Business Indecision: What to Do When You Can’t Make a Decision

Almost everyone has had trouble with indecision at one time or another. A 1991 study found that 20% of the adult population is indecisive.

Making decisions is always a cognitive challenge because you have to weigh your options, and that takes both time and energy.

Business owners may find decision-making even harder than non-business owners because we are faced with large and small decisions, many more times a day.

And the decisions we face often have more at stake, as far as outcome goes, than those of non-entrepreneurs.

Indecision due to overwhelm

The sheer number of decisions to be made in a day can be daunting, and when you’re feeling overwhelmed, your CEO-self can go offline. Your CEO-self is how I describe your executive functioning, which includes all the skills and capacities you need to run your business, including the capacity to take in and synthesize information and make decisions.

Complexity and pressure play a role. If it’s a complex decision, it’s harder to make and if there is a lot riding on it, that also adds to the sense of being overwhelmed.

Tips to help with indecision from feeling overwhelmed

Be kind to yourself: Sometimes affirming your difficulty and the good reasons it’s difficult can help. You can say something to yourself like, “Of course I’m having a hard time. What I’m trying to do is difficult. It’s OK to get stuck temporarily.” and that can be enough to get your CEO-self back on

track so you can make the decision at hand.

Get help: If there are decisions you can delegate, do so. Consider working with a virtual assistant or an online business manager. It can also help to talk your decision dilemma over with your therapist, coach or trusted biz bestie. Having support can reduce your overwhelm.

Support your nervous system: When you are feeling overwhelmed, your nervous system is dysregulated. It can help to bring your CEO-self back online by discharging, soothing or nourishing your nervous system. It doesn’t have to take long. Sometimes 5 minutes is enough. Once you’ve engaged in some self-care to support your nervous system and bring your CEO-self back online, you can come back to the decision.

Plan another time to make the decision: Maybe there’s just too much on your plate for today. Putting it off for a day when you are less stressed or a time when you are fresher might help make the decision easier.

Indecision because of decision fatigue

Decision fatigue can also be a factor in difficulty making decisions. The more decisions you make, the more your brain tires out and the harder and harder it gets to make subsequent decisions.

Three tips to help with decision fatigue

  • Schedule another time to make this decision
  • Schedule big decisions first, for when you’re at your freshest.
  • Talk it over with your therapist, coach or trusted biz bestie

Other causes of indecision

According to psychological research literature, the causes of indecisiveness are largely unknown. However, in the literature, indecisiveness is associated with various mental health conditions and personality types.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, burnout, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are some of the conditions associated with indecision.

In all of these cases, it’s important to contact a mental health or medical professional for appropriate support that addresses the underlying causes of indecisiveness. To address indecisiveness alone would only be a bandaid and limited in its effect.

Indecisiveness associated with depression and/or burnout

Indecisiveness is so common in patients with depression that it is included as a symptom of major depressive disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).

How to help indecisiveness related to depression and/or burnout

If you think depression is at the root of your indecisiveness, it’s important to talk to a mental health or medical professional to be diagnosed if relevant and to get support that addresses the depression itself.

You may find there is so much more at play than you think and addressing these issues could alleviate many of the challenges you’re facing, including trouble making decisions.

Indecisiveness associated with burnout

Burnout, while not a medical diagnosis, is recognized by the World Health Organization and has significant health and mental health impacts in addition to difficulty making decisions.

This is also a situation for which you should consult a medical or mental health professional to support your recovery from burnout and address the associated cognitive dysfunction that can make decision-making difficult.

Indecisiveness associated with anxiety

Anxiety may also be a cause of indecision.

When you’re feeling anxious, your body’s stress response kicks in.

The physiology of the stress response provides everything you need to address the demand or threat, and disengages communication with your CEO-self, which supports your ability to make decisions.

Tips to help with indecisiveness related to anxiety

If you think anxiety might be contributing to your indecisiveness, there are a few things you can do in the moment to help yourself.

However, if it’s not anxiety related to a specific situation, but rather anxiety that you experience on an ongoing basis, it’s important to talk to a mental health or medical professional to be diagnosed if relevant and to get support that addresses the anxiety itself. If not, the tips below will only be temporary and limited in their effect.

Get help: If there are decisions you can delegate, do so. Reducing stress and pressure reduces anxiety and facilitates the cognitive function needed to make decisions.

Consider working with a virtual assistant or an online business manager. It can also help to talk your decision dilemma over with your therapist, coach or trusted biz bestie.

Support your nervous system: When you are feeling anxious, your stress response impedes your decision-making. It can help to discharge, soothe or nourish your nervous system.

Moving your body can be especially effective at alleviating anxiety so you can get back to the decision at hand.

It doesn’t have to take long. Sometimes 5 minutes is enough. Once you’ve engaged in some self-care to support your nervous system and bring your CEO-self back online, you can come back to the decision.

Plan another time to make the decision: Scheduling the decision for a day when you are less stressed or a time when you are fresher might mean your nervous system is in a better state and the decision will be easier.

Other causes of indecisiveness

There are many other potential causes of inability to make a decision in addition to those above.

Psychological causes of indecision

  • fear of failure
  • lack of confidence
  • perfectionism
  • people pleasing

These are all psychological issues that need care so they can release themselves and free your ability to make decisions. These are best addressed with a therapist.

These tendencies often stem from situations earlier in our lives that have led to certain ways of thinking and behaving. These were adaptive at the time, so it’s important to appreciate their usefulness then.

The fact that they inhibit your decision-making now means they aren’t serving you any more.

In order to be an effective decision-maker today, it’s worth working with a therapist to look into, care for and release the emotions, thoughts and behaviours associated with those previous situations.

Strategic causes of indecisiveness

Lack of information: this is a relatively easy fix. Either do some research to gather more information or seek support from your coach or therapist to identify and/or gather the information needed to make the decision.

Not having frameworks: Decision-making in some cases can be made difficult by the lack of decision-making frameworks or processes, says CFO On Speed Dial, Christine Rico. If there are decisions you routinely make (such as hiring, for one example) having a process or framework in place can make the task cognitively easier and eases the difficulty associated with complex decisions.

Too much information: Sometimes, especially if you’re new at the business or feeling nervous, you can do too much research, asking too many people for their opinion or information.

In cases like these, it’s best to have only one or two trusted people to whom you go for information and advice.

Remind yourself that you’ve chosen these people for a reason (usually because they support you and your goals and are aligned in values) and limit yourself to asking them.

Of course, your own good sense should always take precedence when making decisions, regardless of what these trusted others say.

Don’t know your end goal: If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s hard to make decisions along the way. Getting clear on your goals can make it easier to make a decision. If you’re having trouble getting clear on your goals, you can ask for support from a therapist, a coach or your biz bestie.

Lack of experience: If you have never been in this situation, it can be difficult to know what to do. This is again where support really matters. You can talk to others who have faced this issue, your mentor, a coach, therapist or biz bestie.

 

If you’re tired of feeling like you’re going to lose your shit on the daily, and as a result, struggle to make decisions, I can help.

Learn more about working with me here.

About the author 

Shulamit Berlevtov  -  Shulamit (she/her) is the Entrepreneurs' Therapist. She is working passionately to mitigate the entrepreneurial mental health crisis through keynote speaking and educational workshops and by supporting women entrepreneurs 1:1 to care for their mental and emotional wellbeing and their money psychology in an era of relentless stressors that can make you want to lose your crap on the daily.

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