Overthinking and Analysis Paralysis

As a software engineer, much of the time, my job is to really break down a problem, understand it fully, and architect the best possible solution. There’s a quote that comes to mind, which has become a mantra for many developers:

The sooner you start to code, the longer the program will take.

So what does this mean? It means that if you don’t do things properly the first time, you’ll end up redoing them… or working around the results of that first attempt forever… slowing down the overall progress of the project. To minimize this, we follow a measure-twice, cut-once philosophy when possible.

If you’re anything like me, the habits and thought patterns developed at work, leak into your daily life. A friend of mine recently described his habits as ‘ticks’ that may never go away… and while they don’t inhibit his daily life, they are clearly present. Just like me, he’s been rewarded overtime for those habits he’s developed at work, further ingraining them into his default behavior patterns. Obviously, this can be good or bad.

One of the things I’ve definitely taken note of recently, is that this approach of over-analyzing a problem, to ensure I’m on the right path, before taking a single step forward… is not always a good thing in the rest of my daily life. I think back to spending countless hours analyzing and research anything I’d like to start or change in my life; and many times, I do all of this without ever actually getting started! Clearly I’ve been taking this to far, but what should I do instead?

Stop overthinking. I know, I know… this is easier said than done for some of us; however, I’ve found it to be an extremely important component in getting things done. I came across a video from Jacko Willink recently, and it was so simple and yet so enlightening at the same time. The concept he explains in this video is to simply do, and stop thinking about the how. I’ve included that video here, and I’d urge you to watch it now.

While I do understand this approach does not make sense in every instance, I truly believe that most of the day-to-day things we need to get done simply do not warrant the amount of thought and importance we tend to give them.

Boiling it all down, unless there’s a very good reason to apply more thought and planning to something… just go do it. Continue investigating and analyzing, but use those skills to evolve the actions you’re taking, and not to get started in the first place. You don’t need a perfect plan for most things in life, and you won’t be able to find out what’s best for you without gaining valuable experience in doing the task anyway.

Start today. Start now.