How to Stop Overthinking Everything
Do you find yourself wasting hours in pointless mental loops, afraid to make a decision because it might be the wrong choice?
This is a common problem for high-achievers, who tend to be very sensitive and process the world more deeply than others. In the workplace, these people are often applauded for the way they explore angles and nuance, but they are also more susceptible to stress.
5 Classic Traits of Overthinkers
1. You relive embarrassing moments in your head over and over.
2. You have trouble sleeping because it feels like your brain won’t shut off.
3. You ask yourself a lot of what-if questions.
4. You spend a lot of time thinking about the hidden meaning in things people say.
5. You are always worrying about things you have no control over.
6 Ways to Stop the Overthinking Cycle
1. Put aside perfectionism. You don’t have to anticipate every eventuality and have a thorough plan in place before making a decision. Trying to weigh every possible outcome is paralyzing. To nip this in the bud, ask yourself the following questions:
• Which decision will have the biggest positive impact on my top priorities?
• Of all the people I could please, which one or two people do I least want to disappoint?
• What is one thing I could do today that would bring me closer to my goal?
• Based on the information I have at this moment, what’s the best next step?
2. Right-size the problem. If you’re worried about the prospect of a decision bombing, try the 10-10-10 test. Think about how you’ll feel about the decision 10 weeks, 10 months, or 10 years from now. It’s likely that the choice will be inconsequential or that you won’t even remember it was a big deal. Your answers can help you put things in perspective and allow you to take action.
3. Avoid decision fatigue. You make hundreds of decisions a day and each depletes your mental resources. The more you can eliminate minor decisions, the more energy you’ll have for the major ones. Create routines to conserve your brainpower, like a weekly meal plan or wardrobe plan. You can eliminate minor decisions at work by delegating where possible.
4. Listen to your intuition. It isn’t a mystery. The brain considers a situation, quickly assesses all your experiences, and then makes the best decision given the context. It’s a necessary decision-making tool when time is short and traditional data is not available. Relying on rapid cognition lets the brain make wise decisions without overthinking.
5. Construct creative constraints. Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time we allow it. If you give yourself a day to complete a task, you will use the full day to finish it. But if you only gave yourself half a day, you’d finish the same task in a shorter time. Use this constraint when you’re setting deadlines to avoid overthinking. Determine a date by which you’ll make a choice. Let the person who is waiting for your decision know when they will hear from you. It also helps to set aside a short period of time each day to constructively problem solve.
6. Focus on problem-solving. Learn to recognize the difference between overthinking and problem-solving. Are you fretting about the problem or actively looking for a solution? Imagine you are working outdoors, and a major storm is coming.
• Overthinking – This is going to be awful. It could set the project back for days. Why do these things always have to happen to me? I can’t handle this.
• Problem-solving – I will go outside and pack away everything that might blow away. I’ll board up windows that need protecting.
Sources: Harvard Business Review, inc.com, verywellmind.com