Choice Overload: 6 Ways to Deal with It [+ Free Templates]

Learn to combat choice overload during the decision-making process to avoid anxiety and stress. Plus, get free templates!

Have you suffered from choice overload? Whether you’ve faced it on your own or fear that your teammates may be struggling, it’s important to recognize the signs. Understanding the causes and signs will ensure you and your teammates aren’t overwhelmed by decision-making processes.

In this article, we’ll outline the various scenarios that lead to choice overload, in addition to covering ways you can deal with choice overload. When feeling overwhelmed by a choice, it’s important to remember that you have options and there are numerous ways you can tackle the problem. 

What is choice overload?

Choice overload can simply be defined as a cognitive impairment that prohibits someone from making a choice. This phenomenon often occurs when there are too many factors in the mix. Instead of making a choice between one or two options, the subject has to choose between a variety of options, which often leads to choice overload. Many people describe choice overload or choice paralysis as feeling overwhelmed or stressed when faced with many options. 

Why does choice overload happen?

1Having too many choices

One of the most common causes of decision fatigue or choice overload is having too many choices. If you come across a situation where there are too many variables, simply operate by the process of elimination. Narrow down your choices to a select few that make the most sense and conduct the decision-making process from there. After you’ve narrowed down your choices, you’ll be able to proceed with confidence knowing there are only a select few on the table. 

2Not knowing what you want 

One of the largest points of contention in both our personal and professional lives is determining what we really want. Do you know what makes you happy? Do you know what your ideal outcome would be in the scenario at hand? If you don’t know what you want, you’ll have a difficult time making a decision. This is why it’s so important for leaders to be self-aware. 

3Setting unreasonably high expectations 

There’s an enormous amount of pressure that comes with having unreasonably high expectations, and the same thing can be said for when a superior has high expectations of you. While these high standards may be beneficial in some scenarios, they can also cause a great deal of stress when it comes to decision-making. The added pressure that comes with outside expectations adds to an already difficult scenario, making things more difficult than they need to be. 

If you find yourself in this scenario, just remember that everything happens for a reason. If you’re a manager, this is a great time to reflect on your personal management style to ensure you’re not putting unnecessary stress on your teammates when a decision happens to be on their shoulders. While things in the workplace should be taken seriously, it’s important not to let the stress of these types of situations rule your life. Instead, take everything with a grain of salt and rest easy knowing you’ve done the best that you can do. 

4Having not enough or too much time 

It can be tricky to make the right decision, and it only becomes more difficult when you factor in how much time you have to make the decision. If you only have a few minutes, you may feel overwhelmed and worry that you don’t have enough time to weigh the pros and cons. If you have too much time, you may find yourself diving into the nitty-gritty instead of focusing on what really matters. To avoid decision fatigue in this scenario, it’s best to give yourself a deadline. This way, you feel like you’re in control of your decision-making process and you know exactly how much time you have to make the right choice. 

5Feeling the pressure of the decision 

There’s nothing quite as stressful as being responsible for making a major decision. If you find yourself having to make a tough call, you may be wavering in your approach, and as a result, you may suffer from choice overload. When you feel this way, remember that you’re the decision-maker for a reason. Ultimately, you know best, and you’ll make the decision that’s best for you and your teammates. 

How to deal with choice overload

1Consider only a few options

One of the easiest ways to avoid choice overload is to only deal with a few options. As stated above, it’s best to consider your options and narrow down your list to a few top contenders. Narrowing your list and only considering the best options will eliminate the stress that comes from deciding between numerous options. Instead of choosing between 10-15 options, you’ll be able to move forward with three or four. 

2Compare choices with pros and cons 

Sometimes you have to go back to the classics, and this is a great time to break out your notepad and make a pros and cons list. If you’re really stuck, weighing the pros and cons will help you make a more informed decision. Sometimes seeing the specifics spread out on a piece of paper makes all the difference. If you’re really stuck by the end of this exercise, you’ll be able to deeply reflect on your findings by comparing each option. 

3Let go of the other choices 

Sometimes it can be difficult to let go, especially if you’re an overthinker. You have to remember that you can’t take on the burden of everything on your own. If you’ve narrowed down your options to a few choices, stay in that lane. Don’t spend hours thinking about the options you’ve already nixed. In addition, if you’ve settled on your choice, be confident in your decision. Thinking about your choice after the fact will only result in added stress and worry. You made the decision you made for a reason, and spending time thinking about your other choices will only take your time and energy away from more pressing tasks. 

4Trust your instincts

Ultimately, you know best. No one knows you better than you. If you’re feeling uneasy about your decision, simply step back and remind yourself that you came to your conclusion for a reason. It’s time to trust yourself and rely on your gut. If you’re having trouble making a decision, think back to what your initial instincts were telling you and go with them. 

5Seek advice 

Sometimes it can be difficult to come to a decision alone. If you’ve exhausted all other options, you may need to look outside of yourself for an answer. Seeking advice from a mentor, a teammate, or someone in your professional network may be exactly what you need to make a more informed decision. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, and seeking advice may be exactly what you need to make your final decision. 

6Take your time 

It’s important to make your decision on your terms. Taking your time to make an informed decision will ensure you don’t regret your choice. While providing yourself with ample time to make your decision is important, it’s equally as important to make your decision in a timely manner. If you wait and continue to prolong it, you may feel anxious and end up falling behind on your other tasks. It’s important to find a sweet spot and attempt to make your decision within that specified window. 

Free decision-making meeting agenda templates 

Combat choice overload with these simple tips and tricks

The first step to preventing choice overload is understanding that you have options. When you’re faced with a tough choice, you need to remember that there are a variety of ways you can handle the situation: you can narrow down your choices, take your time, seek advice or outside guidance, make a pros and cons list, or simply trust your instincts. 

When tasking your teammates or direct reports with making a decision, remember that choice overload is real. Help them understand that they have options, and take the time to mentor them and help them make the right choice. Next time they’re tasked with making a decision, they’ll have the tools necessary to make an informed decision on their own.

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About the author

Hannah Ross

Hannah is an experienced content creator and digital strategist with a demonstrated history of working with startups, small business owners, and large organizations. Presently, Hannah serves as the Founder at Flamingo Social where she strives to create impactful organic content marketing strategies that help founders tell inspiring stories.

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