Stuck in decision paralysis? Here’s why (Picture: Getty/

You’re settled on the sofa, dinner on your lap, when the remote gets chucked your way – and a load of pressure with it.

How do you decide what on earth to watch?

It’s a tricky decision – one that’s all the more difficult when there’s the added time pressure of not letting your food get cold.

If you struggle with this, you can at least take solace in the knowledge that you’re not alone.

Research from Reelgood and Learndipity Data Insights found that, on average, we typically spend 18 minutes going through Netflix’s archives before finally settling on that evening’s entertainment.

That means that if you’re watching something on Netflix just a few nights a week, you could be losing hours each month to indecision.

So why are we so rubbish at making the low-stakes decision of what to watch?

And how can we speed things up?

In new book Solvable: A Simple Solution To Complex Problems, authors Arnaud Chevallier and Albrecht Enders, both of whom work as professors of strategy and innovation at IMD, tackle this.

‘Choosing a TV show might seem – in the scheme of things – inconsequential, but actually it’s quite a complex decision,’ they explain.

‘There are so many factors to consider. Your mood that evening – do you want light comedy or immersive psychological drama? What do other family members want to watch?

‘When you consider that 40% of those surveyed wanted to watch something different to their partner, 18 minutes choosing time doesn’t seem so bad.

‘And you don’t have anything like perfect information. Netflix alone has more than 5,000 movies and shows, so you can only ever be aware of a tiny fraction of what’s on there.’

The professors say there are three key issues we face when choosing what to watch on TV – and that simply knowing these can help us to stop wasting time faffing about with indecision:

Forethought is key (Picture: Getty)

Bad framing

Before we can find the solution to a problem, we need to know what problem we’re actually trying to solve. Makes sense, right?

So, when it comes to choosing what to watch for an evening, you need to work out what need you actually want to fulfill.

The professors say: ‘Do you want to watch the best-rated show on Netflix or one that suits your mood? Are you looking for a quick entertainment fix or something longer and more involved? Have you even asked yourself these questions?

‘Most people fail even to frame problems properly before looking for a solution. If you are unclear what you are looking for, you will almost certainly fail to find it.’

Knowing what you’re after before you turn on the TV is a far better approach than aimless scrolling, we reckon. And that way, you’re not on the lookout for some mysterious ‘perfect’ show – just the one that you actually want to watch in that moment.

Poor engagement

‘Those with the remotes in their hands often fail to properly engage others in their household, leading to an impasse,’ say Arnaud and Albrecht.

‘In their haste to justify their preferred path, people fail to properly collaborate with key stakeholders – in the case of Netflix this can mean one partner pushing for a violent thriller while the other has a romcom in mind.

‘The result is often that nothing gets watched at all that evening.’

More: Hacks

Outdated information

It might not sound like a super fun suggestion, but it’s worth doing some advance research before you sit down.

Have a Google of what’s worth checking out, ask people around you what they recommend, or flick through the TV guide.

‘Streaming platforms contain a tiny proportion of their available shows,’ the professors say. ‘Their algorithms are blunt tools that result in the same types of programmes being pushed towards the user repeatedly.

‘A common flaw in people’s decision-making is relying on restricted or outdated information from limited sources. Instead of seeking recommendations from friends whose opinions they value, many Netflix users rely entirely on the platform itself to guide them.

‘We need to update our thinking regularly by consulting as many useful sources as possible – but most people don’t.

Solvable: A Simple Solution to Complex Problems by Arnaud Chevallier and Albrecht Enders is out on 18th June, by FT Publishing, priced £16.99.

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