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3 Ways to Get Past Decision Paralysis

3 Ways to Move Past Decision Paralysis
The stacks of magazines, the piles of papers, the stuff crowding the car out of the garage — there can be many reasons for clutter like this, but one of the most common is unmade decisions or decision paralysis. You look at a piece of paper, can’t decide what to do with it, and put it back in the pile. You are stuck.

3 Ways to Move Past Decision Paralysis

The good news is that all is not lost. There are some simple things you can do to get unstuck and make decisions more quickly.

1. Define some rules of thumb

You may decide to toss newspapers after a day, news magazine after a week, and other magazines after three months — recognizing if they haven’t been read in that amount of time, they are unlikely to get read at all.

If you set some guidelines like this — no matter what numbers you choose — you’ve made a decision once, rather than having to make one every time you come across yet another magazine.

Here’s another example: You may decide that if something isn’t worth more than $25 (or whatever price point makes sense for you), you’ll donate it rather than trying to sell it.

And one more: You may decide you’ll keep some clothes one size smaller than your current size, but not those even smaller.

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2. Give yourself permission to make less-than-perfect decisions

Some decisions are worthy of much time and thought. But others are much less critical, and making a decision can be more important than making the absolutely best decision.

If your bookshelves are overflowing and you decide to give away 100 popular mystery books, and later decide there’s one you’d like to look at again, that’s OK. You can always get your hands on another copy — from the library, a used bookstore, etc. In the meantime, there are 99 books that no longer are cluttering up your space!

3. Decide to decide

Look at the item you’re indecisive about. Will you be able to make a better decision about it sometime in the future? Do you need to do some research, or consult with someone about the item? If so, put those next steps in the decision-making process on your to-do list.

But many times, the answer is “no” — you won’t be able to make a better decision later. A business card from someone you met is either worth keeping (or worth the time to enter the information into your address book) or not. The broken item stashed in the garage can either be fixed (and is worth the effort to do so) or not. The charity solicitation is something you want to reply to, or not.

Like almost everyone, I’ve struggled with this at times. I’ve had paperwork pile up and not get entered into my business accounting system because I hadn’t decided what percentage of an expense (like my cell phone bills, or printer supplies) was business, and what was personal. Once I decided to decide, it took all of ten minutes to tabulate my uses and assign a percentage.

So set aside some time to just make those decisions — you can do that in small chunks of time, if that helps — and feel the weight lift off your shoulders, and watch the papers and the stuff disappear.

Jeri Dansky is a professional organizer, helping people whose clutter is driving them crazy. She serves clients in the San Francisco Bay Area — and around the world.

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