Does thinking too much hurt your brain?


What if thinking too much was a problem?

It is a common misconception to think that geniuses constantly mull over thousands of ideas, top employees are able to multitask, and the most skilled athletes are constantly thinking 3 steps ahead of the competition. Geniuses create breakthroughs by obsessing over a specific solution (idea-sex James Altechur likes to call it). Top employees get stuff done by completely focusing on the task at hand. The best athletes dominate opposition by playing in the present moment (reaching a flow-state), and they are always three steps ahead because of the countless hours of training put in during practice. 

These top performers are able to share the trait of clearing their minds of thought clutter. Is thinking too much holding you back?

The Zeigarnik Effect explains your problem

The Zeigarnik Effect is a psychological concept most easily defined as the tendency to remember an uncompleted task rather than a completed one. This means that if you’re someone like me who’s always thinking of new ideas, projects, what's next on schedule, and complete randomness, your mind is cluttered with these thoughts.

One of these thoughts may be the next big breakthrough of the 21st century, but if you're trying to focus on finishing your homework or communicating effectively with your spouse, that same thought exists as an obstacle preventing you from connecting to the present moment. Your brain is holding you back from focusing at 100% on the task at hand. 

We are far more efficient and productive when we operate with razor sharp focus. But if you’re a mind-wanderer like me, how do you hack the Zeigarnik Effect?

How to defeat mind clutter

The simplest way to overcome the Zeigarnik Effect is to WRITE SHIT DOWN. When an idea, thought, or future task randomly pops into your head, write it down. 

You don’t need to carry around a pen and paper everywhere you go, all you need is your phone or laptop and you’re set.  Many popular “idea capture” apps are free and support cross-platform functionality i.e. I come up with an idea for marketing my brand, plug it into the app on my phone, forget about it completely and entirely focus on the task at hand, and at night pull up the app from my computer where I can create a plan of attack to implement that idea. Super efficient, right? Here are some popular ones (I use Things):

  1. Things
  2. Wunderlist
  3. ToDoList

Once your ideas have been captured, figure out a time once a day (or once a week if you’re just starting out) to plan out when and how that task will be completed. And just like magic you have defeated the Zeigarnik Effect.

Say goodbye to brain clutter and hello to focus.

PRO TIP: Hacking the Zeigarnik Effect is the best way to defeat brain clutter. If you can't complete something within two minutes of thinking of it, write it down in an "idea capture" app and later organize and plan its completion. 

If you like this post, check out the ultra popular GTD (Get Things Done) system created by David Allen. This will send your productivity through the roof. SJ Scott also has some great quick fix books that will help as well. And don't forget to subscribe to my newsletter to get the best tips/hacks to help you differentiate from the crowd :)