What To Do With Your Overactive Mind

Like most people, I’m often consumed with the unknown in my mind. What if this happens? What about if I had said this instead? What am I doing wrong? My mind is endlessly running, thinking of how I could have done something differently, or how I’ll do something in the future.

And when you’re like me – someone who loves efficiency, whether it’s in your nonprofit or your personal life – this tendency to over-think can have serious ramifications.

I’ve always thought it was an asset that I have a knack for making things more efficient. I like to read up on the latest technology, understand best practices, and help nonprofits become more efficient, through new systems, procedures, and policies. I love that stuff!

But – because I want to make sure I do everything the best way I can, I try to prepare for how I’ll do it in advance, instead of relying on my instincts at the moment. Planning is good, but over-planning is my downfall.

Here are some tips that help me fight the over-thinking beast!

  • Admit you have a problem. I’ve always been aware that I’ve been an over-thinker. I never really thought it was much of a problem. It’s only now that I realize how much damage it does to me. Instead of reveling in the present – our days, after all, are filled with beautiful small moments to appreciate – I dwell on the past or plan for the future. Understanding that this is a part of me and my life is the first step to addressing it.
  • Cut yourself off. Now that you’ve realized the problem you have, you will notice yourself doing it. All the time. I mean, all the time! Whenever I realize I’m doing it (often when I’m driving or doing something else routine), I gently bring myself back to the present. I wrote about this practice of mindfulness in What is Work/Life Balance?.
  • Bring this knowledge back to your work. As a development staff member, special events are inevitably part of the job. I’ve always hated them (as you read here), but I never fully understood why – until now! Events are one of those things that you can never plan for every small detail – you just have to move forward as best prepared as possible. It is highly possible to over-prepare for an event – that’s what I do!! And then I just make myself miserable with all the negative possibilities and work myself to the bone preparing back up plans in my mind. Now I understand why I dislike events, and hopefully now I can move toward not hating them so much!

It’s good to plan, but I’m realizing more and more that this strength comes with its drawbacks, too. Like I said, the first step is becoming aware of the problem, and I will tell you that’s helped me tremendously already. I have a long way to go to focus on fully embracing the present, but at least now I know the task at hand, and can slowly move in that direction.


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