How to Stop Thinking Too Much – In 3 Minutes

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

I know from personal experience that overthinking can be a real curse. You lose sleep. You feel terrible. And you stay stuck. Have you experienced that too? If so, here is some good news. You can learn how to stop thinking too much and nip this in the bud once and for all. And I have even better news. If you follow these steps you can get out of the mud of indecision in 3 minutes or less.

1. Admission

The first step in solving a problem is to recognize it. But in this situation, it’s not so easy. We are taught how dangerous it is to overlook crucial information. As a result, we dig and dig and dig some more. But when is enough information….enough? I’ve come up with a solution that you may find helpful.

I know I’m over thinking when more information won’t change my mind.

Example. When I was getting ready to buy my first home, I kept going over the financing options in my head. I had all the information I needed but I agonized over which direction to take anyway. I was really stuck. It felt like a broken record was playing inside my noggin over and over again.

When I realized that I didn’t need more information, I decided it was time to decide. If you find yourself in a similar situation, ask yourself if you really need more information. If so, go get it. If not, admit it and move on to step 2.

2. Divorce

There is no decision that is completely financial. There is an emotional element in every decision you make. If you want to make a decision, identify all the issues and divorce yourself from them. How do you do that? Simple.

Get out a sheet of paper and make a column for each area of concern. Are there financial concerns with this decision? If so, create one column titled “financial concerns”. Are there emotional concerns? If so, you know what to do. What other types of concerns do you have? Spiritual? Relational? Self-esteem? Security? Make a column for each topic. If you need help with this, ask your accountability partner or other trusted friend. Put down all the major concern areas and create a column for each.

3. Numbers

Now you need to prioritize. Of these main topics, which is most important? Give it a “5”. Which is next most important? Give it a “4” and so on. Prioritize each category by awarding a score.

Had I created such a spreadsheet when I was agonizing about buying my first home I would have noted the following areas of concern:

  • Financial – how much could I put down and what kind of payments could I afford?
  • Emotional – I was afraid no matter which financing option I went with.
  • Relational – I had to borrow money from friends and family just to come up with the down payment (shhhhh…..don’t tell my lender). How was that going to impact these relationships?

While all these concerns were valid, the financial issue was clearly the greater priority. Had I followed my own advice I would have awarded the financial concern a “5”. Then I would have made the best financial decision possible and be done with it.

By putting it down in black and white it was very easy to see this. But while the worries were bouncing around in my head, it all seemed like one big garbled mess. That was the reason I kept thinking and thinking about the problem. I had no clarity. There were indeed many considerations, but I hadn’t prioritized them yet.

If you are overthinking a problem just ask yourself if you need more information. If you don’t, admit it and prioritize all the areas of concern. Once you identify the top concern, address it and decide. You won’t always make the perfect decision but you’ll do the best you possibly could and you won’t be stuck with your own indecision.

Are you easily trapped by overthinking? What are you best tips to solve this problem?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Neal Frankle January 1, 2013 at 7:53 AM

Lori,

That was my exact situation when I bought my first home. I was stuck over thinking and it drove me nuts. I am very glad this helped. Let me know how things go.

Reply

Lori December 31, 2012 at 7:04 AM

I am in the very same situation, finances are also my #5. Do I buy a house now or do I wait to see what happens with this “Fiscal Cliff” and hope prices come down and interest rates don’t go up? What do you think will happen in the housing market, particularly in So Cal?

Reply

Neal Frankle December 31, 2012 at 11:48 AM

I understand your anxiety. Personally, I don’t think the long-term impact of the “cliff” is important. I believe it will be handled and nothing significant w/shift. I generally think now is a wonderful time to buy real estate if you can afford it. I would be careful about So Cal (where I live too) only because it’s still not cheap. Here are some other areas that might interest you for real estate investments.

Reply

Lori January 1, 2013 at 7:20 AM

Thank you for your view of the current situation. I’m actually looking into buying a small condo as my primary residence and as a first time home owner. I am scared, but renting now is more than I can afford and owning will give me a a somewhat stable payment year-to-year, I hope.

Reply

KYBOSH December 27, 2012 at 6:24 PM

Interesting technique. I will give it a try the next time im up at night thinking myself from going to sleep.
Where did you learn this from?

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