Avoid Overthinking and Make Decisions Faster
Gary, a developer, envied his project manager, Amy, because of the ease with which Amy made decisions. She never let the passage of time, the ambiguity of the situation, or a desire for more information stand in the way of deciding. She took into account whatever facts were available, considered the implications of alternative decisions, and decided. It’s not that she was able to make decisions quickly that impressed Gary; it’s that she was able to make decisions at all.
Gary suffered from overthinking, the tendency to think too much rather than take action. Instead of gathering relevant information and making a decision, he was a victim of reanalyzing, rethinking, and reconsidering.
Overthinking is not the same as being cautious and methodical about making a decision. We all occasionally overthink. I certainly do; sometimes, I go back and forth, wavering and changing my mind even when I know that whatever I decide will be adequate. Eventually, though, I make the decision.
By contrast, despite the amount of analysis overthinkers do, they may never get any closer to actually making a decision. They know their behavior is annoying to others, but constantly hearing “Just choose already” doesn’t diminish their fear of making the wrong decision.
If you’re an overthinker—or even just want to make decisions faster—try setting a time limit to give yourself a defined amount of time to make the decision. Or make a firm commitment to yourself to take action by a certain date or time, and then stick to that commitment. Some people find it helpful to tell someone about the commitment so as to be held accountable.
If you can set criteria in advance that the decision has to meet, you’ll have a ready means to distinguish good decisions from bad ones. In any case, most of the time, your decisions will be just fine. If a decision turns out to fall short, do as Amy and others do and view it as an opportunity to learn from the situation.
At least for smaller, everyday decisions, learn to trust your gut. As nerve-racking as that may be initially, every decision you make will develop your decision-making skills.
Keep in mind that no one makes perfect decisions all the time, so ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen if a decision you make proves not to be the best one? You may find that the worst possible outcome is far less ominous than the agony of delaying the decision indefinitely.