Sometimes as a student, the last thing I want to do is learn. There are so many times when I had a test the next day but the only thing I didn’t want to do was to study for it. I would open my books, ready to review everything but then, I opened my email, read all the newsletters I subscribed to, I organized some things in my binder, took ten minutes to choose the perfect song and by then, it was so late in the night my eyes were drooping. Anyone relate?
This applies to not only students in school, but to everyone. In other words, it applies to everything considered ‘work’.
There are a few reasons why people do this.
Everybody does it and as a result, that draft that was due a week ago still has five hundred words to go and that email that was supposed to be sent at 9am is still sitting there as a minimized window in the bottom corner of your screen.
“I don’t know what to write”
“My mind is not in the same state as it was when I wrote/did something I was super proud of”
These thoughts are a few of the most apparent symptoms of overthinking.
This ties in with lack of self-confidence as it is likely you are comparing yourself to other people, however, let’s solve overthinking first.
Step 1: Recognize what you are doing wrong
- Are you distracted by your email, text messages or Instagram and it’s causing a distraction?
- Are you spending too much time picking a song?
- Does your mind wander because you stare into space for too long and don’t actually get work done?
- Do you start thinking about something else?
When I was reflecting on why I was not productive, these are certain aspects of my routine that I was able to pinpoint.
Step 2: Acknowledge that wrongdoing when you are about to do it
Now that you know some things that you are doing wrong, you can acknowledge it just as you are about to do it and stop yourself. You know you’re distracted when your stomach grumbles and you start thinking about the slice of cake leftover or the pack of gummy bears you plan on taking to a movie night. However, YOU MUST get back on track as soon as you realize you are having these thoughts.
Another tip that might help you is to let someone else keep you accountable. Firstly, let them know what you are doing wrong. Then, tell them everyday if you did those things at the end of each day. This will help you meet your goals and stay on track.
Step 3: Develop a habit
Keep acknowledging what you are doing wrong and ensure that you check in with the person keeping you accountable. Don’t keep doing what you know is wrong because you had an “off-day”. To develop a habit, you must keep the habit for at LEAST three months before it feels natural.
2. Lack of Self-Confidence
Last week, I had a chemistry test. Three nights before the test, I reviewed the material and did some review questions but I realized some concepts were still not clear to me. Intuitively, I prepared a list of questions I would ask the teacher the next day. However, when I got up to ask, this “known to be genius” student asked his questions first. His questions seemed so smart and it made me doubt myself and feel uncertain so I was scared and I never asked the questions I prepared.
Obviously, I was disappointed with my test mark. But what if I had asked those questions? Now that I think about it, would people think that I was stupid? Would it matter? Because at the end of the day, if I asked those questions I would have gained more value despite what other people think of me. From then on, I stopped thinking about what others thought of me and I just did it.
- Nothing to Lose/Boss Mentality
Imagine who you want to be in twenty years. Now imagine you are that person. Let’s put yourself in the shoes of the “twenty-years-older-you”. If you envision yourself to a super successful comedian and you had an event coming up. You prepared a joke that you thought it addressed an important issue. However, you are worried that the joke might be controversial so you are not sure if you should say it. What would you lose if you didn’t say the joke? the possibility to make an impact. What would you lose if you didn’t say the joke? NOTHING.
Let’s tone it down a notch. What if I had asked those questions in chemistry? What are my losses? nothing? What did I gain? KNOWLEDGE!
When I started Apple, there was absolutely nothing to lose… we had nothing to lose… Woz had an old car, I had a Volkswagen van… all we were going to lose were our cars and the shirts off our backs. We had absolutely nothing to lose. — Steve Jobs
If you had taken that risk, even though it doesn’t feel comfortable, there is nothing to lose and ALWAYS something to gain.
In school, we are told to do extracurriculars, get good grades, join x club because it looks good on a resume, apply for x program because x university likes to see it. All the time, so many things that we “should do” are thrown at us. I ended up in a position where I was doing so many things I was being less optimal than I was before. Constantly, I was worrying about what other people were doing, making sure I wasn’t falling behind. Ironically, I realized that ensuring I was doing everything was making me fall behind because it was too much and these things are deviations to my end goals.
I quit many of those activities and I stopped trying to know what other people were doing. Instead, I focused on few things and made sure they lined up with my end goals.
This applies to more practical things such as turning your text messages off when studying, turning email off, turning Slack off when studying even though you are expected to respond immediately. All these things deviate from the end goal, which is: trying to get your homework done or studying for a test.
- Don’t overthink. Try to acknowledge thoughts that lead to overthinking and get back on track. Get a friend to keep you accountable.
- Do something even if it doesn’t feel right. Often there is nothing to lose. You are BOSS!
- Focus on few things that align with your goals.
Overthinking, lack of self-confidence and not being able to focus are often a result of being influences the the people and events happening around you. DO YOU and things will start to fall into place.