I ran across a graphic today that said “Overthinking – The art of creating problems that weren’t even there.”
Face it, we have all done it. Some of us are really good at it -lay awake nights just, well, overthinking things. You might feel that overthinking can help you make better decisions, but the reality is that overthinking can actually create “analysis paralysis” – a situation where a decision or action is never taken because the problem has been over analyzed. Perhaps “overthinking” is a misnomer, jumbled thinking is the true cause.
So, how do you avoid “analysis paralysis”? One of the reasons for that paralysis is that leaders do not have a clear vision of what they want or need to focus their thinking. Paralysis is also caused when leaders lack a logical sequence of steps to structure their thinking. Without that focus or structure, overthinking, roundabout or round-and-round thinking, often occurs.
Start with the end in mind
Steve Covey had the right idea when he said “To begin with an end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you are going so that you can understand where you are now so that steps you take are always in the right direction.” Habit #2 of Steve Covey’s Habits of Highly Effective People
Dr. Ben Tregoe and Charles Kepner found this to hold true in their research of highly effective decision makers. Their Decision Analysis process does just that – starts you off with a clear understanding of your destination AND gives you the steps that will always take you in the right direction.
So where do you start?
- Get a clear vision! State the decision you are trying to make clearly – What exactly are you trying to decide? Let’s say you are trying to deal with technology issues in your school. There is a big difference between these two decision statements:
a. What technology should our students be using? Or
b. What technology platform should our students be using?
You should always have a visible decision statement that clearly states your specific task. In my example, you may have to decide “Option a” before you can work on “Option b.”
2. Go in the right direction – What exactly would your best option look like? What is it that you want? This becomes your criteria. So your best option for the first problem above might be:
Simple to use
Compatible with grading program, etc
Using a tried and true decision making process can save you time and money. Starting your decision making by “understanding your destination” can help you avoid “analysis paralysis” and over-thinking things. There is a big difference between purposeful thinking and random overthinking.