June 27, 2021

Okay, you’re spending too much time on this


People analyze until they paralyze.

Every little move and every tiny scrap of information becomes something to be weighted and debated. To a point where it not only creates stress for them, but stress for people around them.

Like my recruiting manager, who was once onboarding a class of new employees. She couldn’t decide whether to include people’s first and last name in their new email address, or just their last initial.

Is that too many letters? Do you think the new people will be annoyed? What if their names get confused with someone else’s? Maybe we should go get a second opinion on this.

No, we shouldn’t. Please stop this madness. This small and irrelevant decision is not worth going back and forth about. These new employees are going to be so thrilled that they’re starting a new job here, that whatever naming convention we choose will be the right one. Let’s not invest any more energy in this decision.

This exchange is a perfect microcosm of the larger problem:

Most people haven’t learned how to stop themselves from overthinking to the point of inaction.

And to be fair, this is a difficult skill to master. The human brain puts up one hell of a fight. But at a certain point, we have to get good and interrupting the replication of our own suffering before it gets out of control.

Because rumination is a spiral. It has a gravitational pull that sucks us in and makes us lose our bearings and all sense of proportion.

One trick that helps me slow down my thought process is to notice when my body is getting tense. Scrunched up shoulders, clenched jaw, restless leg, all of these physical symptoms are clues that my brain is spiraling.

Which is fine. There’s no judgment when this very normal physical reaction to stress happens. But noticing the tension helps me stop, take a breath, and if need be, announce to myself, okay, you’re spending too much time on this, let’s decide and move on.

How do you interrupt your obsessions? Do you have a trick to keep your thoughts from degrading into compulsions?

Remember, the less time you give yourself to decide, the more likely you are to create something pure without overthinking it.

What are you still spending too much time on?