Prioritizing

13 Ways to Beat Analysis Paralysis

Are you frozen somewhere between, “There’s too much information to consider” and “I can’t make up my mind?” People with ADHD excel at making split-second decisions under high-pressure circumstances. What’s much tougher: weighing complex information to make an informed choice. These strategies can help.

If you're going to procrastinate, make the choice that will let you use your time most wisely
1 of 15

Some Like It Hot

Those with ADHD are often great at making “hot decisions” at urgent moments — a sudden household crisis or getting a friend to the emergency room. Fast-moving events light up the neurotransmitters of the ADHD brain and focus attention. We are not as good at making “cold decisions,” which are information-driven and require us to make up our minds after a lot of thought.

Man with ADHD is stressed
2 of 15

Information Overload

“There’s just too much information, and I can’t seem to decide in time” is a common refrain heard from many of us with attention deficit. Throw in problems enlisting our executive functions and a desire to get things over with, and we make a lot of decisions we wish we could take back. Here are some strategies for making smarter decisions we won’t regret.

A woman with analysis paralysis trying to decide what to buy at the store
3 of 15

Be Closed-Minded

Did you know the word “decide” comes from the Latin word “to cut off?” Limit your choices. My client Olivia, who has ADHD, found choosing a summer camp for her kid excruciating. We narrowed her choices by budget, application deadline, and proximity to home. Nothing beyond those criteria was given a glance. She was able to make the decision in record time, once she kicked her "analysis paralysis" to the curb.

A person with analysis paralysis trying to read a map
4 of 15

Pay Attention to Your Intuition

Studies show that long before your reasoning mind kicks in, your emotional brain has been sensing the way to go. Consult your heart. Good decisions are often a mix of logic and emotions.

A woman who doesn't have analysis paralysis smiling calmly in a field
5 of 15

Quiet Things Down

Noise, visual clutter, and too much hustle-bustle overload an ADHD brain, making it hard to make a decision. Find a quiet room or nook to think.

A calendar and clock representing analysis paralysis
6 of 15

Set a Decision Deadline

Post your deadline on your calendar. Having a date to decide adds focus and motivation to a decision that has no time frame. People with ADHD love visual reminders.

Adults without analysis paralysis making a decsion using laptop
7 of 15

Crowd-Source the Decision

Delegate the decision to people you trust in your social media network. They make the decision, but you assume the responsibility or accountability for it.

Pro and con list to help someone with analysis paralysis
8 of 15

Put It On Paper

Write down the risks and benefits — the pros and cons — of a prospective decision on a piece of paper or a large erasable white board and evaluate them over several days. One of the pros or cons might leap out at you and trigger a decision.

A businesswoman with analysis paralysis writing in a meeting
9 of 15

Ask for More Time

Buying time counteracts knee-jerk (bad) decisions. When someone is forcing you to decide now, say, “Let me get back to you on that” or “Can I sleep on it?” or “Will you e-mail me next week for my decision?”

Woman overcoming analysis paralysis by laying in a hammock
10 of 15

Pause and Reflect

After you gather a lot of information to make a decision, pull back to assess what you have. People with ADHD are often more captivated by gathering information than by deciding. You might already have enough information to decide, but unless you pause, you won’t know.

A man and woman discussing analysis paralysis
11 of 15

Just Say It

Saying the options of your choices out loud sometimes leads to making your decision. Externalizing thoughts cuts through the clutter of competing thoughts.

A woman with analysis paralysis staring out the window
12 of 15

See the Silver Lining

Spend a minute thinking of what you’ll gain after making a decision. If you’re putting off organizing the top of your desk, say, think about how it will get people off your back, enable you to find that missing flash drive, and give you more surface to work on. Better yet, write the gains down.

Woman looking at clothes and trying to overcome analysis paralysis
13 of 15

Decide On Small Things Ahead of Time

Make as many small decisions ahead of time as you can. Freezing pre-made meals eliminates mealtime decisions. Putting outfits together on a hanger reduces what-to-wear decisions, and reading menus online can end the infernal “what to order at the restaurant” question.

Woman looking up analysis paralysis on the computer
14 of 15

Spend More Time On Important Things

Research a decision in proportion to the consequences or risks. A wrong decision about a backpack is less consequential than picking the wrong summer camp. Allot less time to thinking about the backpack.

Two women looking at clothes in a store and discussing analysis paralysis
15 of 15

Feel Good About Deciding

If you have lost your confidence in decision-making as mistakes in judgment of the past pile up, recall the good decisions you have made or the ones that were really tough. If you feel like a decision-maker failure, talk with a counselor to help you overcome it.