Social Menu

Workplace Wisdom Blog

How to Keep From Drowning in Your Own Thoughts

Are you stuck somewhere inside your head, talking to yourself about things you want to change? Are you stressing over how stalled you feel, or fixating on why the situation is so awful? No wonder you can’t sleep at night and feel fretful all day!

Why not get some benefit out of your worries and doubts? Move them out of your head, where they’re scrambling like countless little hamsters on a squeaky hamster wheel. Externalize them so you can use them as data and let them propel you toward intelligent action.

Write the First Time

Put your thoughts on paper, a whiteboard, sticky notes — someplace to consider them objectively instead of having them stream by. You could write down:

  • What you want to happen
  • Why you think you it won’t
  • What it means to you
  • What it means to the business
  • The best-, worst-, and medium-case scenarios if it does happen
  • And best-, worst-, and medium-case scenarios if it doesn’t
  • Who you think is trying to get in the way and why
  • What changes in the landscape might have an impact
  • What you know you need to do but haven’t done yet
  • Who has expertise, skills, experience, or perspective that could help you
  • What would change for you if this were no longer a problem.

Just pulling these thoughts out of your head and putting them where you can see them turns them into actual things you can tackle instead of wraiths floating by, ungraspable and unstoppable. Now you have a business problem to deal with — and you already know something about how to do that!

Watch Your Thoughts Change

Leave yourself plenty of space as you write so you can edit your entries over time. You’ll see how your thoughts shift as circumstances change. Watch your thinking become less reactive and more analytical — the way it does with “regular work” instead of “life-changing hassles.”

After a few rounds of note-making and review, consider writing about yourself in the third person. Then you can dispassionately review your beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and language, and help yourself — the same way you would help someone else who came to you with the same concerns.

If You Were Helping Someone Else

Once you’ve separated your concrete concerns from your fears and anxieties, you can gather your forces and deal. Remind yourself that you are not the problem: You are actually the lead problem solver.

Assess your current resources: Do you need others on your team? Can you pursue other resources by making the right case to the right people?

Are you getting in your own way? Could you change perspective or language to work on the problem from a stronger angle? Can you find alternative solutions? How could you behave or speak differently about the problem for more impact?

Go back to your notes one more time — even as the problem is being resolved — to see if there’s anything else you can learn about it or your reaction to it, for next time.

Onward and upward,


Related Posts: