Steps to stop overthinking and move past “analysis paralysis”
What is Overthinking?
Many business owners I talk to, and a concept I struggle with myself, is that of overthinking and finding themselves stuck in analysis paralysis. To start, let’s take a look at what overthinking is and how it affects us.
Definition of overthinking (according to the Oxford Dictionary):
v. “think about (something) too much or for too long.”
Pretty simple and straightforward, right? Here’s what the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines overthinking as:
v. to think too much about (something): to put too much time into thinking about or analyzing (something) in a way that is more harmful than helpful.
n. someone who overthinks and worries too much
Is Overthinking Bad?
The word “analyzing” jumps out at me in that definition because, as a Business Strategist, strategy and analysis are what I do. I look at data, information, systems, and situations all through an analytical lens so I can get a clear understanding of what’s going on and make a recommendation on how to move forward. My natural tendency is to analyze and overthink, it’s what makes me good at what I do.
But, it can be harmful, as the definition said.
Just as much as it’s a strong skill, it can be bad for you and others.
Thinking through things is good, and analyzing things is important. But, when it gets to the point that it’s holding you back, creating inaction, or consuming more of your mental energy than it should, it’s harmful.
Here’s another definition from investopedia.com to explain what “analysis paralysis” is:
Analysis paralysis is an inability to make a decision due to overthinking a problem. An individual or a group can have too much data. The result is endless wrangling over the upsides and downsides of each option, and an inability to pick one.
Overthinking can cause an inability to make a decision and leave you struggling to move your business forward.
Where Does Overthinking Come From?
When you’re a business owner, you’re bombarded with ideas and data all the time. When it comes to data you have financial data, website statistics, marketing insights, customer data, and competitor data.
Information is coming in at all times, causing you to look at things like:
What am I doing in my business?
What are my employees doing?
What are my contractors doing?
What are my sales?
What do my clients need from me?
What do I need from my clients?
What’s going on in the economy?
Are my marketing efforts effective?
What’s going on in my network?
The list goes on. There’s always information we’re thinking about and collecting. With everything coming in, it’s easy to go down the path of overanalyzing and overthinking. You may wonder what you should be doing at any point in time, asking yourself if you’re doing the “right” task. You may also look at what someone else is doing and wonder if it’s working for them, and if you should do it too.
It can lead you to a place where your business gets stuck. You’re not doing anything, because you’re too busy thinking about (and overthinking) everything.
How to Stop Overthinking and Overanalyzing
Because I’m an idea generator, I am constantly full of ideas and thinking about things all the time. It can cause me to feel stressed, even when nothing is actually happening. There’s a conversation going on in my mind with all the to-do lists and the information I don’t want to lose. I think about where I’ve been, where I’m going, what I want, and what I don’t. Overthinking can be exhausting because you give all your mental energy to it but you’re not actually making any progress.
Fortunately, if you’re aware of the overthinking and analysis paralysis and you want to take steps to move forward, you can.
Ask yourself, “What’s the plan?”
When we follow a plan, it helps to keep us out of this overthinking state by giving us clear action steps to reach the goal, as well as when to implement them.
My recommendation is to sit down, shut out everything -don’t check email, or social media, remove the distractions, and ask yourself what you want. What’s the desired outcome?
Once you’re clear on what you want, you can determine what you need to get it.
For example, marketing is something we can spend a whole lot of time overthinking and a whole lot of time not doing. Instead of spinning your mental wheels worrying about how you’re not getting enough clients to meet your numbers, sit down and ask yourself what you really want. How many clients this month? For the rest of the year?
Then map out the plan and ask yourself what steps you need to take. How do you usually get clients? Networking? Referrals? Maintaining relationships with past clients? Social media? Your email newsletter?
This forces you to think about the problem in an active and productive way, without overthinking. Creating a plan ensures you have something to start doing, rather than just staying trapped in analysis paralysis. Planning gives you a definite focus on what action steps will bring you results.
Why Do We Overthink?
Many of us overthink and overanalyze because we’re afraid of making mistakes. We’re perfectionists, or have set our standards too high, or are extremely hard on ourselves when we mess up. Maybe we’re people-pleasers and hate letting others down by messing up.
If you identify with the fear of making mistakes, I encourage you to think about what’s the worst possible scenario if things go wrong.
What’s the worst that can happen?
This will help you have a more honest conversation with yourself about whether or not the fear you have is valid, realistic, or not.
Mistakes are (usually) Not Permanent.
For example, say you’re thinking about launching a new product or service and getting rid of another you’ve been offering for a long time. You’re worried because your clients love this service, but you don’t think it’s the best thing for you anymore.
Your fear might be, “What if I end this service and my clients aren’t happy anymore?”
If a client came to me with this concern, I’d ask them to consider, “Do you think all your clients will leave you because you’re not offering this service anymore?”
Chances are the answer is no. Your clients have probably loved working with you and many of them have been with you a long time.
If you do make the change, and the new service doesn’t take off, and your clients do in fact miss it -guess what? You can change your mind. You can roll this out, see how it goes, and go back to how you did things before. Through the process, you might even get a better idea, or tweak the old idea slightly to work better for you.
Decisions in our businesses are usually not finite. They don’t mean you’ve gone down a path you can’t change, and they’re not set in stone.
We’re always in a constant state of change, evolution, and growth. That’s what life and business are all about.
When I talk about strategy and planning with my clients, we’re not creating something that’s the end-all-be-all and everything that’s ever going to happen. We create a plan based on the information we have now and the goals they want to set. And along the way, we change, tweak, fine-tune, and adjust.
That’s what brings you success and allows you to be resilient as a business owner.
Success comes when you’re open-minded.
Accept that You Don’t Know Everything and Never Will
You only know so much and that new information may change your mind, and that’s ok.
It’s okay to have a plan and go with it, make mistakes, and change course. When it comes to overthinking and analysis paralysis, I encourage you to take a step back and shut off all inputs.
Shut off the email, the social media, the phone and sit down and ask yourself:
What is it I want?
What do I need to be focusing on to get there?
What are the steps I need to take to make it happen?
If you feel stuck and like you’re struggling with overthinking from too many options, too many choices, too many ups, and downs, and in-betweens, I can help you find clarity and make decisions in your business.
Feel free to reach out and schedule a discovery call with me here – I offer a complimentary consultation and would be happy to chat and help you get out of the overthinking mode and help you take action so you can truly achieve your goals.