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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

7 Signs You're Overthinking That Big Decision

So, you’ve got a big decision to make about your job or your career, but you’re currently in a state of “analysis paralysis.” How do you know if you still have some hard thinking to do or if you’ve gone past the point of sensible consideration and are just spinning your wheels?

Here are seven signs that it’s time to stop pondering and start deciding.

1. You’re Caught in a Loop

If you’re at the point in the decision-making process when you’re going over the same thing over and over again, you’re overthinking. When you’re trying to figure out which choice to make and find yourself already totally familiar with every option your brain is throwing out, it’s time to call it: You’ve officially hit a wall.

So, if you’ve been debating between two job offers for five days and no new options have presented themselves, you’ve exhausted your choices. Go ahead and pull the trigger.

2. You’re Getting the Same Input From Everyone You Talk To

You’ve discussed your dilemma with everyone you know at this point, and they’re all telling you the same thing. You’re still not sure, but your family and friends—and even the person you buy coffee from in the morning—thinks it’s time you start seriously looking for a new job.

Take this as a sign: You’ve overthought this decision. Now, take their advice and go for it.

3. There’s No New Information Coming In

Overthinking can be triggered by the need to wait for more data, and that’s useful. After all, you want to make an informed decision. However, if you’ve been doing your research for a while, and you haven’t turned up any new info, that’s a red flag that it’s go time.

Write down the facts, make a pro and con list, and pick the best option.

4. You’re Over-Researching

There’s only so much useful and relevant information. If you’re debating moving to a new city for a job and you find yourself asking Google how many Thai restaurants there are in town, you’ve gone overboard with the research (unless you’re moving to the new city to open up a Thai restaurant). If you want to buy a new rug and first feel compelled to read every single Amazon review? You’re overthinking.

Make a list of the questions you need to have answered in order to say yes (for instance, prices of houses in a good neighborhood or how much space you have for the rug). Research until you can answer those questions, then step away from the internet. You’re done.

5. You’re Stuck on the Small Stuff

Getting bogged down in the details is just another way to put off making big decisions. It’s possible to dither over small, less important, options forever (e.g., Does my Squarespace website need an Instagram sidebar? Does it? Does it? I can’t choose a template until I know!). But this is merely another form of procrastination.

There’s probably one big thing you need to decide in order to move ahead on any project—and, more often than not, once you make that call, the little ones become much easier.

6. You’re Entertaining Ideas That Are Completely Unrealistic

Your brain can sometimes avoid coming to a difficult conclusion by producing more and more choices. In the beginning, this is a good thing (it’s called brainstorming), and it’s how you get a clear sense of all your possible options. Take it too far, though, and you can start coming up with ideas that are ludicrous, or downright impossible.

When you’re trying to figure out whether or not to go to law school, and you suddenly start saying to yourself, “Maybe I’ll buy a farm and start making my own cheese,” that’s a sign that your brain’s overstayed its welcome on this decision—big time.

7. You’ve Got Decision Fatigue

You’ve been trying to make up your mind for so long that you’ve lost your ability to make other choices. You find yourself staring at the menu long after everyone else has ordered, and still can’t figure out what you want to eat. You stand in front of the closet in the morning for 10 minutes trying to pick a shirt.

This is a clear indication that you’re using up your decision-making energy elsewhere, which means its time to make a choice on that one, big issue you’ve been pondering for days, so you can go back to normal life.

The main reason we get stuck in this loop is fear. We’re simply afraid of making the wrong decision; so we delay, finding ever more creative ways to postpone making a choice. But the good news is that once you realize that you’re doing this, you can hit the brakes and make a choice.

Photo of man thinking courtesy of Shutterstock.