Creating a plan is the first step towards taking action and that often means pushing towards the thing that you would normally avoid. It is a step moving towards what is uncomfortable or what scares you.
What makes taking action so difficult for people who overthink is that fact that action typically goes against their impulse. What is easier is to simply mull over a plan for the umpteenth time and deceive yourself into “playing it safe” (which basically means not doing anything until you think you know what to do).
However, your potential to predict the future is quite slim. And it really is hard to see the possibility of success if all you have experienced is a failure. Yet it is only after a number of failures that most people get a chance at success.
This fear fixates overthinkers into inaction. It convinces them into believing that inaction does not hurt. However, while you may play it safe temporarily, it is important to realize that inaction may not hurt you now, but it will hurt you for the rest of your life.
And the longer you choose inaction over action, the harder it becomes to act.
Here are some ways to cut the cord and step into taking action:
Just do it
Nike got it right when they chose “Just Do It” as their slogan. This step will help you snap out of overthinking making you do what needs to be done right away. By now you know that you can’t really just sit around and think your way out of something.
But just doing it sounds a lot easier than going through with it, especially if you are an overthinker. This step also involves cutting ties with your thoughts and emotions. (Not all ties, but just the irrational ones holding you back). This means disregarding what your thoughts are babbling about and how your emotions are trying to hold you back. It is perhaps the best reminder to focus on the present and forget about everything else.
This, however, does not mean that thoughts and emotions are useless. However, sometimes, and you often know when they do hold you back. If you can disassociate with these temporarily, it becomes easier to act regardless of what others have to say.
This step can be particularly helpful if you are trying to establish a new habit, or quit an old one. Take the example of quitting smoking. By identifying less with your thoughts and emotions, you will improve faster and stick to your habit until it sticks to you.
Just doing it is also useful when you don’t feel like doing something. For instance, your new habit may be to exercise everyday but today you may not feel like working out. In this scenario, you can find a lot of excuses not to work out and slack off, but doing it without any regard for these excuses may surprisingly make you feel better.
Exercise is known for boosting mood so once you start, you may find out that you flip around mentally, and what felt like a drag before actually helped make you feel better and turned the rest of your day around.
Become result oriented
All actions work towards getting results. If you make this your motto, you may find that it becomes a lot easier to get the job done. Becoming result oriented is also a very effective mindset for productivity and one that scoffs procrastination.
When you take action to get to a result, everything else becomes insignificant. Only the result remains relevant and this mindset automatically puts all your focus into the action that you take.
There are also a few advantages to becoming result oriented as you work toward your target. First, there is the drive to action. And then there is flexibility.
For instance, if one action does not work as planned, then you improvise and get things done another way. Since the result is all that matters, you will change how you do things to get there. This promotes flexibility.
Here is an example of result oriented action: You have to do the dishes, but it is not the most exciting of chores. However, if you are result oriented, then you will look at the scenario as something like this- you want to have an organized and clean kitchen and you need to get the dishes done to achieve that. You will do so quickly without giving it too much thought since that will get you the result you wish for.
Hold yourself accountable
This is a good check to monitor your actions versus inaction. When you hold yourself accountable to yourself, you establish your own principles and standards of behavior. This is the first step.
But it is easy to cheat your way out of your own accountability, especially if no one else knows what you are up to. You may be tempted to rationalize your inaction to yourself and take a cheat day or two off. So another way to ascertain action is to tell others about your plans.
By being accountable to others, it becomes harder to not do something as promised. If a bunch of people know what you are going to do, you would not want to disappoint them by inaction or will have to face up to them the next time you see them. This tip can work well for some people but may not be for everyone. It may put some at risk for taking action only to avoid judgement and create pressure within themselves.
But if you feel that you can create accountability for yourself to your standards, it may be more helpful when taking action than the one you receive from being accountable to others. You may need to feel your way through both options to see what works best for you.
This may seem a little out of sorts, but it is important not to take everything so seriously. And people who overthink tend to do exactly that.
Taking things too seriously is perhaps one of the most effective ways to discourage yourself from being proactive. After all, there could be serious consequences and repercussions of the action you take, tells the mind of an overthinker to the person.
This possibility makes taking action feel too large, too difficult and too intimidating all at the same time. Having too serious a mindset is a one-way street headed to creating big problems and negative feelings from pretty much nothing.
But if you relax a little and ease off, you will realize that the issues and negative emotions wandering inside your mind are simply the mind’s own creations and nothing more. Without such a negative state of mind, your projects will also appear lighter and seem less cumbersome to get started on.
Too often overthinkers fail to discriminate between what is of importance and what isn’t, since they think about everything. On the other hand, lightening up will also help you distinguish the important stuff from the unimportant leaving you more time and energy for what really matters in life.
Prepare a to-do list
If you pair the previous step up with preparing a to-do list, taking action can become even easier. When you have a to-do list on hand, it becomes a visual reminder of what needs to be done and where to take the action. Visual reminders are also a great tool to limit the wanderings of a rambling mind.
Plus, the list also acts as a filter to separate the important things from the unimportant. You (or your busy mind) need not worry about things that are not on the list.
When creating your list, do keep in mind to make it precise and limited. This is important as it is easy to become overly passionate when penning down what needs to be done. Or, you may end up making a long list that eventually starts to fill you up with dread, makes you feel weary and sets in the temptation to procrastinate.
Instead, it is better to have a short list of just three to four items max, and everything else can go on a different list. A shorter list will be less frightening and make it simpler to take action and get the work done.
Get rid of the “what if”
The “what if” dilemma can really do a number on your mind. It can lead you to devote days, weeks, months, and in some cases, even years just contemplating about what might happen should you take action.
A better suggestion instead is to redirect the focus from “what if” to “how”. Rather than let your mind meander over “what if”, think about the course of action you will follow to do something, solve a problem, or get to a goal. How you plan on achieving all of these things and what you must do to get there is a better and more relevant way to engage the mind.
Focusing on “how” to take action not only puts your thinking skills to better use but also helps establish a positive outlook. It replaces resolve with irresolution which in turn makes it quicker to take action in the absence of overthinking possible scenarios.