How to Manage Overthinking

“Overthinking, also best known as creating problems that are never there.” – David Sikhosana

Overthinking is one of the many challenges we experience as we go through life as we take on more responsibility. Whether you’re overthinking about work, family, friends, your health, it’s a common trait to have.

According to a Forbes article, “research suggests 74% of 25 to 35 year old’schronically overthink, along with 52% of people ages 45 to 55.”

I see overthinking as a blockage or barrier when it comes to navigating a decision, so how do you overcome it?

In this HBR article, they provide 5 tangible steps to stop the cycle of overthinking.

  1. Put aside perfectionism – The concept of perfectionism is an all-or-nothing thinking and can stall the decision process. Trying to weigh every possible outcome and consideration can be paralyzing, so start by asking yourself questions like: What is one thing I could do today that would bring me closer to my goal? Based on what I know and the information I have, what’s the best next step?
  2. Right-size the problem – Before you make a decision consider writing down your goals, priorities or people in your life that will be impacted. This allows you to determine what is meaningful and what’s not worth worrying about.
  3. Leverage the underestimated power of intuition – When you allow your intuition to be a part of the decision, the brain considers a situation, quickly assesses all your experiences, and then makes the best decision given the context. In one study, car buyers who used only careful analysis were ultimately happy with their purchases about a quarter of the time. Meanwhile, those who made intuitive purchases were happy 60% of the time. That’s because relying on rapid cognition, or thin-slicing, allows the brain to make wise decisions without overthinking.
  4. Limit the drain of decision fatigue – In one day, you make hundreds of decisions so identify ways to limit the decisions you need to make and avoid decision fatigue. Create routines and rituals to conserve your brainpower, like a weekly meal plan or capsule wardrobe.
  5. Construct creative constraints – As described in Parkinson’s Law, which is the old adage that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. Meaning, if you give yourself a month to prepare a proposal, you’ll take a month. However, if you give yourself a week, you can get it done in a week. In other words, if you give yourself one week to worry about something that is a one-hour task, you will waste an inordinate amount of time and energy. Set a deadline for a decision, so you won’t take more than is needed to worry about it.

Although overthinking is a natural trait that we all have, it can be an unhealthy habit and something you may not even realize you’re doing.  Just observe how you are going through the process of making a decision and be in tune with your mind and body.

Here are articles we found helpful on the topic:
How to Stop Overthinking Everything
3 Types of Overthinking – and How to Overcome Them
Stuck Overthinking? 14 Tricks to Recenter Yourself