Many entrepreneurs will concede that their worst problem is overthinking complex decisions. The issue with overthinking is not only that it stifles creativity and innovation; it also erodes your confidence as an entrepreneur and can make you second-guess yourself.
In the world of business, this lack of self-confidence could spell disaster. The best way to avoid overthinking is to focus on the problem at hand and recenter yourself, but doing so requires a bit of effort. To help, these 12 experts from Young Entrepreneur Council discuss a few practical ways to recenter yourself and avoid overthinking as an entrepreneur.
1. Focus on Present and Future Goals
I tend to overthink past performances and what I could have done better. While reflection and learning from your mistakes is great, you can’t change anything about them. If I find myself focusing on “what ifs,” I force myself to recenter on present and future objectives. You can’t change the past, so there’s no point dwelling on it. Learn from your mistakes and bring that knowledge into your future.
2. Write Down Your Top Three Goals
Business owners tend to overthink when they’re juggling many activities at the same time. They have multiple goals and are trying to meet all of them at the same time. You need to choose your top three goals and write them down. Then focus on nothing else except those goals. Once you’ve dealt with them, find the next three goals. In this way, you can recenter yourself fast.
3. Just Choose an Option and Test It
When it comes to tough decision-making, sometimes it’s as simple as just choosing one option and testing it to see how it goes. Oftentimes a tough decision comes down to two options, both with pros and cons, and no one decision seems better overall. Rather than overthinking and dwelling on the options, simply choosing one will save you time and energy and push your hypothesis to the next level.
4. Change What You’re Doing
If you’re in a situation where you’re in a negative thought cycle, get up and move. Walk somewhere, text someone or make a phone call. Do anything to remove your mind from the negative situation. You’ll find that when you go back to the original situation that was causing distress, you’ll have a clearer head and noticeably less stress.
5. Remember Perfection Is a Myth
One strategy that helps me stop overthinking is to remind myself that perfection is a myth. There is no perfect formula or solution or person, and there’s not a single person who hasn’t made a mistake. When I feel hard on myself, I like to remind myself of this and treat myself like a friend I want to take care of. It helps to shift the perspective and see things in a different way.
6. Start With Smaller Decisions
Winston Churchill said, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” Decision-making is a muscle that has to be exercised. If you find yourself in analysis-paralysis, start by making small, easy decisions. As you practice daily decision-making, you will find that bigger decisions become easier to make over time.
7. Notice the Pattern and Break the Loop
Overthinking is a pattern, so the key is to learn to notice it and break the loop. If you are worried about something from the past, admit that it won’t change and distract yourself to get your mind off it. And if overthinking is about the future, plan the worst-case scenario. Mental rehearsal is a very powerful way to calm your mind down because whatever is about to happen is no longer unknown.
8. Listen to Others and Help Them
Talk to others, not about your problems, but to listen and help them. Listen so you will know that your issues are way smaller than others. Offer help so that from there you’ll realize you’re taking a lot of things for granted. We overthink because we are bored and ungrateful. Don’t allow idleness to cause you to overthink about the future instead of being grateful and enjoying the present.
9. Pause, Breathe and Simplify
Take a step back so to speak, breathe and look objectively at how you’re responding to any particular situation. What you may see is that you are overthinking, and you can then simplify the process for how you come up with your decision or solution. Bonus points if you look at the big picture, which should also help you achieve your goal of eliminating overthinking from your professional life.
10. Make a List of Pros and Cons
I make a list of the pros and cons of the outcomes my decision will have on my clients, team and business. If the negative outweighs the positive, then I will have to pick the choice that will produce the best possible results for the most people. I try to consider how my decision will impact everyone that is involved.
11. Be as Practical as You Can
I believe overthinking only brings negative thoughts to our minds. This happens because of the emotions that interfere with your practical thoughts. So whenever I find myself overthinking, I try to challenge my thoughts and be as practical as I can. This helps me stay calm and make the right decision to overcome my problems.
12. Step Away From the Issue
Overthinking can quickly stifle progress of all kinds. I find the easiest way to stop overthinking in its tracks is to step away from the issue. Do something else — get a snack, drink water, play a brain puzzle — anything to get your mind working on a new set of tasks. Often, when you redirect your energy to the original quandary, you will find it easier to address the issue with a clear mind.
These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co.