No matter how skilled a professional is, anxiety has the power to throw them off their game and can have serious consequences. If anxiety arises when they’re in the middle of the decision-making process, it can lead to analysis paralysis. As the name implies, the level of stress they experience in trying to make the right call can prevent them from making any call at all.
In the business world, decisions often need to be made quickly, so it’s important for anyone who suffers anxiety when making decisions at work to learn how to overcome it. Here, 14 members of Forbes Coaches Council share effective tips to help anxious professionals avoid getting stuck in a cycle of indecision, self-doubt and worry, especially when choices need to be made in time-sensitive situations.
1. Set A Time Limit And Stick To It
If you agonize over making decisions, you are probably not thinking about the opportunity cost in terms of time lost. For instance, if you spend months thinking about that much-needed career change without taking any action, you will have lost time that you could have spent building your new career. That’s why it is helpful to set a time limit for any decision you face and stick to it. – Mari Carmen Pizarro, Whole Leadership Systems, Inc
2. Start Small And Celebrate Wins
First of all, understand the narrative: What is the underlying cause of the anxiety? What emotions are being experienced? What story are you telling yourself? Then, challenge the narrative: What is actually known? What’s the worst that could happen? What if everything went according to plan? Finally, rewrite the narrative: Accept that you aren’t perfect. Start small. Celebrate wins. – Jim Livingstone, Northpoint
3. Make A Decision And Take Bold Action
Making a decision alleviates anxiety. When you feel overwhelmed by too many possibilities or feel stuck when surveying all the options, the best thing to do is make a decision and take bold action. What’s the one thing you can do to reach your goal that, in doing it, will make everything else easier or unnecessary? – Michela Quilici, MQ Consulting and Business Training, Inc.
4. Revisit Past Tough Decisions
I’d recommend revisiting the tough decisions you’ve made in the past and talking with an advisor you trust about your feelings at the time. You need to remember that you suffered from anxiety back then, and you will again. But that shouldn’t be a reason to stay stuck on the current decision. By acknowledging and talking about our fears with trusted advisors, we can move past them. – Gregg Ward, The Center for Respectful Leadership
5. Visualize The Desired Outcome
Visualization can be a big support in getting rid of anxiety. Visualize the desired outcome even if you cannot bring yourself to visualize the process; you can also try visualizing every step of the process going the way you would like. Watch your thoughts—if they are negative, it will increase your anxiety. Try using a mantra. My favorite is, “Everything is always working out for me.” – Jasmine Briggs, Creatively Inspired Coaching
6. Learn To Use Anxiety To Your Advantage
Understand that some level of discomfort is part and parcel of the decision-making process. You can learn to use anxiety constructively to enable you to dissect the problem better and be more creative in solutioning. Using anxiety to your advantage inherently means that you understand there is no wrong or right answer—it’s about coming to a decision that serves you best in the given context. – Rittu Sinha, The Balanced Bandwagon
7. Understand The Facts In Black And White
Chart it out to understand the facts in black and white. If no clear decision is found, try stepping into the shoes of someone you respect and ask, “What would (this person) do?” Then, follow through with action. It’s important to state that the exercise of “acting as if” creates new, positive neural pathways, but it would reduce anxiety to practice this in smaller situations first to gain confidence in this method. – Laura DeCarlo, Career Directors International
8. Visualize The Bird’s-Eye View
Visualizing the bird’s-eye view is key. When we are in the midst of emotional overwhelm, feelings can take over, and our rational minds can be off. It’s best to take a step back and focus on something else. Give it some time and space and then choose again. Great leaders tend to make decisions fast, as they trust themselves. You will learn this with more practice. – Jasmin Manke, Jasmin Manke LLC
9. Consult With A Council Of Trusted Leaders
Big decisions, especially those from which there is no turning back, are best made in concert with a council of leaders you trust who will give you their honest opinion. I also recommend developing a formal decision-making process and sticking to it. This reduces anxiety and gives you confidence that you’ve left no stone unturned in evaluating options. –Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group
10. Note Your Three Biggest Values
Anxiety and analysis paralysis often occur because of your own internal conflict over whether a decision is right or not. So, make a note of your three biggest values. What are three things you stand for? If they are honesty, people orientation and innovation, for example, the next time you make a decision, simply choose the path that is honest, good for your people and gives you opportunities to innovate. – Vinesh Sukumaran, Vinesh Sukumaran Consulting
11. Prioritize Values, Mission And Purpose
Simply breaking down the decision-making process to prioritize values, mission and purpose is a great way to get focused on what is really important. Gaining clarity on values is a powerful way to make any professional decision. These values can include fiscal responsibility, honesty, integrity, compassion, fairness, inclusivity, efficiency, and more. – Lori Wilson-Hudson, Energy Wellness Coaching
12. Break It Down Into Smaller Parts
If anxiety is leading to analysis paralysis during the decision-making process, one effective tip is to focus on the most important factors involved in the decision. Break the decision down into smaller parts and consider each part separately. Once all of the information has been considered, it will be easier to make a decision. – Peter Boolkah, The Transition Guy
13. Consistently Seek Team Input And Feedback
Consistently seek input and feedback from members of your team. Analysis paralysis is even more likely when we feel as if we bear the full weight of complex decisions. While this is sometimes the case, in most situations, we are simply better off developing a collaborative solution that generates buy-in from members of our team. One natural byproduct is a dispersion of the weight of decision-making. – Jonathan H. Westover, Human Capital Innovations, LLC
14. Follow The SNAP Acronym
One effective technique I recommend is to follow the SNAP acronym: 1. Stop. 2. Notice your body—here I’d suggest box breathing (four-count inhale, hold for four, four-count exhale, pause for four counts) for one to two minutes. 3. Acknowledge the facts of the situation while in that calmer state. 4. Practice being “in the pause” to see the pivot and take the next indicated action in the decision-making process. – Lisa Marie Platske, Upside Thinking, Inc.