Health + wellbeing

How to stop overthinking

- October 10, 2019 2 MIN READ

Overthinking can create stress and frustration, while killing productivity. Learn how to manage overthinking with this simple little system.

The deadline for my Flying Solo column was nearing. 

I thought about writing an article on over-thinking, because there’d been a number of tasks I’d over-thought in the past month.

It seemed like a good idea.

But do you think I could start writing the article immediately? 

Nooooooo, of course not. 

There was waaaaaaay too much overthinking to do first!

First, I had to ask myself a whole range of doubt-fuelling questions. 

“Do people even over-think like me?”

“Wouldn’t people much rather read something practical?

Or funny?

Or raw?

I mentally tallied up the pros and cons of each article idea. Then, I visited the Flying Solo website and started consuming whole platters of delicious articles. I began scribbling, planning and brainstorming, not for my own article ideas anymore, oh no, I’d gone on whole new tangents altogether!

Finally, I realised I was doing it again. Overthinking.

Why was I overthinking?

When it comes to work tasks, I’m usually pretty decisive. In the past month though, things were different. I was overthinking most of my tasks, and every time I did, I was either: 

  • Procrastinating for the sake of procrastinating
  • Caught in a cycle of overthinking (overthinking bred overthinking, some days it just became a habit)
  • Exploring new ideas because the current to-do action was time-consuming, boring or a bit scary
    When I recognised my new pattern of overthinking, I came up with a mini-system to help stem the flow.

How I stop overthinking

Whenever I catch myself overthinking now, like I eventually did with this article, I call in the C.I.A.  

It stands for:

  • C = Core issue 

I ask myself, “What is the core issue?”  

Quite often, the original problem or task gets buried under an avalanche of other problems that the overthinking created.  Sometimes, there’s even a whole new to-do list, completely unrelated to the original task.

In today’s example, the core issue was that I needed to write my Flying Solo column before the deadline. However, I’d created extra issues after reading a stack of cool articles on the Flying Solo site.

  • I =  Initial solution
  • Once I clarify the core issue, I ask, “What was my initial solution?” 

Usually the initial solution is the best one, and if it isn’t exactly the right one, with some tweaking, it can be pretty close. 

In this instance, the initial solution was to write an article about overthinking. It was a decent idea. But I first had to mentally go around in big overthinking circles before returning right back to it! 

  • A =  Action

Finally, and most importantly, I take action.  Once I have the solution, the task only gets done if I actually do it.  

And friends, that’s what I did.  I finally wrote this article, and I really hope you like it because I thought about it a lot! 😉

Overthinking can be exhausting, frustrating and demoralising. Thankfully, you can stop it in many ways – one way, to call in the CIA: Isolate the Core issue, consider your Initial solution and take Action! Now, that’s something to think about. 

What are your (over) thoughts?