How to Overcome Overthinking and Get More Done
Thinking is a magnifying glass. Overthinking is a microscope.
Daniel Kanneman said, “Nothing in life is as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it.”
Action creates clarity. Inaction magnifies confusion.
The more you think about something, the bigger it becomes. The sooner you act, the clearer you become.
- Focus on thinking, get more thinking.
- Focus on action, get results.
Overthinking and fear:
Fear of making mistakes ends up making you dumb.
You learn when you try stuff.
Organizations that concentrate on preventing mistakes end up paralyzed and dumb.
Responsible mistake-making enables learning. (Dumb mistake-making results from lack of initiative, poor preparation, and sloppy execution.)
- Choose a path forward.
- Prepare, plan, and execute with precision.
- Evaluate, adapt, and begin again.
Success is always iterative.
The more you think about fear, the bigger it becomes.
Fear shrinks when you step into it.
How many what ifs are enough?
Create three options. Choose one. Move forward.
- One option isn’t a choice.
- Two options is a yes or no situation.
- Three options enable you to experience the power of making a real decision.
Focused reflection for overthinkers:
How has taking action…
- Made you wiser?
- Expanded your experience?
- Enabled you to change direction?
- Enlarged your ability to serve?
Think about problems a little. Focus on solutions a lot.
Problem-centric leaders are dead weight.
Tony Robbins says, “Identify your problems, but give your power and energy to solutions.”
Overthinker’s tip: Distill big decisions into a series of small decisions.
If you can’t make a big jump, take a small step.
How can you move forward in a small way today?
What tips do you have for overthinkers?
“It’s good to think but not too much, scientists say” (BBC)
Thanks for the post today Dan. This is so true – especially when realizing that inaction IS an action. Saving this as a reminder for my team but as importantly for myself.
Thanks Jeff. Here’s to a little more action followed by a lot more learning. Best wishes.
I have learned to move forward even if I don’t have everything I “think” I need. Sometime the options or the best choice is not obvious till we start to move forward. Its good to keep options but at some point you must commit. Thank you Dan.
Thanks Walt. Brilliant. Clarity happens as we move forward, not before.
So, let’s move forward before all our ducks are in a row.
I call this issue and the result, “decision by indecision” and it drive me crazy! Too many people spend so much time thinking or procrastinating that the decision is made for them. It is very disempowering to work with or for such an individual.
Like so many other things in leadership, making decisions is hard, but practice and learning from mistakes makes it easier. As a leader, we need to make timely decisions so we can provide direction to our teams. If we cannot make decisions, it creates confusion and uncertainty which can damage morale and employee satisfaction.
Oft accused of overthinking …
(insisting that the discernable tactics [incremental actions] are aligned with [integral to] the overarching purpose [strategy]) …
Here I go again … consider me “triggered” …
Word choice is critical (as in “critical thinking”), especially when (or if …) you consider that many words experience an inversion in meaning over time (across generations),
e.g. “Bully” circa Shakespeare meant “beau, protector,”
which evolved thru circa 1900 Teddy Roosevelt’s affirming use of it (“bully pulpit” in re the presidency and “Bully! Bully!” as in “Bravo! Bravo!”), only to have the “yellow” press convert it into an epiteph for “powerful abuser” when he went against the duopoly of the parties and ran as an independent.
“Enabling” is one such word, especially when used in lieu of “empowering.”
In re business (not excluding deep state, entrenched bureaucracies or democratic politics),
Enabling is telling someone what to do, or doing it for them.
Command and control structures are notorious for unforseen consequences (the Holocaust and “Just following orders” at an extreme), which can occur when individuals or teams are divorced from direct responsibility, accountability and/authority – they DON’T have to think, worry or be concerned with the actual effects of their own actions.
More often than not, “management” is thus enabling; leadership is empowering – when it teaches (or coaches 🙂 by listening/asking rather telling/expecting specifics not related to the strategic imperatives.
Ask, Don’t tell.
Btw, managing upwards “works” the very same way. Ask your supervisor/next in command what the strategic imperative is (with clarity) and how doing what you are told to be doing accomplishes that, you will know what you are dealing with.
Give someone a fish, you’ve fed them for a day (enabled them to be dependent),
Teach them to fish, you’ve fed them for life
(empowered them to be dependable).
What the audience hears is more powerful than what you meant, in almost any case. I love you, man.
The first thing you do before overtthinking on matter is to ask these question ,Does this matter worth the thought or attention I am about to give it?I f it does set a particular pattern of thought on matter.Foe examples first look at the pros of the matter and then look at the cons of the matter.Weigh options and take a rational decision.
How do you even begin to realize that you are overthinking in the first place? How does one measure degrees of thought or action? One must face reality. People in leadership and management positions have problems to tackle. Problems need resolutions. How can one not-not think about an issue? Also, when does one get to the point of taking inspired action?
This one hits home for me. Overthinking situations at work has caused delay, along with second guessing my work. It certainly has led me to question every step I’ve taken lately. But one strategy that I do recommend, as you said, just take a step. Big or small, get moving in the that direction, the rest will follow. I’ve found that taking a step does clear up the initial non-essentials versus the essentials.
Good evening Dan, enjoyed reading the post and could not help to revert to your post “Don’t Punch Yourself in the face” especially the procrastination piece. When reading about overthinking I continually associate it with procrastination, which I guess overthinking is another form of procrastination. Earlier in my career I was someone that never overthought anything and had a “let’s get it done” type mentality. I never had issues getting things done. Yes sometimes I had to get very creative to hit a deadline but for the most part, I always did. Now that I am further along in my career and I am making a little bit more important decisions that influence a larger scale, I find myself overthinking everything. This makes it very difficult to get my work done sometimes and I am taking a step out of your “Ways to Combat Anxiety in the Morning Post” to get some type of routine going that will hopefully help me out with overthinking and anxiety. I love the idea of learning from your mistakes and utilizing lessons learned to improve work but I am not sure if my agency is up for that approach.
Over the years, I have really struggled with overthinking, particularly, in academic situations. For example, right now is final exam week, and I feel overwhelmed with the tests and projects I need to prepare for. However, instead of focusing on finishing the tasks, I find myself spending more time overthinking and worrying about completing the work. I completely agree with you that the focus should be on action rather than thinking in order to get results. Your words, the “more you think about something, the bigger it becomes…the sooner you act, the clearer you become” really resonated with me. I now see that the more time I waste focusing on my worries, then the bigger my issues become. As a teenager, I would often sit idly thinking, and my parents would often ask, “what are you thinking about?” To which I would respond, “I am thinking about all the work I need to get done.” Whenever my parents would hear this, they would say that in all the time I spent thinking, I could have finished all the work I needed to complete. I attribute this lack of action and immense thinking on perfectionism and anxiety. However, the only cure for this problem is not to worry so much on the end result and to be okay with making mistakes. After all, I wholeheartedly agree with you that we learn a lot by making mistakes; thus, overthinking prevents us from achieving the success we desire.