Don’t overthink. Do.
Balancing thought and action will always be a challenge for many people.
When you spend too much time picturing what a project is going to be like, too much time thinking about how awesome it will be, and too little time actually making the thing, you make no progress.
With respect to goals, projects, and other to-do items, it’s easy to get stuck too long in the thinking and planning phase.
Tyler Cowen, economist and author of Average Is Over, agrees: “The more information that’s out there, the greater the returns to just being willing to sit down and apply yourself. Information isn’t what’s scarce; it’s the willingness to do something with it.”
Many people get excited about ideas, but unfortunately, they push them further back on their to-do lists… and sometimes completely disregard them as unfeasible or unrealistic.
When you value “the thinking mindset” more than “the doing mindset,” you will eventually end up with a note app or notebook full of dozens or even hundreds of ideas and plans.
A great percentage of them will never get done, and chances are, you won’t think about a lot of them ever again. Some get maybe 5 to 10 percent complete, or a few may be 50 percent done. This pattern can quickly turn into an inaction habit.
Leonardo da Vinci said, “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
A decision alone changes nothing.
As Gregg Krech notes in his book The Art of Taking Action: Lessons From Japanese Psychology, external reality remains exactly the same after your decision to ask someone out, write a book, or leave your job. What matters is “creating ripples,” as he puts it — actions, however tiny, that alter things in the world outside your head.
It’s what you do that defines you.
Do what you should. Don’t talk about what you should be doing.
Being a doer instead of just a thinker requires discipline and commitment. Doing involves risk, but it’s the only way to make progress.
If you are not daring and focused enough, you can never get past the thinking stage of getting work done. Stop thinking you are at a disadvantage because of your weaknesses.
Embrace the action habit!
Thinking and planning in advance is important—vital—to your success, but acting is even more crucial to long-term achievement.
Actions beat intentions.
Not doing anything is the same as intending to do something but never actually doing it.
Does it really matter if you wanted or really intended to do something, but ended up just not doing it?
You can never make real progress if you don’t take action. Instead, every time you read a book or article that inspires you, immediately apply something from it (no matter how big or small).
The only failure comes in not attempting. There is no actual failure in giving your all, whatever the results.
Even a small act is significant.
Actions also contain symbolic power to dissolve fears and build self-confidence and belief. The only thing more daunting than taking action is taking no action. The bigger the actions, the greater the results.
Thinking about doing is more exhausting than doing.
Besides, holding onto too many tasks without taking action can make you anxious and stressed. The constant reminder that you have something to start doesn’t help your well-being.
Instead, maintain the healthy habit of doing something on your to-do list every day.
Limit your planning time and take action.
Committing to action doesn’t end once you make progress. It means you never stop pushing.
What can you do right now to take even the smallest step toward achieving your most important goal?
As you think about this question, hold the expectation that the answer will be something simple that can be done in the next 30 minutes or less. Whatever reasonable answer pops into your head, accept it and act on it immediately.
Dale Carnegie once said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
Get that simple task done as quickly as you can. Sometimes you’ll flow effortlessly into another task and experience the “first action effect” that makes it easy to stay productive. It may take a little practice to use this strategy to consistently take action, but the benefits are enormous.
Once you commit to getting started, momentum will carry you. Producing results builds positive momentum. With momentum, you’ll get ahead and make progress much faster.
Waiting is the least motivating thing you can do.
Not only is doing easier than thinking about doing, but doing also gives you the ability to check something off your to-do list, giving you a sense of progress, engagement, fulfillment, and accomplishment.
Action is the greatest gift that only you can give to yourself… so get started.
This post originally appeared on Medium.com and was republished with the author’s permission. Thomas Oppong is the author of Postanly Weekly, a free digest of the best productivity, career, and self-improvement posts.