How to Conquer Overthinking in 4 Easy Steps
It comes from my mother I think.
I lie awake at night worrying about cash flow and paying the bills. The next morning, I mull over the problem while sitting in traffic on the way to the office.
I read and re-read the same emails wondering what I missed and what I could have said better.
I play out disaster scenarios in my head about my finances, family, work, marriage and business.
And yet, I’ve found a way to manage overthinking.
If you face these problems take heart from John Milton, who said,
“The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.”
The good news is these four daily habits will help you solve that problem.
1. Capture It
Your boss asks you to distribute the monthly sales figures by end of the day. Customer support emails to say a big client wants to cancel their contract later this month. A WordPress plugin is slowing down the company website.
It’s only Monday morning, and you’ve a lot going on. No wonder you forget about distributing the sales figures until the drive home that evening.
Writing down new tasks as they occur on a trusted to do list (or even a Trello board) that you review regularly is the best way to get them out of your head.
This habit will free you from mental baggage, allowing you to refocus on the activity at hand without forgetting anything important later.
Several years ago, a boss sent me short, sharp email demanding an important report. I reflected on his tone for the entire day without realizing it. That night, I lay in bed and couldn’t sleep.
What had I done to make him angry? Didn’t he know how much work I’ve to do? Would he fire me?
As a chronic overthinker, I should have meditated for just ten minutes that evening.
According to a 2012 paper by Jaeger and Junze, directing your attention to your mental state often changes that state.
In short, a daily meditation habit will help you witness unproductive thoughts about your work or boss in your mind as they occur.
Once you become aware of these thoughts, choose whether you want to engage with them, act or put them to one side.
Let’s say you gave an important presentation that didn’t quite convince a boss or would-be client. You could ruminate about it while watching television at home that night or you could put these unproductive thoughts to one side by writing a short journal entry.
Even if you’re not a writer, cultivating a habit of putting thoughts to paper honestly will help you get unproductive thoughts out of your head. Remember, nobody has to read these entries.
So, when five or six o’clock arrives, ask yourself three questions: what worked, what didn’t work and what will I do differently next time?
Unless you’re a scientist operating in a laboratory, you’ll never have access to all of the facts and be able to work in perfect conditions.
Be honest with yourself. After a certain point, seeking more information to review is a form of procrastination. Part of a productive workday demands you place that sales call, write the report, deliver the presentation or contact that unhappy customer.
If you’re not in the habit of consistently taking action, pick the three most important items on your to do list at the end of the workday.
When you begin the following , whatever else happens, ensure you complete these items. You’ll learn more from accomplishing something important, even if you’re late.
Make a Heaven Instead of Hell
Your mind is a powerful tool. Don’t let it work on the wrong things.
When a problem arises at work and you can’t get it out of your head later that night, pick one of the habits above and cultivate it.
Although I’m a chronic over-thinker, I’ve learnt sometimes it’s best just to act.
Far easier to fix a mistake later than live with regrets about squandered opportunities.