People think analysis paralysis is the inability to make a decision. Too many options in front of you and you freeze up like a girl on a date when she hears your job title is “disruptor”.
But that’s not how your brain works. Your brain is constantly making decisions, mostly without you knowing. Millions of tiny decisions every second — where to look, the frequency of your breathing, where to put your hand (not on my leg, your brain just screwed up big time).
Actually, the problem is your brain is making too many decisions at once. Analysis paralysis is the equivalent of when your run out of RAM and you just want to google something quickly and Chrome is not being helpful rn and keeps giving you the rainbow wheel and you wish Apple and Google could just get the fug along as you feel like the child of these two divorced parents of tech.
So when a friend of mine told me analysis paralysis was ruining my life, I started thinking about exactly how much time and how much RAM I spend shuttling between decisions.
Let’s say I have 4GB of RAM like my increasingly-frustrating MacBook Air.
In the same way that my Air uses at least 1GB of RAM just with idle processes, my brain is using that with idle processes: breathing, blinking, you know…*not dying*.
Now say I’m just waking up in the morning.
I normally don’t bolt awake, it’s more of a gradual process for me that usually ends with falling back asleep multiple times.
But before my eyes open, my mind is building thought processes. What do I have to do today? How am I gonna get that done?
That takes up another, let’s say, 1GB of RAM.
I’m half outta RAM and I haven’t even moved.
Then let’s layer in some anxiety. The more I think about what has to get done, the more anxiety builds. I have to have an uncomfortable conversation with this person. That person is waiting to hear back from me. I can’t possibly get this done on time!
And now I roll unhappily out of bed, trudge towards the shower, and begin my day.
That’s another half GB. 3.5 GB and I’m just in the shower. I’m not communicating with anyone, I’m scanning through emails on my phone as I towel off and plan out what I need to get done.
And since I’m running near capacity, I usually look at “what I need to get done” through the lens “of what do I feel like doing?”
I get set up with work and immediately have to close out of all the documents and programs on my computer. And as I start working, I’m fielding messages and calls, making notes on other things that need to get done, writing, planning, researching, doing, coordinating.
All of this and I’m not even having a face-to-face interaction with another human yet.
People have often thought IQ is RAM, but it’s more likely a combo between processing speed and overall memory. RAM is much more raw, base, and biological. Not getting enough sleep, being stressed or anxious, can all affect RAM.
And this is where analysis paralysis comes in.
When too much of your RAM is being consumed by too many decisions and trying to anticipate what’s next, you’re unable to process, or fully digest, the magnitude or results of the next decision you’re making.
You can’t think up that title for that article because your RAM is being burdened by everything else. It’s not that you just have this wealth of options to choose from and you can’t decide on one. It’s that you’re not fully grasping the consequences of this choice and you want to, but you’re low on RAM and until that clears up you’re unable to make a decision.
This is why decisions are easier to make in low stress situations. It’s why going home and “sleeping on it” is best. The more you try to think, overthink, and force-process something in the moment, the more everything else is grinding to a halt and your brain’s spinning that evil little rainbow wheel of death. When you’re hung up on one thing, you get hung up on EVERYthing. Similarly, the wheel doesn’t let you use Chrome PERIOD, even if just one window or tab is acting up.
So how do you solve this? And none of those eat better, sleep more, do meditation crap solutions. We know that. That’s like telling someone they should shower or drink water. Useless.
1) An important question to ask yourself before making a decision is: “how am I going to think about this choice in 5 years?” While you’re twiddling your thumbs over menu options, you’re probably not going to remember whether you had chicken or fish unless you’re on a certain Airplane. It helps to put things into perspective, and cuts out the ridiculous everyday decisions that stress the hell out of us for no good reason.
2) Make a choice based not on who you are right now, but who you want to be. Right now you’re a work in progress. Right now you might want to have an extra piece of cake. But you want to be someone who isn’t swayed so easily by delicious desserts. Turn down that cake and become that person.
3) Don’t choose the people-pleasing option. If you’re like me and this is your default, this will be the hardest to change. But it’s also eating up more memory than anything else.
DON’T…try to force the decision. This never works. There are indeed times in life where the buzzer rings and you need to have an answer, but chances are that this isn’t one of them. If you’re taking the time to think through it and that time is available, it’s likely not one of those decisions.
Anyway I’m stressed af/rn and have so much work to get done and it’s 3:30AM and…
…and I’m going to stay up until it gets done at a moderate pace because 1) I’m not going to remember being groggy in the AM in 5 years 2) I want to be a more productive person 3) I don’t want to go to bed now and have to wake up super early to make people happy.
Ahhh. Crisis averted.