Act don’t think

I’m not talking about behaving as a somnambulist.

Nor as someone who blithely follows the pack.

What I’m referring to is the malaise that we all suffer from when we overthink.

One of my afflictions, perhaps as a hangover from my days in law, is to want to know all the facts: I don’t feel comfortable until I’ve got things straight in my mind sufficient to make a decision.

The problem is that by the time I’ve gathered in all the material, I no longer possess the passion, insight and drive that was there from the off. It’s as if the effort of assimilating all that intelligence makes me doubt the efficacy of what I thought would be a brilliant idea.

In trying to break this habit, I’ve started to introduce a number of alternative ways of working:

  1. I work with a simple timer, and make sure that I limit how much time I spend doing what I’m doing. This applies to writing, research and surfing the web;
  2. I have started to limit the length of my To Do list with Todoist so that I focus on less things; I have for a while followed Leo Babauta’s trick of doing the three most important things that day (MITs);
  3. I’ve taken a lesson out of my passion for cycling. I don’t overthink beyond saying I have to do something i.e. go for a ride;
  4. I’ve stopped reading so many productivity blogs. All of them say the same thing – do more stuff;
  5. I know that my time on this earth is limited and if this was my last day on earth, then I’d better bloody well make it count.

None of these are remarkable. And they’re certainly not hacks. If anything they are tricks to quell the Resistance that afflicts me, particularly when I’m working at home. Resistance if you recall is the term that Steven Pressfield coined in the War of Art to give a physical dimension to the somewhat ethereal force that we label as procrastination. If you haven’t read the book then I highly recommend it.

I think the more I delve into this area and discuss it with others, the more I see that people are not short of things to do but rather too few of them are doing the right things. In particular, whenever I hear someone lament their lack of career or life opportunities my first thought would be of a metaphysical type. You know. Get your mind in the right place, and everything else will fall into place.

But in a sense that may compound the problem. I’m sure most people know what they should do to move their lives forward. The problem is the problem; namely they fail to act. Of course, it’s easy to talk about fear of failure, but taking small steps without overthinking things is a much more effective tool.

As well as acting you need to think about the big picture, your goals and your legacy. But if you dwell too much on any of those, you may just find that you end up running yesterday’s tapes today.

Act don’t think should be posted up close at hand whenever you feel the temptation to slip backwards.

It’s certainly how I intend to move forward with all those things I’ve been promising myself that I have to do before someone calls time.


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