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6 Ways To Manage Overthinking

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One survey from the University of Michigan indicated that 73% of adults between the ages of 22 and 35 overthink, and 52% of 45 to 55-year-olds do too. While it is important to engage in thinking in our work, overthinking on the other hand affects our effectiveness in getting things done. 

What is overthinking and what are some of the ways to manage overthinking? Overthinking is a process where people engage in excessive thinking to the extent that it impedes their actions and productive results.  It becomes a justification for procrastination and inaction.  

On the surface, it would seem legit for one to gather more information for analysis prior to making a decision and taking action. However prolonged thinking and rethinking can be a wasteful habit and can stop people in their tracks. 

The way forward is to strike a healthy balance between thinking and action.  To do that we need to come up with effective strategies to avoid overthinking and engage in the right thinking and take the right actions to achieve the desired results.

Over the last 25 years in leading various projects in my consulting work for organizations, I have developed a framework to ensure that our team avoids overthinking but engages in productive thinking to enable practical execution to achieve the desired results.

Let’s check out some of the ways to manage overthinking.

6 Ways To Manage Overthinking

1. Set A Time Frame

To ensure that we do not get into paralysis by analysis mode, we need to  set a clear time framework for various tasks such as gathering information, analysis and diagnosis, decision-making, recommendations, and a clear action plan with specific measurable goals and deadlines.

Having a clear time frame is important and requires one to be more practical and balanced without getting carried away with a long engagement in one task that one loves to do more than others. It is not uncommon that some leaders love to debate over the smallest of stuff which is often more intellectual than practical.  

There are many root-causes of why some leaders engage in overthinking. Some are perfectionists who are never contented until they explore everything to the fullest. Others lack courage in making decisions, so they avoid them by prolonging thinking and analyzing. 

By setting a deadline for each task in each of the phases of work, one becomes compelled to move forward without being stuck in the thinking phase. This is certainly one of the ways to manage overthinking that you can try.

2. Ascertain The Necessary Information

There is no end to getting more information. It will be useful to choose the criteria needed to make a  good decision and then go about collecting information about them. 

The more data and information we collect, the more analysis and thinking will be involved. We do not live in a perfect world where we can have all the information needed to draw a perfect conclusion.  

One of the ways to manage overthinking is by making sure we need adequate information that enable us to make a reasonable decision to move forward. Often more information creates overload and crowds one’s thinking. What is needed is relevant information to help make a sound conclusion that is directive enough to spell out the correct actions to be taken.

3. Analyze To Come To A Decision

One needs to be aware that we need not reinvent the wheel. We only need analyze the information to achieve better understanding in the areas that lack clarity. In those areas in which we are already clear, there is no need for more analysis. 

The purpose of our thinking and analysis is to help make a decision. It should not be analysis for analysis’ sake. A better way is to set specific areas where clear decisions need to be made. Then go ahead with  the thinking and analysis to arrive at those decisions.  

4. Moving From Negativity To Positivity

A lot of overthinking may arise from negative mindsets with constant worrying about the past as well as concerns about the future. Often worrying about what could go wrong will get one to stall under the pretext of waiting for more information or analysis.   

Too much negativity will certainly dampen one’s courage to take action. Many would  justify that  in view of the risks of what could go wrong, they need more thinking and rethinking on various issues. While a little caution with an exploration of contingencies is a good measure, taking an over-cautious stance with great doses of pessimism will wreak havoc on good decision-making.  

Worrying forward leads to overthinking which is just creating problems that do not even exist. One of the ways to manage overthinking is by moving from what could go wrong to what could go right with the right strategies is a good way to move out of overthinking.

5. Execute To Achieve Productive Results

Thinking and more thinking would not create results. The missing link in most organizations is concrete actions. There are many leaders who love to have meetings after meetings to discuss over many things. The ills of overthinking are that they create a comfortable habit of inaction. 

Inaction provides temporary refuge and comfort but over time it dents the credibility of leaders as they are eventually judged by the results they achieve. Without execution, there will be no results and without results, a leader is deemed to have failed.

In one of the ways to manage overthinking, is to execute what was planned.

6. Recognise And Reward Results

To discourage people from engaging in overthinking, organizations should realign their recognition and rewards towards result based. Assessing one’s work based on concrete and measurable results directly or indirectly is a good way to get people to move from overthinking to taking the right actions to get the desired results.

So there you have it, some of the ways to manage overthinking.

You need to stop overthinking, be a realist and not a perfectionist. Focus on getting things you want to be done right instead of things that could be done wrong. 

About the Author

Dr. Victor SL Tan is the CEO of KL Strategic Change Consulting Group.  He undertakes change management consulting and training. He is also the author of 14 management books. His bestseller books include Leading Positive & Productive Change and The Secret of Change. For more information email him at victorsltan@klscc.com or contact him at 012-3903168.

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