If you suffer from the kind of procrastination that results from analysis paralysis, freezing when you are overwhelmed, today’s post will help you tremendously if you apply what you learned. I am using these steps to help me in both my professional and personal life because I was the Queen of Overthinkers Island until 2020 (they de-throned me and made me Princess because of the practices I share below). I suffered from analysis paralysis for years when it came to my own blogging, writing, exercise routines, eating habits, parenting choices, etc. You name it and I could find new ways to think about it.
Then I started implementing some small tricks into my daily routines as well as changed the way I handled large projects when they were given to me, and it’s helped me quite a bit. I hope they will help you as well.
When I used to overthink all of time, I was unhealthy physically, mentally, and spiritually. While you would not have known it from the outside other than that I have been overweight for the past 11 years, my health care team and I were finding new ways to deal with the amount of stress I carried, which was causing flare ups of Crohn’s and Rosacea. I would do well for a while, keeping the anxiety and overthinking at bay and then it would creep back in. I would replay conversations, rethink projects I had already submitted, and stall myself on writing books because I wasn’t sure it was really what the world needed to hear from me or what I needed to release.
Some of the ways it manifested itself physically were in headaches, body pain, temporary depression, isolation from others, and eventually leading to a full blown anxiety issue. I don’t recommend it for those not there yet because when it gets to that level, it’s even more uncontrollable and harder to stop without medication. At its worse, I didn’t want to go to church because I overthought every reaction with others. I didn’t like working with teams because I overthought every idea I shared, and I didn’t want to work on new projects because beginning anything was a weeks-long research ordeal.
You may be experiencing similar symptoms. I always recommend checking in with a healthcare professional to verify how bad it is for you. Through testing and exams, they can ensure you aren’t living with diseases or mental health conditions you aren’t aware of. Once you have checked in with them, here are some additional tips that I’ve implemented to help me produce more at work without overthinking (which is great since I work as part of a team of two right now), and in my personal life with my writing.
You can implement all of these, or just a few them. It’s totally your choice.
When you are assigned or take on a project, look at it through the lens of a project manager. Set a timer and give yourself an hour (you can reduce this over time) to look over the assignment / project and break it down into pieces you can do in bite-sized pieces based upon the amount of time you have. For example, if you are a student with a paper to write within two weeks, break it down into the actions you can do each day. Here’s what it could look like:
As a professional, you can do the same with large work projects. Think about the amount of time you have to work on the project and then break up the project into pieces that will fit into 2 days less than that time (when you have more than two days). In your personal life, you can do the same by breaking up housecleaning into 15 minutes tasks, healthcare into 10 minute exercise routines and one hour meal prepping sessions each morning, self-care into 30 minute reading breaks or meditation sessions each evening. Whatever works for your life and schedule.
Whether physically or digitally, folders can be a beautiful thing to help you organize yourself. You can do something as simple as create 31 folders (or 30 if we are in a 30-day month) and keeping a To Do List in each one that is only used to write down the bite-sized pieces you are going to work on for large projects / tasks, and the additional tasks that are due each day. Don’t work on anything else until those items are completed.
If something new comes in, you say no or ask the person if they would like to have another project reduced. If it’s a new client, you let them know you aren’t available to do it for the next X weeks but could complete the project by X date. If they need someone sooner, spend 15 minutes sharing with them referrals to others who do what you do or let them know that you won’t be able to help them because you are currently fully scheduled with other client work and can’t sacrifice their quality.
If you want to reduce paper and have less of a footprint, or feel you will get lost in your digital space by using digital To Do Lists, consider using the tasks section of your calendar software (Microsoft and Google both offer it with their workplace software packages) or an app on your phone.
I shared in a previous post that I LOVE using The Happy Planner system of planners and journals. I love that they have extra pages I can add to track social media for clients and myself, journal pages for keeping notes on projects, and more. The act of writing in my schedule, considering what I have to do each day, and seeing the blocks fill up helps me not overfill my days. The journaling stickers give me a creative feeling so it doesn’t feel like work.
Note: I also use a notebook to go into more detail about projects and discussions with clients / work on projects. This helps me so my planner includes actions and the notebook has the details of them. I keep a separate notebook for each client / area. I.e., full-time job, coaching clients, marketing work, personal life.
If it’s possible, develop a routine for yours mornings and evenings. This will ensure you get each day started on the right foot and each night ended in a great way. For mornings, do all the things that will help YOU be in a better head space and physical form for the day. For evenings, do all the things that will help OTHERS around you that you are responsible for and then take at least 15 – 30 minutes for yourself.
This may look like:
You’ll fine tune your routine as you see what works for you. And it’s totally okay to have a different routine for the various nights of the week. For example, my Tuesday and Friday routines look different from Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday; while my Saturday and Sunday routines each look different from the weekday routines.
The best way to beat overwhelm is to tackle it before it happens. Identify the areas where you tend to overthink and implement solutions to defeat those projects or tasks first. This will allow you to feel successful, which will build your confidence.
Implement at least one of these actions that will work best for you, or use them as a launching pad to think of what WILL work if none of them fit with your personality. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section in case others may find your ideas useful!