Analysis paralysis, information overload, and you

What do you want to eat? Which song would you like to hear next? Who’s your favorite actor? Would you like sugar and cream? How many rolls of wrapping paper do we need? Which way should I turn? Please hurry, people are waiting on you. 

Choose. Now. Decide. Hurry.

Is this what it feels like inside your head whenever you have a decision to make? A lot of people who experience “analysis paralysis” report feelings of anxiety and stress along with the inability to decide. 

It bears mentioning that, for the purposes of this article, “analysis paralysis” is described as the inability to form the necessary thoughts required to execute a decision. In other words, it’s not that the person experiencing analysis paralysis doesn’t know the answer; they can’t even think about it without drawing a complete blank. To the person experiencing this, it feels like the part of their brain that makes choices is inaccessible. 

Almost everyone has some experience with this. If you’ve ever been focused on something of incredible importance, such as an emergency, and had your train of thought interrupted by something unimportant, you might have found it difficult to focus on the latter. 

For some, especially folks with ADHD, analysis paralysis can occur even when there aren’t mitigating factors such as emergent situations or high-consequence matters at stake. 

The potential for negative outcomes related to analysis paralysis goes far beyond mere indecision. Those who are predisposed to it tend to avoid public-decision making by either removing themselves from social situations or constantly deferring to others. 

So what can be done about analysis paralysis? Alot, actually. Researchers in France, studying ADHD in children, found that one of the largest contributing factors to decreased decision-making performance was a lack of sleep. They suggest reducing screen time in the evenings to ensure you’re giving your brain enough time to simmer down and get ready for bed. 

Other experts say “information overload” is among the highest contributing factors when it comes to analysis paralysis. This happens when we’re exposed to more information than we can handle. Essentially, we have all these bullet points floating around in our mind and, when we don’t understand the individual ideas or how they related to one another, it can cause us to overload and shut down our decision-making capacity. 

There are interventions, however, according to engineer and researcher Jeff Kabchinski. One is to limit our exposure to unnecessary and extraneous information gluts. “Turn off the TV,” writes Kabachinski in a research paper titled “Coping with information fatigue syndrome,” before listing other helpful tips such as: learn when to turn off the cell phone and pager, restrict computer time, and don’t chase links on the web when you could be using your time more purposefully. 

Ultimately, it seems like attempting to confront analysis paralysis head-on by trying to kickstart or brute-force our brains into doing what we want may not be the best way to deal with the problem.

Based on what the experts recommend, analysis paralysis should be treated like the symptom of one or more deficiencies in our lives. That isn’t to say that all we need is rest and a break from screen time in order to overcome executive dysfunction. That’s a path you should take with your therapist. 

What it does say, however, is that there may be steps we can take toward mitigating our analysis paralysis in between episodes.

A good night’s rest, healthy food, light exercise, and deep breathing exercises are all good places to start. 

analysis paralysis

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