How to Stop Overthinking Tests and Projects

This risky habit can affect your academic performance

Student overthinking assignment
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Are you guilty of dwelling on a problem much longer than you should? Many people get caught up in overthinking problems from time to time, but some people make a habit of it. This habit can affect grades and academic performance because students can get so caught up in thinking mode that they never get to a good solution.

Some people who overthink tend to get stuck in analysis mode, by over-analyzing every nook and cranny of a situation repeatedly, and in a circular pattern (around and back again to the first).

That situation - the state when a thinker is “stuck” in ​analysis - is sometimes called ​analysis paralysis. It's also one form of procrastination.

Analysis Paralysis

It’s not difficult to imagine why this could be unhelpful or even harmful for academic work.

Students who encounter certain kinds of test questions are in danger of analysis paralysis:

  • Complex essay questions can cause you to get stuck thinking about a single aspect of the question and ignore others.
  • You will be at a loss when trying to decide how to start writing an answer to essay questions because there are so many options. This can be a time waster.
  • Long multiple choice questions can also cause analysis paralysis. You may try to read too much into the question and spin yourself into total confusion.
  • You can also overthink their choices in a multiple choice situation and read more into each choice than you should.

If the situations above sound familiar, you are like many other students.

You are also wise to recognize that this is a potential problem for you. If you know it, then you can address it!

Stop Overthinking

Overthinking during a test can really hurt! The big risk you face is failing to complete the test because you think too much and can’t make a decision. Go into the test with a time management plan.

As soon as you get the test, do a quick assessment to determine how much time you should spend on each section. The open-ended essay answers are the most time-consuming.

If you tend to be an overthinker, you will have to manage your urge to dwell on the many possibilities when trying to answer an open-ended test question. To do this, you must give yourself time to brainstorm – but also give yourself a time limit. Once you reach the predetermined time limit, you must stop thinking and go into action.

If you’re facing a multiple choice, resist the tendency to read too much into the questions and answers. Read the question once, then (without looking at your options) think of a good answer. Then see if this matches one that’s listed. If it does, select it and move on!

Thinking Too Much About Assignments

Creative students can also think too much when it comes to getting started on a research paper or big project because there are so many possibilities. A creative mind loves to explore possibilities.

Although it probably goes against your grain, you will have to force yourself to be methodical when selecting a topic. You can be creative and imaginative for the first day or two to come up with a list of possible topics – then stop.

Pick one and go with it.

Creative projects like fiction writing and art projects can be downright paralyzing, as well. There are so many directions you could go! How can you possibly start? What if you make the wrong choice?

The truth is that you will continue to create as you go. The final creative project rarely ends up exactly as you intended at first. Just relax, get started, and create as you go. It’s OK!

Students can also fall into analysis paralysis when starting to write a school report. The best way to conquer this type of roadblock is to start writing in the middle – don’t try to start at the beginning. You can go back and write the introduction and rearrange your paragraphs as you edit.

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Fleming, Grace. "How to Stop Overthinking Tests and Projects." ThoughtCo, Apr. 20, 2017, thoughtco.com/overthinking-risky-habit-1857227. Fleming, Grace. (2017, April 20). How to Stop Overthinking Tests and Projects. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/overthinking-risky-habit-1857227 Fleming, Grace. "How to Stop Overthinking Tests and Projects." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/overthinking-risky-habit-1857227 (accessed January 17, 2018).