How to Make a Decision When You’re Paralyzed by the Inability to Choose

Photo: Getty Images/Jose Luis Pelaez Inc.
The average person makes about 35,000 decisions each day. (But who's counting?) Between which leggings to throw on, what to put in your smoothie, which podcast to listen to on your commute, you probably make more than 1,000 choices before you even get to work. Is it any surprise that by the end of the day, figuring out how to make a decision about what to eat for dinner feels impossible?

Well, here's a handy little hack. Behold, the Eisenhower Matrix, or the Urgent-Important Matrix, which helps you prioritize your tasks based upon their, well, urgency and importance. Apparently, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States, used to write all the projects he needed to complete in a square that he had divided into quadrants (labeled the four degrees of importance and urgency outlined below) in order to figure out which one to tackle first.

How to make a decision using the four quadrants to Eisenhower Matrix:

Quadrant 1: Urgent and important

Any decisions you consider both urgent and important should be made first—all the other tasks can wait while you act fast and take care of these ASAP. Examples would include helping someone who's drowning, putting out a small fire, or catching a vase that's about to fall off the dresser. Or, on a less dire scale, sending your boss that report she said she needs now.

Action: Do first.

Quadrant 2: Not urgent and important

If you're trying to figure out if you should quit your job, move, or other life-altering decisions that are important but can be put off, the action to make is to put a plan together. This can include things like creating a budget or updating your resume. (You know, after you take care of the urgent and important decisions in quadrant one.)

Action: Plan.

Quadrant 3: Not important and urgent

Chances are that your day is full of these type of decisions. Can your partner decide what you're both having for dinner that night? Can your friend figure out which yoga class you should meet her at later? Delegating some decision making to others will free yourself up to focus on more urgent and important decisions.

Action: Delegate.

Quadrant 4: Not important and not urgent

If there's a decision that's not important or urgent, why the heck is it taking up precious brain power? Don't worry about it and move on.

Action: Eliminate.

It's so easy to become so overwhelmed by how to make a decision that you become paralyzed. In those moments, keep coming back to the Eisenhower Matrix. If it's good enough for presidents and author John Green, it might be worth a shot:

Another reason why you might be having trouble making decisions: you're burnt outwhich is actually contagious

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