There's a passage in Atul Gawande's Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science that captures three decades of research on human judgment. "The mind overestimates vivid dangers, falls into ruts, and manages multiples pieces of data poorly. It is swayed unduly by desire and emotion and even the time of day. It is affected by the order in which information is presented and how problems are framed."

In this "news-feed" era, there's simply too much information. And as long as Google exists, it will be harder and harder to say "I don't know," even though the feel of not knowing--those vexing moments when we can't think of the answer--is the critical last step of problem-solving. Instead of pushing through a mental impasse, we pull out our phones and search for information, even though more information can often detract us from making an accurate judgment. It's a frustrating, self-perpetuating cycle.

Luckily, there's a helpful guide to counter the problem of TMI and to avoid what researchers term "decision paralysis." In Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes, columnist Gary Belsky and Cornell psychologist Tom Gilovich offer seven helpful tips to sharpen our decision-making. Each tip is geared toward financial decisions, but they're applicable in many domains.

1. Choose fewer choices

So you know: The more good choices you have, the less likely you are to choose--and the less satisfied you'll be even if you do manage to decide. One way to avoid a lot of this pain is to limit your choice sets.

Find someone you trust and who knows or is willing to research the subject of your decision. Then ask you "trusted screener" to offer you three options from which to choose. Gary uses this strategy with one of his nephews, and invariably he is given three solid options to choose from and feels confident with his final pick--at the time and down the road.

2. Remember: deciding not to decide is a decision

Postponement, delay, procrastination. They may seem like the path of least resistance, but a passive approach to decision making can be as consequential as any other choice.

3. Don't forget opportunity costs

Imagine how you'd feel if a proactive step you are considering worked out--but you didn't take the chance. Think how you'd feel if that investment rose in price as you thought it might, or if the price of that stereo went up 10 percent by the time you realized that you really do want better sound quality. The imaginary feelings of regret you may conjure up could help you overcome your real-life resistance to change.

4. Put yourself on autopilot

Instead of having to make an endless series of decisions about whether now is a good time to invest, use dollar cost averaging. This is a strategy that involves investing a set amount of money at regular intervals in a stock or bond or mutual fund--regardless of whether the markets are rising or falling. In this way, you end up buying fewer shares when the price of an investment is high and more when the price is lower.

5. Make deadlines work for you

A good way to overcome decision paralysis is to set deadlines, but an even better way is to give someone you trust the power to pick those deadlines for you.

Even if a friend doesn't have the power of a professor over you, the fear of disappointing her or looking bad is a powerful motivator.

6. Play your own devil's advocate

If you're deciding among investment options and you find yourself unable to choose which one you prefer, ask yourself instead which options you would in no instance choose. Or, assume instead that you already own all the choices. Now your decision becomes which one to sell--which one you definitely do not want to own. This is pretty simple. The hard part is recognizing that your decision is hampered by the way you're viewing the problem to begin with.

7. If you're not an expert, ask one

When you know a subject cold, you are better situated to properly evaluate the issue at hand and at least in part remove yourself and some of your biases from the equation. But when you are out of your element, that's all the more reason to call on experts you trust for help.