Overthinking and overanalyzing are basically my second nature. There is a reason I’ve always been attracted to TV, movies and series. They shut my brain off. They can put a stop to the endless stream of thoughts always present in my mind. Now I’m sure you can image this never-ending train of thought doesn’t always have the best outcome.
A side effect of overthinking is something called analysis paralysis. The definition reads “a moment when overanalyzing or overthinking a situation can cause you to become paralyzed, meaning that no action is taken therefore a solution is not reached”.
I find myself wanting to read and learn as much as I can before actually taking action. However, a vast amount of information can easily be found on Google and it has actually made decision making even harder. A simple search can lead you down a continuous stream of link-clicking, reading and evaluating, ending up hours later, just as clueless as you were when you started. It is simply not realistic to want to know it all before getting things done.
Overthinking influences your productivity and motivation
We all have a limited capacity of dealing with information that comes through our senses. Our short-term working memory is limited to 7 +/- 2 chunks of information. On the one hand, you simply can’t process more information with your short-term memory. On the other hand, overanalyzing and worrying will take away parts of your already limited capacity. This way little will remain for the more important tasks such as decision making and taking action. Your productivity, performance and even motivation will pay the price. If you keep overthinking and trying to gather more and more information, you might feel like you are getting nowhere.
How do you stop overthinking ?
1. Acknowledge the issue
First of all, I had to acknowledge the fact that I had analysis paralysis. For me, it was actually a friend who pointed out I might suffer from it. He helped me realize it was time to take action. It was true, I kept thinking I didn’t know enough. Maybe you find yourself in a similar situation? You’re trying to reach a certain goal or make an important decision but get so consumed with thinking, learning and preparing that you feel nowhere near ready to actually take the plunge?
Well, if you find yourself in this situation, then congratulations! You can now take the first step and acknowledge your analysis paralysis. Know that you can never have all the information and knowledge that’s available. At some point you just have to make it happen. Some things just need to be learned through experience. As they say, you don’t know it until you do it!
2. Don’t strive for perfection
Nothing is perfect. Neither will your preparation be. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you to invest all your life’s saving in this fund your father in law’s best friend’s neighbor has told you about, without properly doing your due diligence. All I’m saying is that you need to be satisfied with a certain amount of preparation. As Richard Branson would say, start before you feel ready!
It’s normal to be unsure at the beginning when you try something new. Just think about the first time you drove a car. You learned the basics, the theory, and then you had to put it into practice. Yes, you could have prepared even more. You could have read more books about traffic regulation, you could have played simulated driving games or you could have studied other people when they were driving. The amounts of extra information you could have gathered before actually driving are endless.
However, at a certain point you decided the information you had was enough even if it wasn’t perfect. Though you were still fearful, you got behind the wheel. And most certainly, actually driving taught you everything you needed. Next thing you know, driving becomes such a habit that you can do it on automatic pilot.
3. Set goals and plan to reach them
In my previous post I wrote about the importance of goal setting. If you haven’t read it yet be sure to do so! Having a purpose and a plan for reaching your goals is one of the first and most important things you need to do. Without this roadmap, it will be hard to reach your destination.
4. Set strict deadlines
Along with previous point of goal setting, you also have to add deadlines to your goals and steps. Now of course, when you set deadlines yourself, it is easy to move them further into the future, or even consider them to not be real. Hold yourself accountable to your deadlines by communicating them to others, and making them public. Share them with friends, family, colleagues, or even post them on social media. And don’t forget to put them in your phone as a reminder!
5. Find extra motivation
Chances are that even though you realize you might have analysis paralysis and you have your goals and deadlines set, you still can’t find yourself taking action. There might be something more fundamental you have to deal with first. I had the same problem. As much as I was learning all these new things, as little as I was actually doing. There was something else holding me back. I lacked self-discipline, motivation, and energy to actually put the things I learned into action. As stated before, analysis paralysis does influence your willpower. Finding reasons to motivate and energize yourself can help with this. Seeing what an important step this was to me and probably is to many people, I will dedicate my next post on finding motivation. Stay tuned or subscribe below if you don’t want to miss it!
6. Start small
If all the previous steps are dealt with and you know you have the absolutely essential knowledge or skills to achieve your goal, then it is time to take action! Now, don’t get crazy right from the start. Begin with small steps. When you drove a car for the first time, you didn’t immediately do a 5 day road trip either. You probably started with just driving up and down the road first.
The same goes for your goals. Do take action, but take baby steps. To give you an example, I’ve been studying Forex for a while now (foreign exchange aka currencies, but more on that in future posts). I’ve taken a couple of courses and I had the basic knowledge to get started. There was of course much more information out there, but it was time to start taking action. I started small by running a demo account first, not actually trading real money. Next, with more practice and confidence, I would be able to put small amounts of money in and start to gradually build up from there. Of course I still had many more questions and I’m sure you will too. But because you took action, you will find yourself in a position that forces you to find the answers to those questions.
Following these 6 easy steps should help you overcome analysis paralysis. Next, it will be up to you and as always, don’t forget to make it happen!