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How to stop overthinking your decisions

https://www.fastcompany.com/90300155/how-to-stop-overthinking-your-decisions

fastcompany.com

How to stop overthinking your decisions
What's the one thing on your plate that you've been putting off making a decision on? Whether it's a simple decision such as choosing which duct-cleaning company to hire or a more complex one such as whether to accept a new job offer, sitting on a decision can make you feel like you're paralyzed.

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Put a Deadline on Your Thoughts

To avoid over-ruminating about a decision, give yourself a time frame to think about it. 

If it’s a small issue such as what paint color to paint your office, perhaps a deadline of 10 minutes is sufficient; whereas a larger decision such as whether to accept a new job offer in another city may warrant a couple of days of thought.

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Schedule Your Thinking Time

Schedule Your Thinking Time

To avoid thinking about problems all day long, schedule a specific time where you give yourself the freedom to think about the issue you need to make a decision about. 

If thoughts about the issue creep into your brain before your scheduled thinking time, tell yourself “No, I’m going to think about that after dinner, not during this meeting”.

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Problem Solving vs. Worrying

Dwelling on a problem, thinking “this is horrible, I can’t handle this” or rehashing things that happened in the past are an unproductive use of your time.

Thinking about what steps you can take to improve the situation or actively thinking of a solution to the problem are helpful toward moving forward. 

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Take a Break

Letting the inactive parts of your brain work through the problem can let the answer come to you when you’re not expecting it. 

When you find yourself overthinking about a problem, try moving on to another subject or changing your physical space by going for a walk, or moving your laptop to a conference room to work on something else.

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Destructive thought patterns

Overthinking often involves two destructive thought patterns--ruminating and incessant worrying.

  • Ruminating involves dwelling on the past. "I should have stayed at my last job. I would be happier than I am now.""My parents didn't teach me how to be confident. My insecurities have always held me back."
  • Persistent worrying involves negative predictions about the future. "I'm going to embarrass myself tomorrow when I give that presentation. I know I'm going to forget everything I'm supposed to say."

Notice when you're stuck in your head

Overthinking can become such a habit that you don't even recognize when you're doing it. Practice paying attention.

When you're overthinking past or future events, acknowledge that your thoughts aren't productive. Thinking is only helpful when it leads to positive action.

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Why We Make Poor Decisions

  • We’re not as rational as we think. 
  • We’re not prepared. We don’t understand the invariant ideas — the mental models — of how the world really works. 
  • We don’t gather the information we need. We make decisions based on our “guts” in complex domains that require serious work to gather all the needed data. 

The World Is Multidisciplinary

We live in a society that demands specialization. Being the best means being an expert in something.  A byproduct of this niche focus is that it narrows the ways we think we can apply our knowledge without being called a fraud.

We should apply all the knowledge at our disposal to the problems and challenges we face every day.