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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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Craig Harper

Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

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Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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