Have you ever found yourself spiraling around a major decision? Or even a not-so-major decision?
One form of decision spiral happens when you’re looping in your mind about multiple decisions that feel tied together.
A simple example:
You’re making dinner plans, and find yourself spinning about what time and where to eat.
What type of food do you want to eat? Which restaurant? What time should you go? How will you get there?
They all seem to be part of one big decision you call “Dinner.”
Sorting it out can take a lot of energy. It’s draining.
Before you know it, you’ve decided to eat cereal out of the box while zoning out in front of Game of Thrones. Because your brain is fried.
The long term consequences to your health and happiness from ocassionally eating cereal out of the box for dinner aren’t disastrous.
But what happens when you apply this analysis paralysis in a different context?
Some common examples
You don’t like your job and you feel ready to move on, but you don’t have a new opportunity in place yet. You’re caught up in a spiral about whether to leave and where to go next.
You feel it’s time to move from your current home, but you don’t know where you’d live after you sell. What could you even afford? How much will you have after your sale closes?
Many people will call this analysis paralysis. What’s happening under the surface though is a form of multi-tasking.
3 Levels of Decision Multi-Tasking
Decision multi-tasking happens on three levels:
- You’re trying to make multiple decisions at the same time — for example, should you move, and where should you move to?
- You’re making the first decision contingent on the outcome of a subsequent decision — for example, figuring out where you’d move to becomes the pre-requisite for deciding whether to move.
- You’re trying to resolve the logistics around an option before you’ve decided to choose that option — for example, getting caught in the logistics of flights before you’ve decided whether to take a trip (or where to go).
This is a recipe for overwhelm, especially for those of us with ADHD. And it happens with us a lot, because part of the gifts of ADHD is the ability to see the big picture. You see the big picture and want to put all the pieces in place at the same time.
Caveat: you are probably great at helping other people make these decisions with clarity.
Every day I help people make complex decisions in their lives. This is what people come to me for. They tell me I help them get clear and be decisive. It’s pretty awesome.
And, yet, some days I still find myself standing on a street corner, lost in trance as my mind spins in an endless loop about which train to take and where to get lunch and what are my plans for next week.
No judgments. Welcome to being human.
How to Get Out of the Decision Spin-Cycle
Fortunately, the fix for this is really simple.
Make one decision at a time.
I know, it sounds radical. But it works.
Once you make one decision, the subsequent decisions become easier because you narrow the field of options.
If you decide what you want to eat for dinner first, you limit the choices of where to go.
Often, you eliminate the need to make some decisions. If you’re not going to sell your home, you don’t need to decide where to move to.
Almost always, you eliminate a good chunk of the logistical overwhelm. If you’re not going to take the trip, you don’t need to spend time researching flights.
Multitasking is a fool’s errand. Save your brain energy for what matters most.
When you find yourself spinning in decision loops, step back and make one decision at a time.