I have a problem I need to confess to you all: I overthink everything and it’s affecting my life. I’ve probably written this entire paragraph several times because I keep overthinking the entire point, which in turn makes my point. I obsess over the details before I even know the big picture. This is a classic case of overthinking. Whether it’s a project for myself or for a customer, I am finding it difficult to find the boundary between getting a great product out and being a mind-reading, first-cut perfectionist. As I find myself gripped by the power and allure of overthinking, I wonder where it comes from. Does it stem from perfectionism? Am I expecting too much of myself and my work? Or maybe I’m just overthinking it all. It’s possible. Let me think about it.
Why does overthinking happen?
- An unclear scope of work
- Deadlines are either non-existent or too tight
- Self-doubt and insecurity
- Boredom or exhaustion
- Hanging out with overthinkers
Quotes Mentioned in the Episode:
Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann:
“premature optimization, where you tweak or perfect code or algorithms (optimize) too early (prematurely). If your assumptions turn out to be wrong, you’re going to have to throw out all that work, rendering it ultimately a waste of time” (p. 7).
So, how do you not overthink or get trapped in premature optimization?
- Admit your creative and business processes might be broken. Examine where they trigger overthinking of yourself and others.
- Constantly communicate—to yourself and your clients—the difference between rough and finished work. Allow rough work to lead to the solution and the story. Everything can be refined.
- Embrace simplicity. As Weinberg and McCann explain: “Ockham’s razor helps here. It advises that the simplest explanation is most likely to be true” (p. 8).
- Take a break.
- Give yourself time to think.