the data from various sources reaches a person’s limit of processing, the brain’s ability to process it diminishes, and the person is completely unable to function.

The difference between good Decision-making and Analysis Paralysis

“Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.” — John C. Maxwell

What is the difference between good decisions and paralysis by analysis? Does it even exist? The majority of decisions involve making a list of the array of possibilities and the variety of choices. Our brain then begins to narrow the list and eliminate any options or choices that are either irrelevant or inappropriate. The elimination process takes the shortest amount of time. It isn’t easy to pinpoint the exact timing, but the process is fast.

However, things sometimes go differently when someone suffers from analysis paralysis. They become stuck in the myriad of alternatives and choices. Their minds are constantly expanding with infinite options, and they all seem to be the same and likely. It’s normal to be overwhelmed when trying to select the most suitable choice from many possibilities. If you believe that each of these choices is founded on merit, they cannot be the same, which can halt the whole decision-making process.

What Does Analysis Paralysis Feel Like?

Anyone is familiar with feeling confused , and most likely they would agree that it’s not the best feeling. The stress level can increase the speed of our thoughts, and we might become annoyed.

In a state of analysis paralysis, we could experience these symptoms to the point where they make us feel exhausted and overwhelmed. You may experience stress-related symptoms such as:

  • Thinking about thoughts
  • Heart rate is rapid
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Breathing slowly
  • Sleepiness problems
  • Fatigue
Analysis Paralysis: What does it feel like?
  • Indifference to making a choice
  • The lack of productivity
  • Inability to concentrate

Which Traits Contribute to Analysis Paralysis?

Though anyone can go through analysis by paralysis, a euphoria of thought, however, specific characteristics may cause someone to find themselves in a situation like this more quickly.

Rigid Thinking

People who frequently consider dichotomous terms like being strictly good or bad, all or nothing, right or wrong, can be lost when a choice isn’t clear as to whether it belongs in either category.

Certain choices may be straightforward, but others require more cognitive or emotional flexibility. If we think about the world in a rigid way, some decisions could cause anxiety and cause people to want to elude making a decision.


The majority of perfectionists are very cautious people, which in itself isn’t negative. Still, perfectionists could cause trouble when confronted with decisions concerning relationships, love, future goals, career goals, or even family.

There are a lot of unknowns and possible outcomes to these kinds of decisions that could impact us and the people we care about.

Even with all our efforts at avoiding stress or infuriating others, we aren’t able to always predict the future, and making a decision can be a bit risky.


People-pleasing refers to the desire to please people regardless of cost and sometimes even at the expense of our personal happiness.

When we’re required to make a choice that could impact other people, in particular, those we cherish or value, the burden of our decision can be especially weighty.

It’s not difficult to understand that analyzing all of the possible outcomes or seeking views or opinions could seem like a good option, but we can get into a state of confusion, especially when we want to please almost everyone.

Lack of Confidence

There are a variety of reasons why someone might experience a lack of confidence in making decisions. Some people believe it’s just because they haven’t been exposed to a lot of practice; for others, it could be due to the agony of making a bad decision.

If someone’s perception of themselves is that they are unable to make the right choices, it is normal for them to consult with others or spend a significant amount of time contemplating the advantages and disadvantages of choice.


When we feel empathy, we’re sharing an emotion with someone else. While this is an extremely warm and loving characteristic, it can also create problems when we are engaged in decision-making.

When we analyze data about pros and cons or possible results, we can feel the emotions we expect people to feel in the wake of our decision-making. However, whether this is accurate or not, this could cause us to be overwhelmed and confused, leaving us with no reason to want to make a decision in the first place.

How to Stop Analysis Paralysis

If you’re in a state of utter numbness and lost in thought, it is crucial to recognize that there are actions you can take to slow the process or even stop it completely. The thoughts that are ruminating in your head or the anxiety and confusion could seem like a daunting task, and there is a sense of urgency during these times.

Recognize What Is Happening

One way to get out of the stalemate is to recognize that you’re in it. Examine your body, starting from the top of your head down to the tips of your toes. Be aware of any tension in your muscles, numbness, short breathing, or other indications of stress your body could be transmitting.

Let yourself become an observer of your thought processes. You can be honest when it seems as if you’re ruminating over the same things repeatedly.

Prioritize your decisions

Making all decisions the same way affects your productivity overall and can cause analysis paralysis. The first step towards overcoming anxiety is to identify the crucial choices and give them priority. After that, you can move on to the other ones.

Before making a decision, take a moment to ask yourself these questions:

How important is this decision to you?

What will the result be for the product or business?

Do you need to decide at this moment?

What are the possible side consequences if the decision is wrong?

Find a second pair of eyes

The majority of the time, we are caught up in analyzing too much that it’s difficult to stand aside and objectively see a clear assessment of the situation.

A little help from a colleague, a team leader, or someone whom you trust will help you out of the hole. Ask them to do some research on their own, then present you with the condensed data, or just ask for suggestions regarding how they can manage that particular overload of information.

 Take a break

If you’re contemplating a dilemma or making a decision repeatedly, it can be beneficial to take a break. Get away from the issue and allow your mind to rest. After a few minutes away from the issue, you may find the decision to be a little easier to make. When you’re taking an opportunity to relax, it’s essential to make an effort not to think about the issue or circumstance. In order to do this, you should concentrate on other tasks that require mental energy or concentration because it could aid in distracting yourself.

Set a deadline

If you have the date of completion for a task or idea, It can assist in forcing you to take a step. If you are in a state of confusion, give yourself an adequate amount of time to make a decision. Then, make your deadline public.

itIt isn’t easy to set deadlines on your own, but if you let others know about deadlines and ask them for help to ensure you keep on track, It can help you to complete the project in time. Let your friends know about the deadline, or, for smaller projects; you can post your date on your social networks. The more people you can inform about the deadline, the more motivated you’ll be to complete it.

Parkinson’s Law states that work increases to fill the time that you’ve allocated it. If you are given one hour to complete something, it will take an hour. If you are given 15 minutes to finish the identical task, it will take you 15 minutes. The same is true when making choices. The setting of a time limit could force you to make the right decision faster.

Stoping Analysis Paralysis

Break all decisions down into steps.

Don’t attempt to take the decision in one large step. Instead, think about breaking it down into smaller steps to ease the process. By shifting your focus from one major decision to several smaller steps, you will be able to manage the smaller ones with ease and also assist to overcome the apathy of making one large and crucial decision.

You could also test your ability to make life decisions quickly. For instance:

  • Take a stroll, but don’t take a specific path. Instead, follow only your steps.
  • Pick the first television show you are drawn to rather than think about what you should do next.

You may feel some anxiety, but accept it and continue to move. Take some time to try out rapid, decisive decisions that have no effects. It’s fun and can enhance your decision-making.

Make quick decisions

To relieve your mind of anxiety over decision-making, it’s useful to make easy decisions quickly. Every decision you make throughout the day, be it the clothes you’ll wear or what to eat, make your decision as swiftly as you are able to. This will help you feel at ease when making decisions and not worry about them. When it is time to make your important decision, look over the arguments and evidence for each choice one more time, and then make your decision quickly.

Be aware of the goal of making every decision

The most common reason for our inability to make choices is not the danger of failure, nor is it due to the numerous options available; rather often, we do not know the objective of making the decision. If this is the situation, be aware of the reasons for making each decision, as it makes it easier for you to select the best choice.

Be sure to leave the perfection behind

If you’re not taking an important decision it is not necessary to be thinking about the ultimate goal. Sometimes, opting for a “good-enough” one is the best choice. Be aware that every decision comes with certain side effects. Don’t let this issue hinder your progress.

Give Yourself Permission to be Flexible

People-pleasing, rigid thinking, and fear can make us unable to make a decisive choice. Remember that it’s acceptable to be a bit nimble and imperfect.

Oftentimes, our anxiety over an unfavorable outcome may seem heavy and enduring; however, this is not always the scenario.

Read More: Habits That Can Make You a Better Decision Maker

Read More: The Compounding Effect: The Power of Small Incremental Improvements

Read More: Overcome Procrastination and Start Getting Things Done

Stop Asking for Others’ Opinions

The most common cause of analysis paralysis involves searching for information, and the opinions of other people.

I’m sure I’ve said, “Get a second pair of eyes” but it’s not the same when you are asking other people for their opinions. It is important to know the difference. Don’t try to involve just anyone or everyone. Be very specific, and don’t randomly ask everyone near or close to you. You likely have the knowledge you require and also have the experience of your life and wisdom to figure out what the best next step is.

Intentionally limit the amount of information you consume.

An attorney, a public official, a law school professor, a business school professor, and an author of a plethora of books, Bob Pozen, is able to accomplish a great deal throughout the daytime. One of the keys to his efficiency is his ability to effectively manage information by determining exactly what he needs to learn from it and then studying for the information he needs to know. The act of reading with a particular purpose in mind will allow him to sift through huge quantities of information without becoming overwhelmed.

Another method to consume information without losing yourself in endless research is to establish the amount you want to consume when doing research. Choose the sources you want to use first. This strategy can be made more efficient by restricting your use to a certain number of tabs.

Be comfortable with uncertainty.

Your brain must get used to the reality that you will not be capable of predicting every possibility. If you have ten possibilities to pick from and you’d have to be prepared for more than one outcome with each of them. It can be extremely stressful and time-consuming.

Train your brain to understand that regardless of the route you choose, your efforts will result in better results and rewards if you do your best in every given moment.

Start before you feel ready.

James Clear gives possibly some of the most effective suggestions for conquering the fear of not being able to move forward toward your goals: learn from Richard Branson and start before you feel confident.

“Branson has launched numerous ventures, companies, or charities, as well as numerous adventures, that it’s impossible to believe that he was well-prepared, competent, and ready to launch every single one of them. It’s highly unlikely that he was well prepared to begin any of the ventures. He’d never flown on an airplane and was not aware of anything about the design of aircraft, yet he set out to start an airline business anyway. He’s a great illustration of how those who have been “chosen ones” choose themselves.

There’s a good chance that you’ll feel uneasy, unprepared, or unqualified. Let me say this to you: what you’ve got right now is sufficient. You can plan, defer, and change your plans whenever you want; however, I’m here to tell you that what you have right now is sufficient to begin.

It’s easy to fool ourselves into believing that we’re getting better. The truth is that action is what determines the outcome, whether we succeed or fail. If you find yourself stuck in a state of analysis paralysis, remember that successful people begin before they are ready and then figure the rest out as they go along.


Analysis paralysis is a real issue and is one of the main reasons for procrastination. Our productivity is affected not only by the amount of time we spend researching but also due to our mental energy being depleted and our self-confidence slipping. Although there are strategies to get ourselves from the cycle of thinking too much, the most effective way to fight this issue is to focus more on research smarter by limiting our time, becoming comfortable with the uncertainty, and enhancing our self-confidence, just to mention some.

Because analysis paralysis may have various triggers, the solutions are also different. Take the time to discover what triggers you, and you’ll be well on the way to an immediate recovery.

Stop the Analysis Paralysis, Start Massive Momentum | Teagan Adams | TEDxYouth@DoyleAve
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