What Is Analysis Paralysis? (Plus Steps to Overcome It)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Analysts study data and make quick and sound decisions that can affect a business' overall performance. Unfortunately, analysis paralysis can affect analysts' decision-making skills and cause them to overthink their options. Learning about paralysis in analytics and knowing how to overcome it can help you perform accurate cost-benefit analyses and make quick decisions. In this article, we define what analysis paralysis is, explain how to overcome it, share some tips and answer some frequently asked questions.

What is analysis paralysis?

Analysts may face analysis paralysis when a cost-benefit analysis doesn't reveal a straightforward answer. This may happen when they're finding resolutions to problems by weighing the advantages and drawbacks of each option. It also happens when analysts overthink a problem or solution and can't make a decision. It can happen to individuals and groups alike, where there are various options to consider. Their supervisor may task them to select the best option and might get similar information on each option, making it difficult to decide.

For example, if one option increases an organisation's employee retention rate and another increases overall productivity, it might be hard to choose since both can affect overall profits. Overly broad research parameters can also pose a challenge. For example, deciding between focusing on finding high human traffic areas for advertisements or areas that garner the most consumer interest.

Related: 19 Jobs for Analytical Thinkers (Plus Duties and Salaries)

How to overcome analysis paralysis

The main reason analysis paralysis happens to individuals is anxiety. Analysts presented with similar options can end up focusing on the disadvantages of all of them and considering many more variables. They feel anxious about making the wrong decision, and this can lead them to feeling paralysed by the decision-making process. Here are the steps on how you can overcome analysis paralysis:

1. Recognise the problem

The first step to overcoming analysis paralysis is to identify situations that cause it. Learning how to recognise analysis paralysis can help you find solutions to prevent it from happening again. You can spot it by evaluating how you usually make decisions. Understanding your typical decision-making process can help you estimate how long you take to decide and what are your considerations. Listing out your typical steps can help you determine if you're taking an extended period of time to decide or adding extra steps to the process.

This helps you to pinpoint instances where you're overthinking an issue. After you've identified the situation, the next step is to find the reasons why you're overthinking. This is helpful in finding an effective solution or see new perspectives on the problem. For example, if you're overthinking because you're anxious about negative results, try to shift your mindset to focusing on positive results and visualising everything working out. If you've difficulty pinpointing the reason and feel overwhelmed by your thoughts, you can consider consulting a counsellor for advice.

2. Prioritise the decisions to be made

If you're constantly presented with different decisions to make, consider categorising them according to urgency and importance. This gives you time to consider the factors before making each decision and ensures you're not overwhelmed. You can ease your decision-making process by spreading it out over a few days.

This also prevents you from overthinking since you're giving yourself sufficient time to decide. You can also pick a suitable time of the day when you're most alert. For example, if you're most alert in the afternoon, you can choose to start your day by scheduling easier decisions and leaving the tougher ones for after your lunch break.

3. Take a break

If you're spending a lot of time thinking about a situation and weighing the pros and cons, it can be helpful to take a break and come back to it at a later time. You can focus on your other tasks in the meantime. This allows you to ponder the issue under less pressure, and you might get fresh ideas after taking a break. If you prefer not to think about the problem at all for a short period, consider going for a walk or spending time with your family and friends.

4. Ask someone for advice

Asking someone for advice can offer you new perspectives and approaches to an issue. If you're overthinking, you can brainstorm ideas and share your concerns with someone who's not involved in the project or situation. Find someone who has experience in the topic and can offer valuable input to help you. They can offer guidance on which solution to choose or share additional insights. This can give you unique and interesting insights into the problem and help you make a decision with confidence.

5. Decide quickly

You can train yourself to make decisions quickly. Try setting a time limit to make easy decisions. Easy decisions include what to eat or wear, which type of transport to take to work and who to have a meal with. Making simple decisions as quickly as possible can increase your level of confidence and enhance your decision-making skills. When you encounter a difficult decision, you may feel more certain about yourself and spend less time examining different solutions.

Related: 16 Essential Credit Analyst Skills (Plus Common Job Duties)

6. Set a deadline

Set strict deadlines for yourself when making decisions. This helps you to focus and trains you to think and decide quickly. Once you recognise that you're facing analysis paralysis, give yourself a realistic amount of time to decide. You can let your team members know about your deadline so that they can check in on you and encourage you to achieve your goal. If you work on personal projects, setting deadlines can help you maintain discipline and achieve steady progress.

7. Understand your goals

Before making important decisions, it's helpful to understand the overall goals. You can picture the long-term effects of various decisions and evaluate if it brings you closer to or further away from the goals. Focusing on goals can also decrease the number of choices and help you select the best one.

For example, an organisation is trying to decide to allocate additional resources to either the marketing or sales team. Both options can increase the organisation's revenue. If the goal is to increase brand awareness and reputation, it might be better to invest in the marketing team. Likewise, if the goal is to increase profits within the next few months, then allocating resources to the sales team is the best choice.

8. Limit your information intake

Information overload can be overwhelming. When you receive too much information, it may mean there are more variables to consider. This may result in overthinking various choices. It's important to conduct research to perform a cost-benefit analysis, but it can help to limit the amount of information you collect. Write the key information you require so that you focus your research on what's necessary and important.

Tips to overcome analysis paralysis

Here are some additional tips to help you overcome it:

  • Cultivate good habits: Make decision-making a part of your daily habits by creating a to-do list that includes tasks like planning your outfits and meals for the week ahead. You can add more challenging tasks over time, like exercising regularly to train your cognitive reflexes and discipline.

  • Focus on important information: Close unnecessary tabs on your browser and keep your phone out of reach to help you stay focused on your tasks.

FAQs on analysis paralysis

Here's a list of frequently asked questions about analysis paralysis to help you better understand it:

How does it influence consumer decisions?

Analysis paralysis can occur when shops present consumers with a wide variety of product and service options. For example, if a massage parlour has 50 package options that include different variations in services, consumers may feel overwhelmed. They want to make the most cost-effective decision, and this can cause a prolonged decision-making process.

Does analysis paralysis exist in real estate?

Real estate purchases require high costs since investors typically require bank loans to finance their purchases. Professionals are prone to conducting excessive research to determine factors like location, space, future property prices and convenience. It can help to set specific priorities to eliminate some choices. For instance, investors can focus on their current goals instead of long-term investment returns. This might mean buying a bigger commercial property in a less popular area to start a business instead of one in a popular area that requires a larger loan.

Related: Decision-Making Skills: Definition and Examples for Leaders

What's the opposite of paralysis?

Known as utopia myopia, the opposite of analysis paralysis is a situation where no analysis is necessary to make decisions. In this situation, the individual is confident in their abilities to make the right decision. They typically don't require research or advice from anyone else and can decide quickly.

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