Episode 374: How To Pinpoint When Thinking Turns Into Overthinking

Episode 374: How To Pinpoint When Thinking Turns Into Overthinking

Overthinking is often how we get in our own way as perfectionists, especially when it comes to business. There’s always something we can be overthinking in our business – that we can second-guess ourselves about and do more procrasti-learning on. Overthinking can come up in many ways and lead to us deviating from the needle movers that will grow our business.

In today’s episode, I talk about why perfectionists overthink and how to pinpoint when thinking turns into overthinking. I share exactly what you need to do to notice the exact moment it happens, including a few questions to ask yourself to gain awareness around it.

You don’t have to eliminate overthinking completely, but when you lessen overthinking, you’ll feel more satisfied and fulfilled when you are working. And you’ll get more done in less time without burning out.

Find the full episode transcript and show notes at samlaurabrown.com/episode374.

In This Episode You’ll Learn:

  • The hidden reasons perfectionists overthink
  • The difference between overthinking and superthinking
  • A practical way to notice the exact moment that thinking becomes overthinking
  • Three things to do when you notice yourself overthinking

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Hi, and welcome to another episode of The Perfectionism Project. A podcast full of perfectionism advice for entrepreneurs. My name is Sam Laura Brown, I help entrepreneurs release their perfectionism handbrake, so they can get out of their own way and build a fulfilling and profitable business. I’m the founder of the perfectionist getting shit done group coaching program, which is otherwise known as PGSD. And for even more perfectionism advice to help you with your business, you can follow me on Instagram @perfectionismproject.

Sam Laura Brown

So I wanted to chat to you about overthinking and really how to pinpoint when thinking turns into overthinking so I’m going to be chatting about why we overthink the difference between overthinking and super thinking which you might have heard me talking about on different episodes or inside of PGSD.

I’m also going to be talking about exactly what you need to do to really notice when you are overthinking when that thinking turns into overthinking and a few things that you can ask yourself or tune into to help you really gain awareness around that.

Because of course, if you have more awareness around when thinking becomes overthinking, you’re able to lessen how much overthinking you’re doing, you’re able to learn how to create emotional safety for yourself in thinking to an appropriate amount and then taking action rather than trying to get a sense of control and safety from the overthinking. And of course, overthinking is one of the main ways that we get in our own way, especially when it comes to business.

There’s always something that we could be overthinking that we could be questioning, second guessing, doing more research into asking other people about, it comes up in so many ways. And so when you can lessen the amount of overthinking that you’re doing, you don’t have to eliminate it completely. I don’t want you to set that standard for yourself.

But if we just think about lessening the amount of overthinking you’re doing then that is really going to help you get more done in less time without burning out you’re going to feel more satisfied and fulfilled when you are working, because you’ll be doing it in that flow state. I think for a lot of us if you think about when you have been in a flow state that doesn’t involve a lot of overthinking and second guessing.

It’s really when we’re in that flow state, about trusting what is coming out in the work that we’re doing, and not over editing it not preparing, not doing all of that over again, that we as perfectionist love to do. So that’s what we’re going to be chatting about in today’s episode.

Before we get into it, I just want to mention that if you are listening to this, on the day that it is going out that the last chance that you’re going to have to sign up for PGSD and get lifetime access to the program and also get access to PGSD for the current price that is about to disappear.

And also we don’t know when PGSD will be opening again. So if you have been thinking about signing up for PGSD, and having the right tools and support for your perfectionist mindset so you can get out of your own way in your business. So you can plan properly and do all the things you need to do without overthinking and all of that, then I invite you to sign up. So the doors are closing 11:59pm, New York time on the 11th of December, you can go to samlaurabrown.com/pgsd to sign up, the link will be available for you in the show notes.

But just wanted to give you that reminder that this is your last chance. And we are strict with that. So make sure you go and sign up right now. Hit pause and go and sign up if it is something you’ve been thinking about. And you really want 2023 to be the year that you got out of your own way and really started doing all the things that you know you need to do.

Okay, so with overthinking, let’s get on to it. So if you are someone who is constantly under estimating how long tasks take you, then this episode is going to be really helpful as well, because that is one of the symptoms of overthinking that we end up with this very ambitious to do list or calendar. And we are kind of like under estimating how long things will take.

That’s our experience. But actually what’s happening is most of the time, we are overthinking what we need to do. We are over editing, all of that kind of thing. And there might be other things that are going on, that are creating that experience for you of under estimating how long things will take. It might be for example, lack of clean rest.

So if you aren’t getting much guilt free rest or maybe you’re getting none currently, it’s okay if that’s the case, but it might be that you are finding that you’re under estimating how long tasks will take due to that. So your power planning, I’ll talk about that in this episode. But your power planning is going to help reveal to you the reason why you are having that experience of under estimating how long tasks take. But I just wanted to mention that it can often be due to overthinking things, that you’re not actually under estimating how long the task will take. But when you come to it, you’re overdoing it, you’re overworking it.

So let’s talk about why we overthink. So the first reason is that we protect ourselves from shame. When we’re overthinking, it’s one way that we either get to avoid doing the task imperfectly, or the project or whatever it is that we’re overthinking the decision, we avoid the shame of doing that imperfectly of doing it wrong. Or we also get to avoid the shame of doing something else, imperfectly or wrong. So what can often happen is that we will overthink something that’s unimportant, because we’re scared to have enough time to do the important thing in case we mess that up, or make the wrong decision or whatever. So we just overthink things that don’t even matter. Like these little decisions, or they could be big decisions that don’t actually have a big implication or things that could be easily change. We overthink them, so we don’t have to do something else. So in that sense, overthinking is really a form of procrastination, that it keeps us from taking the action that would require courage, and that would also invite vulnerability.

Another reason that we overthink is because it feels smart and intelligent and responsible. And this is something that I definitely experience is that when I am overthinking, it really does feel like the smart thing to do. And then I’m thinking at an appropriate level. And if I was to think about it less, that I’m under thinking, if we want to say that to think like that I’m being reckless, or that I’m being rash around doing something without fully giving it the thought that it needs. And so that’s something that kind of needs to be reset when it comes to stopping overthinking is to actually be able to associate a, I want to say smaller or lower or reduced amount of thinking amount of time spent thinking on a certain thing with the smart, intelligent, responsible thing to do. Instead of having that association of thinking about things for a long time, is the smart, responsible thing to do, especially if you identify as someone who is smart, who is intelligent, who does the right thing. It’s going to have that pool when it comes to overthinking that it’ll help you feel more connected to that identity that you have. If you’re associating overthinking with intelligence and responsibility. It also creates a sense of control and safety.

This idea of if we can just think through every scenario, think about it every single way that there is or know everything there is to know about it, then we can avoid something bad happening. And ultimately, underneath that we can avoid a situation either that’s a threat to our survival, or a situation in which we’re going to end up feeling ashamed, feeling disconnected, feeling unloved, feeling like we don’t belong. We can also another reason, the final reason we’re going to talk about that we overthink is because we have an identity, that we’re an overthinker.

So self image is something we talk about inside PGSD. It’s such an important piece of things. And if you tell yourself that you’re the kind of person who overthinks things, whether you tell yourself that directly or subconsciously. But you might notice yourself saying that to others, for example, oh yeah, I’m just someone who overthinks things. Or it could manifest as saying like I’m someone who finds it hard to make a decision. That that can be due to an identity of being an overthinker being someone who’s indecisive being someone who’s scared to make the wrong decision, because you’ve got to make the right word.

So if you were telling yourself or others that you were just someone who overthinks then that will have you tending towards overthinking and feeling uncomfortable when you’re not overthinking. And so even though there might have been times where you haven’t been overthinking things that you feel like, like how long will this last, so to speak that it just feels like uncomfortable to not be overthinking to go back to overthinking back to that sense of control and safety and intelligence and responsibility.

And just I think this is really helpful to know there are a lot of unconscious reasons and benefits to overthinking so of course, our brain likes to do it. Of course it does. And that’s not a problem. Like there’s no problem with overthinking. But if you are finding, for example, that it takes you an hour to write an Instagram caption, or whatever social media platform you’re on, or if it’s an email or whatever, like, if it also, for example, takes you like a week, or days or months, even maybe, to reply to someone via email or text, because you need to like write it up, and then reread it and then reread it, and then you don’t send it because you’re not sure if it’s the right thing to say.

And then you feel guilty, because you should have replied, but you haven’t. And like that whole thing. It’s really knowing that, of course, your brain is going to do that, like it feels so safe to do that. And that’s okay. And I’m going to talk in this episode about a few things you can do to help with that. But I don’t want to make overthinking this enemy. Because it really isn’t, it’s just a way that our brain likes to be, so that we can feel safe, so that we can feel loved so that we can feel in control, as we are wired to do so when we talk about Super thinking versus overthinking, I really want you to be thinking about and I’m just saying, think about all of this thinking stuff. But when it comes to overthinking versus super thinking, I just want to distinguish those two things, because I do talk about super thinking and that being a needle mover that you can put in your power planning.

And super thinking is a time that I learned from Brooke Castillo from The Life Coach School. And I really love having that time to identify when I am accessing my resourcefulness, creative ideas that might not work, doing some divergent thinking where you think about a whole lot of different solutions or options that you have, when it comes to a certain decision or route that you’re going to take or whatever it is.

That super thinking is the kind of thinking that has you putting yourself at risk of shame, it has you putting yourself in an emotionally vulnerable situation. And that’s why a lot of times we resist doing that high level thinking that the most productive kind of thinking, which is when we are accessing ideas that might not work, as I said, and we are really challenging our brain to think beyond the way it normally thinks.

When it comes to overthinking that tends to be more dwelling tweaking, perfecting this kind of right or wrong mentality that we are questioning second guessing there’s just a different energy behind overthinking I’m going to talk about how to get in tune with what that feels like for you and what that feels like in your body. But it’s not about like a bean, I guess like looking a certain way. But it’s about the energy that you are coming from when you are doing that thinking and just basically fundamentally like, is it the kind of thinking that is going to lead you to put yourself out there and do things that might not work?

Or is it the kind of thinking where you’re in this kind of protection mode, and you are trying to keep yourself safe and avoid doing things wrong? Because when you’re super thinking, it’s not about avoiding doing it the wrong way, when you’re super thinking you’re really recognizing there are so many right ways to do things. And that there isn’t a wrong way like you can make any way right, so to speak. And approaching a problem, a question or decision. With that in mind. It just has a different energy to when we are overthinking it’s like that protection mode, like trying to go into the fetal position and just keep ourselves safe. So when it comes to overthinking and how to spot when thinking about something becomes overthinking, or when super thinking might actually be overthinking. It’s so helpful.

And if you’ve listened to my podcast, you’re in PGSDer you probably know I’m gonna say this, but power planning makes such a big difference. And I really want to talk about why because when it comes to this kind of topic, people can give all these little like tricks and hacks and tips to stop overthinking or basically just saying things like, Don’t overthink it. But when it comes to practical strategies, and in this case, I’m really talking specifically about how to stop overthinking things in your business.

It is going to make such a difference to have a tool that really helps you To get in tune with what overthinking looks and feels like for you, because it might look and feel different at different stages of your business when you’re in different seasons of life. So really having that self awareness and the self trust to have that self awareness instead of second guessing. Like, is this overthinking? Or Isn’t it like, oh, yeah, this is me overthinking. And I’m going to do XYZ now that I know that it’s so beneficial. And when you are able to reduce your overthinking when it comes to the business.

That thought habit is going to extend into your personal life. So say for example, if you’re someone who when you go out to a cafe, that you look at the menu and it takes you 15 minutes to make a decision because you don’t want to make the wrong one. And everything looks so good. And all of that, that you are going to have through your business and through power planning developed a new habit of thought, and you’ll be able to be much more decisive, instead of being in this overthinking habit.

And I think it is helpful to look at being decisive as the thing that we want to get more into to become more of to be more decisive. Rather than being someone who doesn’t overthink, someone who doesn’t overthink is decisive. They get the information they need, they make a decision, and they move forward. So if we think about that identity piece that I mentioned before, instead of creating identity around not being an overthinker, it’s really about creating that identity, that I’m someone who’s decisive, and I’m someone who trusts myself, I don’t need to second guess everything.

And I trust myself to be able to handle any emotion that might come up, when I put this work out into the world, whether there is going to be judgment from others or someone isn’t going to like it, that I trust that I’m going to be able to handle that, when we’re overthinking. And a lot of the other perfectionist tendencies to a lot of that is because we don’t trust that we will be able to handle the experience of shame or the experience of rejection, which results in shame, or the experience of failure or the experience of success. We don’t trust ourselves to be able to be with and process that emotion. So we try to avoid it.

Ironically, creating a lot of shame and judging ourselves a lot. But we tried to avoid that with the overthinking and it just feels protective. Like if I just overthink enough, then I won’t have to be in an emotional situation that I can’t handle. We obviously don’t think that at a conscious level. But that’s really what’s going on underneath the surface. So when it comes to how to tell like really pinpointing how to tell when that thinking turns into overthinking or super thinking turns into overthinking. And it comes to the way that you are planning your time with your business. If we think about power planning, by the way, I’m just so conscious of saying the word big.

But anyway, if we think about power planning, and we think about working from a to do list, for example, if you’re working from a to do list and you were jumping from task to task, or you haven’t clearly defined how long you were going to give yourself for each task, maybe you just have a block of time to get quite a few similar tasks done.

So maybe your batch, you know, what’s it called? Time blocking on your calendar, and you are batching things together. And that you maybe give yourself five hours to get a certain number of whether it’s like emails written, or podcast recorded, or people you’re going to reach out to or whatever it is that you have this just big chunk of time or that endless to do list where there are so many things that you need to do and you’re kind of just jumping from one thing to the next to the next to the next. It’s so hard to spot when overthinking is happening because you don’t have enough self awareness. not because there’s anything wrong with you. But the way that you’ve set things up makes it really challenging to have enough self awareness to know when you begin overthinking and to be able to notice that that is something that’s going on.

Obviously you need to be able to have the awareness around it in order to pull yourself out of that way of thinking. When you are power planning, there are a few things that go into power planning that really make it much easier to spot when you are Ah overthinking things. And in case you haven’t heard about power planning, it is the best way to plan in my opinion as a perfectionist, because it gets your perfectionist mindset on your side. I teach power planning and coach on it and all of that we do that inside perfectionist getting shit done.

But it essentially comes down to three steps, your power hours, the little tweaks and your weekly review. And these combined, give you self awareness, self trust, they give you the ability to not feel anxious when you wake up in the morning not have that to do list anxiety, but you’ll know exactly what you need to do, you will have the self trust that you’re going to get it done, it’s taking into account the fact you’re actually a human, and that you’re not a robot. And it’s taking into account the fact that disruptions are probably going to come up, and that life’s going to happen. And all of that kind of thing. And you make your little tweaks throughout the week. So you’re adjusting your calendar. So that is actually reflecting what you did. And then when you get to the end of the week, you’re doing your weekly review. This is when you were debriefing. On your week, I like to say it’s like a NASA debrief how NASA when they do a training exercise or mission or anything like that, they are going to reflect on it and look at what’s working, what isn’t working, what to do differently next time. And really take time and care with that. Note that it does take a lot of time.

But it is something that we tend to not want to look at, especially if we’re not feeling productive that we’re like, Oh, I do not want to look at what happened this week. But often, we got so much more done than we thought we did. And also in your weekly review, you’re going to be comparing the screenshot that you have of your calendar at the beginning of the week, you take that at the end of your power hour, versus the screenshot you have at the end of the week, when you do a weekly review, and you’re going to be able to get so many insights because you’ve been making a little tweaks updating your calendar to reflect what was done adding a little checkmark emoji, you are going to be able to notice what you’re overthinking and start to see the cause of that overthinking and correlations with other things that might be going on. And it’s just so helpful.

So when it comes to power planning, when you are putting your needle movers in your calendar, which you do during your power hour, so when you’re planning at the beginning of the week, or the end of the week, maybe you want to do on a Sunday, you are putting your commitments, and then your clean rest in your calendar. And then you are in the remaining time putting in your needle moving tasks. And when you do that, you’re going to be estimating slash guessing how long a task is going to take you. And this is going to get more and more and more accurate with every week that passes because of the way that your weekly review and little tweaks helps you build self awareness around how long things take you actually over time. Especially I’d say by about week six to week eight, you’re going to be getting really accurate at estimating how long a task is going to take you so that you have even more self trust and even more confidence when it comes to following through on your calendar. But in the beginning, you’ll just be guessing how long something’s going to take you. And that’s totally okay. And even though it’s a guess it’s so much better than not making any kind of guess at all. And you can overestimate it a little if you want to. It’s probably better because we tend to underestimate how long things will take we kind of think about if I was perfectly motivated in the perfect circumstances, then how long would this take me?

Basically, if I was a robot who never had any kind of emotional fluctuations or moods, or doubts or insecurities, and how long would it take me so we can overestimate it in the beginning. But what can happen then what it allows us to do is that when you are going through the week, and save for example, if you are doing some copywriting and writing emails, that instead of just having a big chunk for like, write 10 emails, for example, say if they’re like promotional emails, like an email newsletter, or whatever it is, instead of having a big chunk for that, you would break it down into the first email the second email the third email. And for example, maybe you say you need half an hour for each.

Maybe you need an hour maybe you need two hours. It doesn’t really matter how long you say you need. But what you can then do is when you are working on whatever email it is, first of all, it’s so helpful that if you’re at that time not working on the email, that alone gives you so much insight into okay said I was going to do this thing. But actually, I’m doing this other thing instead. And then what you can do is update your calendar to reflect that so that at the end of the week, you can have some insight into okay, I had planned that I was going to write these 10 emails.

But when I look back on what I actually got done during that time, I didn’t write the emails at all that week. And maybe that’s fine. Like, there’s not necessarily a problem with that. There might be something that came up, or you had better information about something than before, and you made a decision intentionally not to do it. But perhaps was it unintentional. And that is something that’s important, it is something that you want to do, and you’re just putting it off. So you can really get that insight into why you put things off. Instead of just knowing that things move from one to do list to the next to the next, you’re able to have that insight to say, Okay, what was I thinking in that moment? What was going on for me, like when it came time to work on the email, and I wasn’t doing it? What thoughts was I having, and that just alone, tells you so so so much, it’s it’s such a good self coaching tool, if you love having self awareness, and using personal development practices, to be more productive to get out of your own way. It’s just such a great tool to increase your self awareness to have the insights to be able to even ask those questions in the first place.

So when it comes to, as I was saying, with the laying things out, specifically, if you have laid out a certain amount of time for email one, and then you notice that it’s starting to take you longer than the time that you had allowed yourself, that’s when you can start getting curious about what’s going on for you. Is it overthinking? Is it something else going on, maybe nothing else is going on. And you just really simply underestimated how long it will take. But you were able because you’re making these little tweaks, which I like to think about like Google Maps, rerouting that, we want to instead of just if you were driving from one side of the country to the other, putting that destination in the GPS, it telling you where to go and imagine if it never updated when traffic changes, or when there’s, you know, different things that come up, or if you made a wrong turn, and it didn’t tell you how to get to where you want to go from the wrong turn, it just pretended you were on the right track.

Like that’s when we abandon our calendar, because the plan is no longer workable. So I want to keep that plan workable. And so you will have your calendar, on your computer, when you are working, you might just have it in the background, if you’re like me, you might have it on your second screen. So you can have awareness around it. Especially if you’re someone who feels like you don’t have a lot of time awareness.

And time tends to slip by it can be really helpful to have it open on your computer. If you can see it on your phone or whatever else you can really just be aware of the time. But you will be able to because of that little tweaks in your updating the calendar, you’ll be able to notice, okay, this is now taking me longer than I anticipated. Or maybe it’s even at the end of the day, or halfway through the day. If you update your calendar, then you can be like, Okay, I thought I’d be able to email for by this point. And I’m actually still on the first email instead of being like, Okay, today’s just not my day, you can really start to get curious about who what’s going on here. And is it that potentially, I’m overthinking. And then with that, you can start to look at, first of all, and these are three things that I really want you to be paying attention to, that will help you pinpoint when thinking turns into overthinking.

The first is once you have that awareness thanks to your power, plenty that you are overthinking. Or if you eventually at some point have self awareness around overthinking that you can ask yourself, Is this me overthinking things and just tuning into what your gut answer is to that? And not second guessing it but just being like, is this overthinking or isn’t it? And then once you notice it is overthinking so if the answer to that is yes, you can then notice how overthinking feels in your body.

So before I talked about how overthinking is going to feel this often like this kind of restrictive protective, maybe a frantic kind of feeling like really getting in touch with how does it feel for you to be overthinking what are their sensations that you experience in your body? Has your heart rate maybe gone up? Maybe it hasn’t, but like really getting in tune with how you feeling physically. And then also, the third thing is noticing the questions that you’re asking yourself when you’re overthinking things.

So it might be will they like this? Am I getting this right? That kind of question most likely. That is going to be going on as well. And then you can start to have awareness around the kinds of questions you ask yourself when you’re overthinking? Versus when you’re super thinking going to be asking those kinds of questions. And that will give you the ability to notice that you’re overthinking how it feels for you what it looks like for you. And then direct your mind to being able to make the decision again, if we talk about decisiveness as being what we’re wanting to aim towards, or being able to drop into self trust, and even just I’ve shared this before, like thinking about like being in self trust mode.

And like, what do I need to put trust in here? What do I need to believe about myself in order to get this done without overthinking? And my favorite question that I will wrap up with, which is, what would this look like if this was easy? That’s a great question to get out of overthinking. What would this look like if I wasn’t overcomplicating things?

What would this look like if it didn’t have to be perfect? Often, if we have a lot of time to do something, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves for it to be perfect. And then this is why we love the last minute, because we’re like, Well, I don’t have time to make it perfect. So I can’t make it perfect. So it’s okay to just get it done. But we want to develop the ability to get it done ahead of time without overthinking. So it’s really dropping that pressure of it being perfect.

And again, one of my favorite questions for that is, if this was easy, if this is what uncomplicated, what would that look like and giving yourself permission to do it the easy way, it doesn’t have to feel hard for you to deserve being successful. So I’m gonna wrap this episode up here. I hope it’s been incredibly helpful for you. Again, if you’re thinking about signing up for PGSD, I highly recommend signing up and here at samlaurabrown.com/pgsd to do so the doors are closing in a few hours, so make sure you go and do that. I hope you’re having a beautiful day and I will talk to you in the next episode.

Author: Sam Brown