Why overthinkers complicate simple tasks

If you are an overthinker who struggles getting everyday tasks done, know that you are not alone. Simple tasks such as preparing a meal, organizing a closet, picking out clothes for the next day, or cleaning a room can turn into a long, drawn-out ordeal for overthinkers. Chores that some can easily do in half an hour may take twice that time if not more for those of us prone to overthinking.

Maybe you’ve tried various ways to streamline your tasks. You’ve made a list of things you need to do and set aside a specific time to get things done. For some that might work, but for others they fall back into overthinking and the tasks take just as long as they previously had.

Instead of trying every quick fix out there, taking the time to look deeper will provide a longer-lasting effect. Understanding why your brain overthinks can help you work on figuring out how to not let it get in the way of getting things done.

Your brain may be making everything a complicated task

For some overthinkers, the parts of the brain associated with “making and following through with plans, spotting and avoiding errors and other higher-order types of thinking” may stay active even for tasks that don’t require that level of thinking. This means that even when you are trying to get a simple task done, your brain doesn’t see it as a simple task.

For larger and more complicated tasks, having those areas of your brain active are important. Being able to think through problems and situations is useful in both personal and professional life, but can be a hindrance when you just want to cross small things off your to do list.

You don’t know your why

You may have tried various ways to help you tackle your tasks but they either don’t work at all or don’t stick. Part of the reason may be that you haven’t looked into why you are overthinking certain tasks and instead just trying to push through and get them done. Getting to the reason as to why you are overthinking can allow you to make a lasting plan that works for you.

Root cause analysis is used in various fields and can be a useful tool when trying to get to why you are overthinking. This isn’t to say there will always be an easy and obvious answer, but looking deeper at your thoughts can help you figure out the underlying reason.

Getting to the root cause means identifying why something happened. In this case it’s figuring out why a certain task has lead to overthinking which in turn lead to the task either not getting done or taking longer than it should.

Sometimes we don’t realize our reason for overthinking something until we take the time to reflect. We may not even be aware that we are trying to avoid doing something due to fear of failure, rejection, or wasting time.

You build them up to be bigger than they are

Overthinkers are great at making small decisions feel like they are much more important than they actually are. Many of the decisions we make during each day do not have a lasting impact on our life. What we have for breakfast, what we wear to go for a walk, or whether we have a cookie or brownie for dessert are likely not going to have a large impact on our life. Yet at the time we are making those decisions they feel large and important.

This can be similar to when we have a task ahead of us, we feel the task holds more importance than it actually does. The simple task of making dinner can feel daunting as our mind has decided this is an incredibly important task. Because of that we feel a lot of pressure to ensure this one particular meal is exceptional. We ignore all the other hundreds or thousands of other meals we have made, instead place great importance on this one meal.

By building up everyday tasks we make it seem that if it doesn’t go exactly right or if it doesn’t turn out how we want then we have done something wrong or are a failure. In reality many of the tasks that fill our day are small things that get repeated in some form or another most days.

If we aren’t happy with how we folded laundry, organized a closet, or even made dinner, we can simply do it differently the next time. Seeing tasks not as a singular event but as an event that is repeated daily, weekly, monthly, etc. we can start to attribute less importance to it when it comes up again on our to do list.

You don’t have a clear path from A to B

When we don’t see a clear path between the beginning and the end of the task it can make that task feel much more complicated than it actually is. If your task is to organize your closet it can be difficult to picture how to get your closet from were it is now to where you want it to be. If the task before you is too vague or broad it can be hard to concretely understand what you want to do.

We can end up spending a lot of time fixating on the end goal which isn’t always the best use of time. It’s good to have an idea of what we want things to look like when a task is done, but not using that information to make a plan to get there can mean we remain stuck. Breaking a task down and listing out the steps you need to take to get it done is one way to help break the overthinking cycle.

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