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22 Oct 2012

Over Thinking Decisions (Pt 3): Antidote

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Over Thinking Decisions

What’s the antidote for over thinking (OT) as referenced in Ian Leslie’s article, “Non Cogito, Ergo Sum,” (Intelligent Life, May/June 2012 edition)? It begins with four steps.

First, recognize warning signs. Awareness alone helps us focus on minimizing our thinking by giving our first thoughts priority before diving too deeply into the problem.

Second, ensure a positive frame of mind before contemplating the problem. Avoid feeling pressured, tense, afraid or anxious. Most importantly, take advantage of times when we really feel like tackling the problem. Don’t pass these up for other tasks.

Third, find a quiet setting; this encourages creativity. Distractions interrupt it.

The last step is relaxing which also encourages creativity. Lie down without reading material. Tiredness encourages our minds to think less structurally, allowing creative juices to flow. Thus, exercising before (or while) tackling the problem helps. Hot showers also encourage relaxing.

After these steps we can employ several techniques depending upon the warning signs we notice:

  • Avoid thinking about the consequences of our decisions and focus on the solution, the plan of action.
  • Skim the information (don’t read intensely) or ignore some altogether since it’s likely repetitive.
  • Alter the way we approach the problem especially if it is within our area of expertise and that expertise has a standard problem-solving methodology (i.e. scientific method, extensive research, cost-benefit analysis).
  • Minimize interactions with others especially if they do nothing but heighten expectations (i.e. “How are you ever going to resolve this!”) or terminate discussions if they begin talking about your decision.
  • Limit the time we think about decisions by moving up the deadline or delaying when we address them.

Still, we shouldn’t fret if we don’t succeed the first time. Training our minds, as with our bodies, takes practice.

 

Other posts in this series:

 

Series Navigation<< Over Thinking Decisions (Pt 2): Warning Signs

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