We’ve all been there: sitting in front of the TV, looking for something to watch on Netflix, but eventually giving up and doing something else. You are experiencing choice paralysis, but don’t worry because there are ways to unfreeze yourself again.
What is paralysis of choice?
Also known as “analysis paralysis,” choice paralysis occurs when we have too many (seemingly) equally good things to choose from. Since there is no clear choice between your options, you end up choosing nothing!
This kind of brain freeze (sadly, not the delicious ice cream kind) gets worse when you have too much information about all the options. This makes it difficult to clearly decide which option is best. Alternatively, your goals may be so vague that it’s not clear what choices you need to make.
In the case of Netflix, if you just sit down to watch “something” and you have thousands of options, that’s a recipe for extreme indecision. Now that we know the symptoms, what about a possible cure?
Make decisions with less information
One of the reasons choice paralysis occurs is that you have too much information about each option, so you spend a lot of time trying to choose the best option by processing all that information. So why not use ignorance as a weapon?
Choose something to watch based solely on the title and thumbnail image. You’ll learn more about whether you want to keep watching a show in the first few minutes of watching it than if you read the descriptions of dozens of shows before hitting play on anything.
Limit things from the general to the specific
The key strategy for overcoming choice paralysis is to limit the number of choices you have. A practical way to do this is to decide between a small number of things in order.
For example, you could start by simply deciding if you want to watch a movie or a series. That already removes a lot of options.
You can then decide if you want to laugh, cry, get emotional, or something scary. The broad options should eventually narrow down to specific genres and titles, like sci-fi, comedy, or superhero movies.
The most important thing is that every time you make a decision between two or three options, you don’t waste time thinking about the ones you decided against.
let someone else decide
If you can’t decide for yourself, why don’t you give the responsibility to someone else? It may sound strange, but you’ll find it much easier to watch something on someone else’s recommendation than to try to overthink your way to a decision.
Here at How-To Geek, we curate lists of our own recommendations, including the best movies overall, the best horror movies, the best romantic movies, and the best TV shows. Just pick a genre and start at the top.
If even our lists offer too many options, ask someone in the house to pick a show for you from their shortlist, or just make a recommendation of what you think you’d like. You can do the same thing on social media, like through an Instagram story. if you have a fairly active account you should have an answer in a few seconds.
The important thing here is to commit to seeing everything you are told. At least one episode or at least 30 minutes if it’s a movie. If you’re not hooked at that point, it’s probably not for you. At that point, you can ask again!
Use random probability
If you don’t have any friends or social media partners to ask, why not leave it to fate? Use randomness to determine what you should watch.
If you’re having a hard time choosing between several specific shows, assign a number to each one and then use an online random number generator or even a pair of dice to choose which one to watch.
You can also use random combined with the technique we mentioned first to narrow things down from the broad to the specific. You can use dice or flip a coin to decide between the options until you find a real show.
Choose something from the Trending or Top 10 list
The “wisdom of crowds” is the idea that groups of people tend to collectively make the best right decisions, so why not try trusting the zeitgeist to pick your next show? Netflix has introduced lists to show you the trends in your region.
The first is a category called “Trending Now” and the other is “Top 10 TV Shows in X Today”, where X is the country where you reside. These categories tend to have a variety of programs that are not similar enough to cause choice paralysis. So pick one at random or choose the one that most closely matches your general taste and start watching.
Use unusual criteria
Using standard criteria like “sci-fi” or “reality TV” to narrow down your choices can still leave you with options that seem equally good (or bad). So why not use your own unusual criteria?
Set your own rules, like choosing only between movies starring Nicholas Cage or those that are set in a specific time or place. You can even throw some random criteria in a hat and create your own categories. Chances are the movies and shows that match your wacky criteria are so different from each other that you won’t have a problem choosing the one that appeals to you the most.
Look at the things you’re close to finishing
You can try to combat your choice paralysis by using a compulsive psychological trait: completionism. Instead of searching for something new to watch or getting stuck in a loop in your own queue, why not watch the shows you’ve already started in the order you’re closest to finishing?
Not only does this mean you can remove those shows from your list, but it also forces you to decide if you’ll actually watch their unfinished schedule. If not, remove that program from your list and move on to the next one.
RELATED: How to delete your Netflix viewing activity and “Continue Watching”
Netflix is trying to help
The folks at Netflix are well aware of how human psychology makes it difficult to make decisions when there are too many options, so their interface and algorithm are designed to help you. Whether it’s the “play something” button in the Netflix TV app or the creative categories, there are plenty of features meant to let you watch shows instead of flipping through menus.
A very useful feature is the “More Like This” section at the bottom of a program’s description page. If there was a show you really liked in the past, it’s a good idea to limit your choices to just these suggestions. It also means that it is not necessary to choose one. Just start with the first suggested show and move on, skipping the ones you don’t like after watching a few minutes.
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