Are you a quick decision maker, or do you ponder a bit too long and overthink it?
This year for my 40th, I really want to have a big fun birthday, like going away to a beach somewhere so I put it out there in the universe. A friend ended up inviting me to Maui with her and a couple of her friends to celebrate her birthday. This was about four months before my own birthday. I thought about it quite a bit. I ended up humming and hawing.
Eventually I said to my husband, “Um, what do you think? All I'd have to cover is my flight. And my friends would be splitting the food, drinks, and the car.”
In retrospect it seemed like a pretty awesome deal and a great opportunity, right?
Yet, I couldn't say yes, but I also couldn't say no. I was overthinking it.
It wasn’t until my husband said, “You know, why not go for it? Why aren't you doing this? You can take the time off. It's obviously a fun trip to have. So just go.”
I ended up going on the trip, but what did it cost me to overthink that decision? By the time I said yes, they had already booked their flights and when I went to book the same flights it cost me more money. A substantial amount more! I started overthinking again and when I went to book later in the day, guess what happened?
It not only cost me more money, but also robbed me of some vacation time. The only flight I could book got me to our condo after everyone was in bed. I missed out on the first night of fun. I also lost out on the convenience of sharing a car together (I had to take a shuttle, alone).
The trip was fantastic and I’m glad I made that decision, and even though it had a positive outcome, overthinking still cost me so much!
Why do we overthink?
What makes us overthink? Well, we have our schedules, goals, priorities, and important decisions to make every single day, every moment, right?
As you may already know, I have 2 kids and a business. There's always something to make a decision about in my life.
It's gotten pretty natural for busy women like us, but this tendency to overthink can totally hinder your progress. Perfectionism and procrastination are the two negative results of overthinking. I’ve heard women also say it makes them feel overwhelmed and paralyzed. Have you heard the expression “paralysis by analysis?”
What are some things that you overthink? Is it something about your kids? Is it related to life balance? What's for dinner? Big decisions like deciding if you should move or change jobs? Maybe you overthink about doing your taxes? Do you overthink marketing if you have a business? And do you overthink your choice of ice-cream?
Oh man, all of this overthinking takes up time!
What does overthinking actually do to you and others? Because we're doing it all the time, we obviously don't feel the pain or consequences strong enough.
Maybe you didn’t sleep last night. You laid awake most of the night because your brain wouldn’t shut off, thinking over every decision you made yesterday and thinking of every decision you need to make the next day.
The next morning, you went for coffee with a friend and were physically there with them, but your brain was overthinking a decision, or just not thinking clearly because you are lacking sleep.
How long SHOULD you spend making decisions?
After this whole situation with my Maui trip, my curious mind wondered how long it should take a person to make a decision. How long for small decisions? Like what are you going to have for dinner, what you’re going to order at the restaurant, what to wear today. Then what about more potentially life-changing decisions like, do I quit my job? Is it the right time to have children?
I did a bit of research and what I found was that small decisions should take you about 30 seconds and then the big decisions should take about 30 minutes. But, when I asked my community of Dynamic Women® at our live events, what I found was the answers range from a few hours to a few days, to a few weeks, to a few months to make those big decisions. They said the smaller decisions can be made in seconds, minutes, or even longer.
What is focused decision-making time?
Now you may be thinking, how can someone make a big decision, like what house to pick, in under 30 minutes?
Well, my research is referring to something called, Focused Decision-Making Time. Some actual, dedicated time you take to make your decision.
How does focused decision making work for small decisions? Let’s say you’re trying to pick your meal at a restaurant. You look and see the yummy sushi on page one, then you see a yummy chicken dish, and also a Cobb salad. You’ve now narrowed your choices to three. If you really focus on it (maybe even set a 30 second timer) it seems likely that you can make your choice without overthinking it.
Now, let's look at a bigger decision like buying a house. At this point, you've probably already seen a lot of houses. You can see what's good and what's bad about each home, even considering the price point, the neighborhood, and how much work you're going to have to do on it. You narrow your potential new homes to about three to four. What if you set a timer for 30 minutes. When that timer goes off, do you think you could have your decision? Very possible if it’s dedicated and focused decision-making time.
Focused decision making means you're not doing other things or multi-tasking. You're not letting it percolate. You are not just going about your day. You're actually sitting and looking to have a result of a decision by the end of the time.
Now you might say “Oh, Diane, I could never do that! It takes me forever to make decisions,” or “I like to honor the space and just kind of sleep on it or let it just sit there. I know that I'm gonna figure it out.” Or “I'll see a sign and so I'm just going to do other things and then come back to it later.”
In reality, so often when we put decisions like this on the back burner they never actually happen!
Take the Dynamic Women® Podcast, for example. A few years ago, I decided to wanted to start a podcast. I really wanted it. It wasn't that I was overthinking it, it was more so that I just didn't make the decision to commit to it. I felt other things were more important at the time. So, it's not necessarily that I was overthinking, but I definitely missed out on having it happen.
What if instead I started that timer? Gave myself three minutes, 30 minutes, 13 minutes, just some specific dedicated time to make a decision and decide a first step. I think I may have started my podcast back then, instead of letting it stew for years before I actually made the decision and commitment to do it.
So, I’ve shared a few stories of the consequences of my indecision and overthinking. What is something you’ve been overthinking lately?
Next week on the blog we’re going to look at the solutions to overcome what you may be overthinking right now and in the future.
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