Over-thinking Is A Terrible Waste Of Time

My first post is about first steps. Particularly, this post is about the number one reason we take too long in taking these first steps: over-thinking.

Last night, I attended a weekly men’s fellowship with my close friends to discuss John Mason’s book, Conquering an Enemy Called Average. The topic for the night was Nugget 9 of the book, “Noah Didn’t Wait For His Ship To Come… He Built It”. The week’s discussion leader started by asking each of us to share a time in our lives when we were prepared to do anything to get something we desired. He asked us to describe the experience: what our desire was, what we did to get it, and what it felt when we finally got it. My response to the question was all about my lovely wife, the constant desire of my life, who will be a topic of a future post.

The discussion went on. Along the way, a quote from the book grabbed my attention. The gist of it: it is okay to make plans but there is a point when you have to stop planning and start taking action.  I have to admit, at that point I stopped listening for a few minutes and started to make leaps in realizations. It was as if the entire 1 hour discussion boiled down to this sentence.

I often find myself with a goal that needs careful thinking. Then, I find myself thinking too much; getting worried by all the “what if’s”; getting paralyzed with all the information I have or the lack thereof. Fear of the uncertain can take over and I regress to doing mundane tasks that make it seem like I am doing a lot of work. In reality, all I am doing are unproductive tasks that to mask the fact that I really haven’t started anything. I have wasted a lot of time and energy and I have not moved an inch toward reaching my objective.

As a personal example, let us take my decision to go back to business school. It requires plenty of due diligence and self assessment. There are a lot of things to consider such as timing, location, financing, fit, etc. I found myself talking a lot about it to anyone (willing or unwilling to listen). I told them my plans, why I want to that MBA, and what I intend to do when I graduate. I have read business books, browsed blogs, and listened to podcasts. This went on for months. Information gathering is crucial but at some point it stops being necessary and starts being an excuse.

My wakeup call came when a former colleague from IBM, Ger, who I admire and respect sent me a request to connect in LinkedIn. I accepted the request, saw that he was recently promoted and sent him a note to congratulate him. We exchanged a few more messages and I found out that he has recently submitted his B-School applications. As usual, I told him my (then) empty plans of attending B-School myself. I told him some excuses why I am not sending my applications yet. Ger gave me encouraging advice and that is when it dawned to me that I have been delaying my plans because of a few insignificant details.

I am now studying for the GMAT aiming for the September 2012 MBA intake. I have a lot of things to take care of to get there but I have taken my first steps.

I have been lucky enough though that, time and time again, I am able to snap out from the meaningless delusions that result from over-thinking. However, waiting for the inevitable wakeup call to come can take time. Time that I can never get back. I realize that I must learn to recognize patterns in my behavior so that I can kick myself in the nuts whenever I start to over analyze things.

That’s all for now. Till the next post. Have a terrific day. 🙂

Think about it. Ever had a brilliant idea that will greatly improve your life? Did you start making plans, researching the possibilities, then boom! you feel overloaded with information or feel that you know so little and need a lot more time to think? How did that work out? Please share your experiences and ideas in the comments section.

2 Responses to “Over-thinking Is A Terrible Waste Of Time”
  1. mymindbursts says:

    Good luck! And a good point. ‘Perfectionism’ became such an issue for me I went to see a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist. It goes well with ‘Impulsiveness’; I found I would either rush in, or take forever to prepare. The trick has been to see the goal far ahead, rather than looking at my feet (perfectionism) or looking up at the sky then jumping out of the airplain (impulsiveness). Good luck!

    • vladcardenas says:

      Thanks mymindbusrts! That is a great point. I also tend to be impulsive when I am not being a perfectionist as well. I am thinking about all the spur of the moment financial decisions I made. Though they are good learning experiences, some lead to very expensive mistakes. Now that I think about it, the times when I am not thinking at all are not just wastes of time but wastes of money too.

      That will be a great topic for a future post! Thanks again!

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