Stop Overthinking, Start Doing: 4 Tips for the Distracted INFP

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on November 14, 2016

If you're an INFP, you will be horribly familiar with the concept of "overthinking." It's when your mind gets caught in a loop, and you go over and over (and over) the same thoughts again without ever deciding what to do. Sometimes the problem is so severe, you can procrastinate for years without ever reaching a resolution.

There's nothing wrong with thinking things through, but there's a fine line between ruminating and torturing yourself over details. Here are four tips to help you stop thinking and start making your ideas fly.

1. Set a decision-making deadline

Deadlines are an INFP's friend. It's amazing what you can accomplish when there's a deadline breathing down your neck. So, next time you catch yourself struggling to make a decision, give yourself a time limit. Setting a short deadline, even a fake one, is a good way to become more action oriented.

For example, when you have a small decision to make (what shall I wear? How shall I structure this report?), give yourself 10 minutes to decide. For larger decisions, give it to the end of the day or the week. Give yourself time to brainstorm and do a certain amount of soul gazing - but stick fast to your time limit. Once you reach the predetermined deadline, you must stop analyzing and go into action. You might find it beneficial to set multiple deadlines throughout the week to help keep you on task.

2. Put things into the present perspective

Since INFPs are future focused , it can be very difficult for you to zoom in on what you are doing and feeling right now. The main trap of overthinking is that you allow the thing you're obsessing about to move beyond the present moment and become much bigger than it actually is. So your friend didn't call you today like she promised. Is that really a trigger for putting your entire relationship under the microscope? Do you really need to dissect this small, momentary action, or will this create a problem that was never there in the first place?

Ask yourself, "Will the thing I am struggling with matter one day, one week, or one month from now?" If the answer is no, then stop worrying so much. The problem has only a low level of importance. It does not deserve so much of your energy.

3. Take time out

Taking a break when you're overthinking helps a lot, especially if you choose an activity that's absorbing enough for you to engage in it fully. Examples include watching a movie, practicing sport, having a conversation with a friend, or writing. Focusing completely on something else helps take the subliminal pressure off your thinking. You'll feel refreshed and productive, and this should make the issue you were struggling with easier to resolve.

4. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good

INFPs will often overthink an issue as a result of their perfectionism, but aiming for perfection in your life isn't going to take you far. On the contrary, it is more likely to prevent you from getting started with something. The idea of perfection is intimidating - if the concept you've created in your head is unattainable, then what's the point?

Instead of waiting until you have a completely airtight plan for something, take action as soon as you can. This will stop you from overthinking since you have put a plan into motion now. There's no time for your thoughts to go 'round like a hamster in a wheel because you've already limited your options. The step you've taken may not work out quite as you imagined, but that's OK. You've moved from "should do" something to "doing" something. The rest you can create as you go.

The point of this article is not to encourage you to stop thinking entirely. No self-respecting INFP would ever jump in without spending at least a little time weighing up the consequences. But you have to admit, overthinking is a habit, and like all habits, it can be changed. You have to give it your full attention and commitment, and really challenge yourself to get out of your head. But get it right, and the results could be remarkable.

Molly Owens

Molly Owens is the founder and CEO of Truity. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and holds a master's degree in counseling psychology. She began working with personality assessments in 2006, and in 2012 founded Truity with the goal of making robust, scientifically validated assessments more accessible and user-friendly.

Molly is an ENTP and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she enjoys elaborate cooking projects, murder mysteries, and exploring with her husband and son.

More from this author...
About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


Ith (not verified) says...

Right now Im over thinking this text. Yay me. :I

lisa.hickey says...

Wow! This helps me greatly, to understand my thought loops as well as my procrastination. I always said that procrastination was my middle name, although I have always loathed being that way. It is very frustrating and can lead to feelings of failure and lack of confidence. I will look more into how to change this and reverse the effects of it! Thanks

Victoria Bell (not verified) says...

Wow! So me! LOVE the quote " don't let perfect be the enemy of good" I now realize that's my struggle! I needed to read that! Problem is... now I'm gonna over think it!

Macrina (not verified) says...

I know! Any how-to tips for number 4, Truity? 

Carter Koldewyn (not verified) says...

Isn't me trying to find tips on how to stop overthinking things overthinking things?

RemyQuixote (not verified) says...

this article is spot on about my creative problems at the moment. especially number 4. so very much number 4

Faustino (not verified) says...

Great post. I used to be checking constantly this weblog and I'm impressed!

Very helpful information particularly the final part

:) I deal with such info a lot. I was seeking this certain information for a long

time. Thanks and good luck.

Clare-Louise says...


Macrina (not verified) says...

Number 1 is a great idea! I always love it when others impose deadlines on me for things, I actually get them done! Now just to impose them on myself... 

And number 4 is me to a tee! (any fellow language-lovers know where that expression came from?) Perfection is my goal and my enemy. Really. I mean, if you have 20 ideas for writing, and you've only started 5 or 6, and you've finished none... Whoever said procrastination is their middle name was spot on. Now, just how to convince myself that my story doesn't have to be publishing-worthy in the first draft... 

Spammers fried and served on toast sounds just for the spammers, but what about the people who eat the toast? ;) We should open a can of sardines (Narnia, anyone?)

Philemon (not verified) says...

Can't thank you enough for this great article. I'm a chronic procrastinator. I wrote immediately the two ideas I found most useful - giving myself a time limit and taking a break - and will put them into practice now!

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