“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.” Tina Fey
The line between thoughtful consideration and overthinking is different for everyone, and just like the line between telling the whole truth and some version of the truth, very easy to see in other people. We’ve all had the experience of listening to a friend or loved one going back and forth on a decision for the umpteenth time and wanting to scream, “Just do something already!”
At the same time, sitting still and reflecting on something important often feels like a luxury. So many of us have a powerful story running in the background that says there already isn’t enough time for everything that has to be done—taking more time to think seems impossible. And yet, we know that one hour of planning eliminates 3-4 of redundancy or waiting for additional information.
So how do you know when you’ve given a decision enough consideration and are not overthinking it? Practice. And a timer.
Quantifying how long you want to budget for considering a decision is an easy way to get out of the math guessing game and into action. Working in increments of 15 minutes, set a timer and isolate yourself so you can focus on whatever you are trying to figure out. Don’t check your email or your phone. Don’t get up and make the bed or tidy up your kitchen counters. Sit still and concentrate. No doubt your mind will wander, that’s to be expected—what you’re trying to do is observe yourself making a decision while also being in the experience of making a decision.
If you do this a few times, you’ll start to get a good sense of how long you need when making various kinds of decisions. Decorating decisions take X amount. Where your kid goes to school takes Y amount. What you want your next job to look like takes Z amount.
Once you’re made up your mind, it’s time to go down the chute.
If you’ve ever gone ziplining or jumped out of an airplane or ridden a ride at an amusement park, you’ve had the experience of being launched into something. When it’s your turn, there is no time to overthink it—you’re strapped onto the cable, or pushed out of the plane, or locked into your seat and the motor starts. Instead of focusing on all the people growing impatient with your fear or inability to act, remember (or imagine) how it felt as soon as you let go. That’s freedom. That’s what is waiting for you at the top of the slide. The fear is temporary—liberation is forever.