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March 17, 2021
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Overthinking

It is my pleasure to introduce you to the new overthinking app I have been designing. It is quite simple to use: I suggest you keep it on whenever you work, right in your head.

Here is an overview of the app functions and their recommended settings.

When you first open the app, you will see a dial, similar to a pressure gauge, with green and red zones.

All the way on the left is the Timid range, for full overthinking mode. A mid-range setting indicates some willingness to make mistakes and take risks, while the more daring settings on the right move into high-confidence territory, ending in the red zone labeled “All caution to the wind” (not recommended for new users).

There are lots of apps that supposedly help us stay organized. App makers will disagree with me, but in essence they are glorified little calendars with built-in reminders, list options and categories. Of course, the intelligent features are cool to use, and I especially like the gamification apps. Kick your tasks to the curb in different colors! Spin a wheel to figure out what to do first! New products are invented all the time and are breathlessly praised in hyperbolic language, as if they could finally solve the problems created by too many emails, too much screen time. and more information than anyone could ever hope to process. They all involve fiddly data entry and send out reminders that are easy to ignore. Reviewers will inevitably claim that new apps “blow their mind,” but the secret is this: they only handle the quantitative aspects of tasks. With all due respect, that’s not where most time is wasted.

App makers, the true sauce is in the qualitative aspect. Take the example of a perfect marketing opportunity. Someone describes their problem & pain in an online post and you happen to have the perfect solution. What happens next has little to do with calendaring:

Should I respond, and how? – breezily, casually, or in a more serious tone? Will other people take my note amiss and cut off all contact? … Perhaps she is looking for someone more qualified… Let me draft a few options… hmm, that one may be a good fit, possibly a few more bland words thrown in so the message won’t come across as overly salesy or desperate…. Great, this solution is just right, but now I can’t find the original post anymore! … Anyway, it was a few hours ago, so she’s probably found a good solution by now.

Clearly, overthinking is the new frontier of productivity app development.

With my new OVERTHINK(TM) dial in light confidence mode, the process could be significantly shorter: Let me drop her a line to tell her what I do and how to contact me. Spellcheck, hit Send, done. The app has just saved me approximately 45 minutes - and that’s just in Basic mode!

The Pro mode for more advanced users contains even more, dare I say, mind-blowing features:

  • Fear of Failure Override: Simply enable this feature to cut out hours of worrying. Blithely move through your workday without giving a damn whether your work measures up or whether you need more qualifications to finally move your prices in the range your plumber has been charging for years.

  • Inner Critic Mute: Let the dear creature yammer on in silence while you get your work done. Priceless.

  • Bold Boost: Experience the confidence level of Sunday TV talkshow participants! (“Brian, we all know the earth is flat.”). State your opinions in full sentences, apply for new opportunities in minutes instead of weeks or months, and talk frankly about your capabilities.

  • Modesty Shutoff: This feature conveniently lets you turn off the urge to downplay your accomplishments and play smaller than you have to. No, as it turns out, your work is not a hobby, you do get paid for doing it, and you’re quite good at what you do because you’ve put consistent effort into it.

  • Time Saver Mode: This mode includes the popular “BS override” function to prevent engagement in pointless discussions and unnecessary drama. Scan social media content in minutes to respond and post, then close sites without any further thought.

Some caution is advised when choosing your settings. I don’t recommend using the app in the high-confidence range too long. You may be tempted to take actions that are outside of customary expectations. On the other hand, spending a few minutes in the “All caution to the wind” range every day can be an exhilarating practice. What if you really do know more than the windbag market expert who’s been trying to connect with you on LinkedIn? What if you really do have the solution for a specific set of problems? What if there is no more need to prove yourself?

What’s in the app’s circuitry? Simply put, #OldThink is an Orwellian-type language code setting. Without boring you with unnecessary technical details, suffice it to say that we’re trying to solve modern problems by picking up the receiver of a rotary phone and dialing a number we found in last year’s phone book. Feeling powerless, looking up to authority figures, and not daring to do new things in the process. My Overthinking App translates #OldThink into #NewThink: this is a new world, where everyone is as overwhelmed as you are, and the old patterns have stopped making sense.

What if you are – and have – enough? That’s pretty radical thinking. Please dial it down.

(This post was originally published in my Substack blog, "Giving Voice" on April 6, 2021)

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