How To Stop Overthinking In 5 Steps And Keep Productive

Overthinking known as analysis paralysis translates into hurdles for our brain to support productivity and wellbeing. Read on to know how to deal with overthinking and what 5 steps we can take to stop overthinking.

the word think on the pale blue background

Known as analysis paralysis, overthinking is destructive, especially if it gets habitual. It holds you back from having a more productive and enjoyable life.

text hold on, let me overthink it

Overthinking, and Its Negative Impact🧨

Telling signs of overthinking are:

  • feeling anxious about making decisions even when you are not under the pressure of a deadline
  • interference with a sleep routine
  • thinking about problems at hand in general categories that exclude action
  • feeling overloaded with information
  • falling into procrastination loop
  • inability to respond to demanding tasks with efficiency.

Overthinking is unpleasant for obvious reasons of leaving you behind in effective decision-making, and it is fearful because it causes anxiety-related procrastination.

Furthermore, when you are prone to overthinking, it might lead to intensifying the cognitive distortions like catastrophizing, discounting positives, disconfirmation, blaming and emotional filtering.  

Among factors contributing to increased anxiety are misinformation and reduced capacity of unplugging from negativity experienced on the global level, especially acute now with the pandemic and a high level of uncertainty.  

As Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus presenting the World Health Organization, stated:

The expectation of 24/7 availability also makes a negative impact on work-life balance causing burnout, adding pressure, and creating grounds for developing overthinking as an unhealthy habit.

More than often, overthinking kills not only your productivity but your happiness. Luckily, taking a mindful approach can put a stop on work bleeding into your life as this story of setting a new boundary shows.

From Thinking Too Much To Thinking Just Enough🎉

Apparently, the core of the problem with overthinking is in the 'over'. Having access to too much information or exposure to too many options can force us to fall into circular thinking and, consequently, take an unstructured approach to problem-solving.

Even the outcomes with the highest probability are not necessarily the ones that will be 100% occurring. Yet, overthinkers are prone to ignore this simple truth. Falling into overthinking trap, we are not able to release the expectations and anxiety, and, as a result, might experience a failure in performing effectively.

The best way to tackle the problem of overthinking is to start with identifying triggers catapulting you in repetitive thoughts mode.

Below, there is 'a a checkpoint' list👓 for overthinking prevention.  

  • Can I control the outcome? If not, there is no basis for thinking of it as a problem. It is a situation. The one helpful thought instead of a hundred unhelpful ones will be: 'I am not the only factor in the equation, which means that I will do my best and put the rest at rest'.
  • Do I keep the focus on the problem or on the solution? Rather than repeating what is unsolved, change the wording to 'I can do...' In case you do not see any immediate solution, be honest with yourself and say 'I cannot do anything'. After all, as the saying goes, tomorrow is another day.

5 Steps To Manage Overthinking🎊

Here are some steps that can help you reverse the tide of overthinking.  

Decision Making As A Workout  

a man is riding a bike

Guess what? Decision confidence is trained by taking decisions and by accepting that not all of them can be successful, which is ok.

Otherwise, your mind will be dwelling for long hours on things of less importance, and drag you into ruminations. Treat decision-making as a workout.

In the world of overthinkers, be a doer.

Prolonging the waiting time in the hope you will know everything you should know for taking that one right decision causes self-debating without committing to a decision, which is a problem.

In the long run, dealing with decision-making as you would deal with organizing a sports routine will help you become more resilient and bring better results with less stress.

It will close the gap between thinking and execution instead of leaving you to agonize over the decisions to be made. Encourage yourself to take actions like you encourage yourself to go to the gym and do your exercises.

text move now, think later

Outcome: Taking action breaks the cycle — just remind yourself that choosing even a random option increases the chance of hitting the right answer compared to choosing a zero action plan.

Choosing Work Software Wisely

woman choosing the software

Your work software can also be a part of the problem. Choosing software is different from what it was pre-pandemic. At present, you need a tool with impeccable functionality tailored to the needs of remote and hybrid work.

Pick the software that would be effective in keeping the sight of deadlines. In your work environment, opt for 'time-buying tools'.

We realize that tight deadlines certainly put pressure. However, they make an opportunity cost of waiting more transparent and, thus, act as 'energizers' assisting in taking more informed and mindful decisions. To reinforce the effect, reward yourself for fast decisions and reducing uncertainty.

Outcome: It will help you eliminate the pressure of unclear metrics that can be interpreted in different ways. Time tracking software like TMetric perfectly automates the admin routine in your work, which means you do not have to think twice when it comes to project deadlines.  

Self Encouragement

be compassionate to yourself

Overthinking not only compromises your productivity but attention span as well, thus, pushing you into the procrastination abyss. Rather than criticizing yourself, choose the tone that would be encouraging.

It is a known fact that perfect is the enemy of good so for practicing self-encouragement, we can start with a simple technique of limiting the number of options we expose ourselves to either it is a lunch menu, wardrobe item, or project ideas.  

If you treat overthinking as a bad habit, there are plenty of helpful resources. (Choosing the word overthinking on Amazon brings you over 1000 results with promising book titles).

Cultivating the habit of deduction and training your ability of long-term vision can come after lots of failures and unlucky experiences. In the long run, nobody is keeping a record of all your failures except you so not stumbling on this way is rewarding.

Outcome: You will learn to stop worrying about work, nurse your wellbeing and decrease the mental clutter by removing the negative self-talk.

Itemizing Approach

break down your tasks

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

You don’t have to see the whole staircase,  just take the first step.

There are two evidence-based techniques you can try to implement into your routine to manage the problem of overthinking and stop overthinking at work:

  • breaking down a scenario
  • journaling.  

By breaking down the scenarios we mean 'handling' the multitude of unknowns by making a list of problems you face and categorizing them as tasks of certain priorities. It will help see the possible solutions. Journaling is based on the same strategy but presents things in a more linear way.

Outcome: Both techniques help you observe without engaging and stop overthinking. It refreshes our energies and calms our anxieties by removing 'I' from the equation, dissolving the dread of an immediate uphill battle with our fears, and introducing doable goals.

Mental Health As A Priority

woman doing yoga

A destructive thought pattern can be changed through meditation practices and breathing exercises. They are clearing your mind of clutter and allowing the answers to your problem to emerge.

How to stop overthinking anxiety? Breathing is something you can feel control of, so breathing techniques utilized in time can help you reduce anxiety, help you move forward, and stop worry-go-round.

Anxiety management apps are another innovative tool in your toolkit, and they are now attracting increased attention due to more profound research.

Taking a walk can be one of the simplest solutions. Yet, it allows to reconnect with nature and provides an immersive experience of growth and resilience because it helps decouple worry from actual decision-making.

And then one of the most difficult questions that come in the form of the choice between giving up or trying harder will be easier to answer.

Outcome: The simple measures (practicing breathing techniques, meditation, taking a walk, and implementation of anxiety management apps) aimed at prioritizing mental health look like a long-term solution in the prevention of overthinking.  

Conclusion

Overthinking signaling of impeding analysis paralysis translates into a number of hurdles for your brain to support your productivity and wellbeing and brings very uncomfortable feelings like anxiety and worry. Experienced constantly, overthinking causes:

  • troubles with getting enough sleep
  • making decisions in an unproductive way
  • procrastination.

To deal with overthinking, there are simple steps you may want to take. Among ways to stop overthinking, the choice of proper digital tools plays an important role in minimizing work-related stress. Another overthinking solution is to encourage yourself with playing a more proactive role in decision-making that implies training self-compassion and resilience.