There’s nothing more draining than constantly overthinking things at work. What is overthinking? It’s when you think about something too much. It’s when you question yourself (and doubt yourself) about every step you make. It’s when you worry about every detail, and find yourself unable to make basic decisions.

Overthinking things causes so much stress. And it keeps you from moving forward and making progress. It’s hard to get things done when you’re constantly questioning whether you’re doing things right or taking the correct steps.

So how can you avoid overthinking things at work? Author Melody Wilding has a few suggestions:

  • Try not to be a perfectionist – It’s great that you take pride in your work and want to do a good job. But in many cases (especially when working on team projects in which you don’t have full control over the end product), it’s simply not possible to be perfect. So being a perfectionist can be incredibly stressful and make you agonize over every decision you make. If you believe every single thing that you do must be perfect, it can be very hard to make any progress. To avoid this problem, try to remind yourself that you don’t need to be perfect – you simply need to do your best. And your best work is something to be proud of. In addition, try not to look too far into the future (and worry about the end product). Just focus on completing the small tasks that will eventually get you to your goal.
  • Don’t stress about the small stuff – Not every project is essential and important. Not every thing that you do will have a “make or break” effect on your career. Most of the tasks that you complete during your workday are probably pretty routine, and most of your decisions probably won’t have a huge impact on people. So try not to worry too much about the small stuff. Minor tasks and decisions are not worth that much stress or energy.
  • Trust your intuition – If you’re conflicted about what to do on a project, it’s a good idea to gather whatever information you can, assess what you’ve learned, and then make your decision. But when you have to act quickly and you don’t have a lot of data, intuition is a very effective tool. In these instances, your intuition can guide you in the right direction. You should trust in it.
  • Decrease the number of decisions that you have to make – Lighten your load (and stress level) by decreasing the number of decisions that you have to make during the day. Create daily routines to follow so you no longer have to waste energy deciding what to wear, what to eat, when to take breaks, etc. The fewer decisions you have to make, the more time and energy you’ll have to devote to your more important work.
  • Give yourself some deadlines – A good way to force yourself to stop overthinking things, take action, and move forward is to give yourself an arbitrary deadline. Tell yourself that you’re going to complete a certain project in a week (even if it’s not due for three weeks). That will force you to push forward, and will give you less time to stress about every decision you make.

Wilding, M. (2021, February 10). How to stop overthinking everything. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2021/02/how-to-stop-overthinking-everything

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