When I was younger, my grandpa lived with us.
Except for the fact that he’d walk around the house without a shirt on while my friends were over, putting his red curly chest hair on display, he was pretty easy to live with.
But one thing that was a bit hard to deal with at times was the way he’d overthink things. I remember one occasion in particular that has stayed in my memory ever since.
We were moving houses and he had to figure out how to get a table out of the front door. It was a rather large table, and none of us were sure we’d be able to get it through the doorway. However, he stood, then paced, then looked at the doorway, then took measuring tape and measured the door, then the table, then stood there some more, then talked about it, then talked some more, and…you get the idea.
It was excruciating, however, being a heavy thinker myself, it taught me a valuable lesson about the intersection between underthinking and overthinking.
The best things happen when you’re not overthinking it.
– Ben Zobrist
I’ve never been the kind of person to jump into things.
I’m naturally a good planner. I analyze, break down, and can simplify things down to their essential parts. I’ve used these skills to be a halfway decent teacher on things ranging from meditation to writing and teaching life skills to others.
However, that moment with my grandpa taught me something I could never forget: that there should be a limit to planning and analyzing things.
When it comes to taking action — because when discussing underthinking vs. overthinking that’s what we’re really talking about — thinking is invaluable. Jump into something without a proper plan and you might as well throw up your flag and surrender before you even begin.
But think too much and, well, good thing my grandpa was never drafted (love you, grandpa).
Ultimately, it’s action that moves us forward, so the priority must be placed on taking action the majority of the time. Without results, you’re not progressing in life. And action will generate those for you.
So then, how do you strike the right balance between setting your intention and planning and actually doing? How exactly do you know when you’ve reached overthinking territory? Fortunately, I have a pretty simple rule for balancing under and overthinking so that you can maximize your efficiency and master your thought process.
How to balance planning and analyzing with taking action
With regards to taking action, thinking needs to be understood as a tool.
And this tool generally breaks down into two things:
- Analyzing things so that we can better understand them
- Planning our own actions so that we can maximize our efficiency
Thinking has a purpose, but once it has served its purpose, it must be placed aside.
So, here’s the rule I use to balance everything out and make sure I’m not jumping into something too soon or deliberating for too long:
Think only so long as it is helping you figure out the best action to take. Once that’s been figured out, stop thinking and act.
That might sound a little simplistic, but the best solutions often are. Remember, in order to figure out what the best action for you is, you need to know how to use your thoughts as a tool, so think back to what we just talked about with regards to analyzing and planning.
Did you analyze your subject(s)? Is there even a need for the action you’re contemplating? Do you understand what you’re getting into? If you’re looking for a weakness or a pattern, did you find it? Or did you at least get as a far as possible into your analysis? Did you plan your course of action based on all the factors above?
We have a habit of forgetting just how dynamic life really is. By that, I mean that once you’ve started taking action, you can always go back and reanalyze or change up your plan now that you’ve gathered more data. And optimizing as you gather insights is a more effective way of doing things anyway.
Don’t sweat the small things. Anticipate what you can, then get up and get out there. Remember, nothing happens until you start taking action.