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How to Stop Being an Over-Thinker

How to Stop Being an Over-Thinker

As a rule, thinking is a good thing and while some people don’t do it enough, some over-think everything. Both genders can fall into either category – today we’re going to chat about the one who does too much.

Some people think themselves into stagnation, frustration, exhaustion, anxiety and even illness. They have an aptitude for making the simple, complex, the easy, hard, the minor issue, a major drama and the pain-less, pain-full. They are adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and also at wasting their time and talent through age-old art of over-analysing everything and everyone; analysis paralysis. They are experts at misinterpreting what people are saying and if there is a way to have their feelings hurt, they’ll find it. Even go looking for it. Not only do they have a history of almost doing things but more often than not they are obsessive, compulsive with perfectionistic tendencies. They worry too much. About nearly everything. They are people-pleasers who want change (different) but the change process scares them. They don’t need other people to sabotage their dreams or goals, they can do that all by themselves. They are highly skilled in the art of self-sabotage and if anyone will get in their way, it’s them. They are… the Over-Thinker.

So, if you identify with any of the above, then you probably inhabit the cerebral landscape somewhere between casual Over-Thinker and chronic Over-Thinker. Here’s a few tips to help you deal with your Over-Thinking-Ness (a word). (Now).

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1. Stop waiting for perfection (perfect timing, perfect conditions) before you do what you know you should have done long ago. Being ambitious is great but aiming for perfection is unrealistic, impractical and debilitating. Aim for constant improvement and consciously and methodically work towards positive change where you need it most.

2. Don’t assume. Don’t act on hunches, act on facts.

3. Be more proactive; do stuff! Get out of the theory and into the practical. Now! Do at least one thing each day every day that will get you closer to where you want to be. Even if it scares you. Especially if it scares you. To steal someone else’s book title, “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.” Don’t let fear hijack your potential or run your life (into the ground).

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4. Ask yourself the right type of questions; the ones which will put you (mentally) in a positive, practical, productive and solution-focused head space. Acknowledge the problem but be all about the solution. Consciously find the good.

5. Have a sounding board (coach, friend, mentor, relative); someone who will provide you with relevant, meaningful, specific, unemotional feedback – you can’t be objective about you. Make sure it’s someone who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.

6. In order to consistently and consciously move from mediocre to amazing, create a plan and totally commit to it. Don’t give yourself an escape clause. Identify and commit to your non-negotiable behaviours.

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7. Stop rationalising, justifying and explaining what you’re not doing. Try honesty, it’s quite effective. And liberating.

8. Keep a Success Diary (wanky name but great concept). Journaling your thoughts, decisions, behaviours and results is a great way to keep perspective, stay focused and motivated and to de-emotionalise the change process. It’s also a good way for you to learn what works – for you.

9. Get out of your thoughts. Eckhart Tolle talks about finding that very quiet, relaxing and beautiful space beyond our thoughts. The place where peace, calm, joy and freedom live. This is something which needs to be worked on but with practice you’ll be able to do it almost anywhere at any time. We don’t know how hard it is to stop thinking until we try. And the irony is that moving beyond our thoughts is not really about trying but about letting go. Of the chaos. The mind can be an exhausting place and sometimes we need a holiday from it. If you struggle with this concept, start by losing yourself in some of your favourite music. Step out of your mind and into the music; away from the cerebral and into the creative. The spiritual. The non-thinker. If you’re interested in exploring and understanding this concept more, check out Eckhart Tolle’s book the Power of Now. It’s kind of heavy going (possibly weird depending on where you’re at) but well worth it if you can persevere and digest his words thoughtfully.

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10. With all the thoughts traveling around in your head, some of them should be evicted, others are stuck and are too scared to come out. See your brain’s thoughts as one massive Apartment Block. Let’s look at Level 2 of your Apartment Block … as you walk down the corridor, you hear the ol’ crazy woman behind Apt 22 “you should have done it this way stuuupid…”. Further down is the chatterbox in Apt 28 who always has her door open and jumps out and distracts you, just as you’re trying to get somewhere. At the end of the corridor is Mr Gotnothingbettertodo who without fail stops you dead in your tracks “if you only saw how silly you looked you’ve never do that again!”. These trouble-making tenants are in fact those thoughts that interupt your driving forces and freeze you with guilt, anxiety and reasons to keep us still. These tenants are really easy to spot, haven’t paid rent in years, are up to no good and are causing trouble to all the other (good) tenants. These tenants must be evicted – effective immediately!

Start right now – select the most disturbing tenant you know is doing you no good and hand deliver your notice NOW! Get in that elevator, press the button to the floor that you know you keep avoiding.. and march to their door with confidence and hand deliver that notice. If they don’t co-operate, grab them by the ankles and toss them out. These tenants have been settled for a long time and know how to persuade you – so don’t give in! Remember, you have other fantastic tenants there that will be right by your side to support you in this mass evacuation.

This will make room for new, inspirational tenants. Make this Apartment Block your own – bring it back to life, create activities for your community, put in groovy carpet, bring in leafy plants, put in a bar upstairs with 24/7 feel good music (next to the brain spa and indoor pool) – even renovate a complete level and turn it into a brain haven where your tenants can go to put their feet up and recuperate. It’s your Apartment Block – the possibilities are endless!

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Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

There’s a dark side to the conveniences of the Digital Age. With smartphones that function like handheld computers, it has become increasingly difficult to leave our work behind. Sometimes it seems like we’re expected to be accessible 24/7.

How often are you ever focused on just one thing? Most of us try to meet these demands by multi-tasking.

Many of us have bought into the myth that we can achieve more through multi-tasking. In this article, I’ll show you how you can accomplish more work in less time. Spoiler alert: multi-tasking is not the answer.

Why is multitasking a myth?

The term “multi-tasking” was originally used to describe how microprocessors in computers work. Machines multitask, but people cannot.

Despite our inability to simultaneously perform two tasks at once, many people believe they are excellent multi-taskers.

You can probably imagine plenty of times when you do several things at once. Maybe you talk on the phone while you’re cooking or respond to emails during your commute.

Consider the amount of attention that each of these tasks requires. Chances are, at least one of the two tasks in question is simple enough to be carried out on autopilot.

We’re okay at simultaneously performing simple tasks, but what if you were trying to perform two complex tasks? Can you really work on your presentation and watch a movie at the same time? It can be fun to try to watch TV while you work, but you may be unintentionally making your work more difficult and time-consuming.

Your brain on multi-tasking

Your brain wasn’t designed to multi-tasking. To compensate, it will switch from task to task. Your focus turns to whatever task seems more urgent. The other task falls into the background until you realize you’ve been neglecting it.

When you’re bouncing back and forth like this, an area of the brain known as Broadmann’s Area 10 activates. Located in your fronto-polar prefrontal cortex at the very front of the brain, this area controls your ability to shift focus. People who think they are excellent multitaskers are really just putting Broadmann’s Area 10 to work.

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But I can juggle multiple tasks!

You are capable of taking in information with your eyes while doing other things efficiently. Scientifically speaking, making use of your vision is the only thing you can truly do while doing something else.

For everything else, you’re serial tasking. This constant refocusing can be exhausting, and it prevents us from giving our work the deep attention it deserves.

Think about how much longer it takes to do something when you have to keep reminding yourself to focus.

Why multitasking is failing you

Multitasking does more bad than good to your productivity, here’re 4 reasons why you should stop multitasking:

Multitasking wastes your time.

You lose time when you interrupt yourself. People lose an average of 2.1 hours per day getting themselves back on track when they switch between tasks.

In fact, some studies suggest that doing multiple things at once decreases your productivity by as much as 40%. That’s a significant loss in efficiency. You wouldn’t want your surgeon to be 40% less productive while you’re on the operating table, would you?

It makes you dumber.

A distracted brain performs a full 10 IQ points lower than a focused brain. You’ll also be more forgetful, slower at completing tasks, and more likely to make mistakes.

You’ll have to work harder to fix your mistakes. If you miss an important detail, you could risk injury or fail to complete the task properly.

This is an emotional response.

There’s so much data suggesting that multitasking is ineffective but people insist that they can multitask.

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Feeling productive fulfills an emotional need. We want to feel like we’re accomplishing something. Why accomplish just one item on the to-do list when you can check off two or three?

It’ll wear you out.

When you’re jumping from task to task, it can feel invigorating for a little while. Over time, this needs to fill every second with more and more work leads to burn out.

We’re simply not built to multitask, so when we try, the effect can be exhausting. This destroys your productivity and your motivation.

How to stop multitasking and work productively

Flitting back and forth between tasks feels second-nature after a while. This is in part because Broadmann’s Area 10 becomes better at serial tasking through time.

In addition to changing how the brain works, this serial tasking behavior can quickly turn into a habit.

Just like any bad habit, you’ll need to recognize that you need to make a change first. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to adjust to a lifestyle of productive mono-tasking:

1. Consciously change gears

Instead of trying to work on two distinct tasks at once, consider setting up a system to remind you when to change focus. This technique worked for Jerry Linenger, an American astronaut onboard the space station, Mir.

As an astronaut, he had many things to take care of every day. He set alarms for himself on a few watches. When a particular watch sounded, he knew it was time to switch tasks. This enabled him to be 100% in tune with what he was doing at any given moment.

This strategy is effective because the alarm served as his reminder for what was to come next. Linenger’s intuition about setting reminders falls in line with research conducted by Paul Burgess of University College, London on multitasking.

2. Manage multiple tasks without multitasking

Raj Dash of Performancing.com has an effective strategy for balancing multiple projects without multitasking. He suggests taking 15 minutes to acquaint yourself with a new project before moving on to other work. Revisit the project later and do about thirty minutes on research and brainstorming.

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Allow a few days to pass before knocking out the project in question. While you were actively work on other projects, your brain continues to problem solve-in the background.

This method works because it gives us the opportunity to work on several projects without allowing them to compete for your attention.

3. Set aside distractions

Your smartphone, your inbox and the open tabs on your computer are all open invitations for distraction. Give yourself time each day when you silence your notifications, close your inbox and remove unnecessary tabs from your desktop.

If you want to focus, you can’t give anything else an opportunity to invade your mental space.

Emails can be particularly invasive because they often have an unnecessary sense of urgency associated with them. Some work cultures stress the importance of prompt responses to these messages, but we can’t treat every situation like an emergency.

Designate certain times in your day for checking and responding to emails to avoid compulsive checking.

4. Take care of yourself

We often blame electronics for pulling us from our work, but sometimes our physical body forces us into a state of serial tasking. If you’re hungry while you’re trying to work, your attention will flip between your hunger and your work until you take care of your physical needs.

Try to take all your bio-breaks before you sit down for an uninterrupted stint of work.

In addition, you’ll also want to be sure you’re attending to your health in a broader sense. Getting enough exercise, practicing mindfulness and incorporating regular breaks into your day will keep you from being tempted by distractions.

5. Take a break

People are more likely to head to YouTube or check their social media when they need a break. Instead of trying to work and watch a mindless video at the same time, give yourself times when you’re allowed to enjoy your distracting activity of choice.

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Limit how much time you’ll spend on this break so that your guilt-free distraction time doesn’t turn into hours of wasted time.

6. Make technology your ally

Scientists are beginning to discover the detrimental effects of chronic serial tasking on our brains. Some companies are developing programs to curb this desire to multitask.

Apps like Forest turn staying focused into a game. Extensions like RescueTime help you track your online habits so that you can be more aware of how you spend your time.

The key to productivity: Focus

Multitasking is not the key to productivity. It’s far better to schedule time to focus on each task than it is to try to do everything at once.

Make use of the methods outlined above and prepare to be more effective and less exhausted in the process.

If you want to learn more about how to focus, don’t miss my other article:

How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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