How can I stop overthinking and take action more quickly? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
I think there are two things at play here.
- You need a bit of help on how to act more quickly, with less information, and make decisions more effectively
- I think you have some psychological and mindset barriers at the root of your lack of action and indecisiveness
Acting More Quickly & Making Better Decisions
Let’s start with an insight from Jeff Bezos, the Founder and CEO of Amazon. He recently wrote an amazing shareholder letter that discusses what it takes to make great decisions. I think we can both agree that he’s a pretty reliable source in terms of a track record of strong decision-making.
Here’s what Jeff has to say:
“First, never use a one-size-fits-all decision-making process. Many decisions are reversible, two-way doors. Those decisions can use a light-weight process. For those, so what if you’re wrong? I wrote about this in more detail in last year’s letter. Second, most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow. Plus, either way, you need to be good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions. If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.”
Two great insights from this, that I think you’re likely not thinking about it.
- Most decisions are easily reversible. Many decisions are not life and death, and can be easily reversed. If a decision can be reversed with relatively little pain or suffering, don’t waste much time. Make a decision, and then change course if it ended up being wrong.
- Make decisions with 70% of the information you wish you had. Stop waiting until you have everything you wish you had to make a decision, you’re wasting time. Make decisions with partial information, move on, and come back to fix it if the decision ends up being wrong.
With those things in mind, you need to be acting with less information and taking more action when the risks are small and easily reversible.
Fear Setting Can Help Make Taking Action Less Scary
Tim Ferriss recommends the strategy of “Fear Setting” to realize how low risk many seemingly daunting actions are and to deal with tough decision points in your life. Here’s how impactful Fear Setting has been for Tim, he says:
“Fear-setting has produced my biggest business and personal successes, as well as repeatedly helped me to avoid catastrophic mistakes.” - Tim Ferriss
Fear setting is the systematic process of defining the worst case scenarios for many different actions, seeing how bad they would really be, putting a plan in place to mitigating them, and then moving forward.
It’s a simple and easy way to take the guess work and fear out of making tough decisions.
When I quit my job at Goldman Sachs to take a leap on a much riskier and more entrepreneurial endeavor (and move cities) - fear setting helped pave the way.
Stop Being A Perfectionist
I think the real problem here, however, is that you’re likely a perfectionist. You don’t take action because no course of action is perfect and you’re worried that you will make a mistake, look bad, or make a fool of yourself.
If this rings true for you, I recommend listening to the following two podcast interviews that go deep into the root cause of why you feel so indecisive.
First, this conversation with Megan Bruneau, on how to Uncover the Root of Your Pain, Smash Perfectionism, Love Yourself, and Live a Richer Life.
This interview discusses how to cultivate self compassion, understand that it’s OK to make mistakes, and crush the perfectionism at the root of your lack of action.
Next, if you find yourself being worried what others will think, looking like a fool, being considered a failure for doing the wrong thing or making a bad decision, this interview with research psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck will shine tremendous light on that problem for you and help you get out of the “fixed mindset” that is holding you back from acting quickly and being afraid of making decisions.
Dr. Dweck’s findings are deeply supported by large amounts of psychology research and the conversation discusses how the “fixed mindset” can trap you into behavior patterns like the ones I described above, and how you can get out of them.
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