Stop Thinking About Doing Things. Do Things.

I've been thinking about updating my website for a while. I haven't touched it since last year and it looks childish (I think) and doesn't represent my work. Every time I send it to someone I have to include a disclaimer about how outdated it is. So I decided to upgrade. With enough free time, enough motivation, and enough caffeine that seems like a simple task. But somehow, three months have passed and nothing has happened. Why haven't I gotten anything done?

I realized that it came down to the fact that I was thinking about it too much. These are some samples of actual thoughts:

  • "I need to sit down and sketch out every interaction before I write a line of code because this is going to be the best damn vanity site in the whole world."
  • "Even though updating my website is important for my career, other things might be a priority right now so I should make a list of priorities before I start it to make sure that it's really a priority."
  • "I have to read every book on UI Design ever before I can make a website that's good enough."

But the more I plan my site, the less I actually want to make it. If it's taken me six months to just think about upgrading it, how long will it take to actually do it?

There are a lot of things like my website that I never finish, or even start, because of over-thinking.

For instance:

  • "I should probably go running, but there might be a more efficient way to get fit, so I'm going to browse the internet until I figure out what it is."
  • "I want to go on a two week bike trip, but what if there is a really great opportunity that I miss because I was away biking?"
  • "I should use twitter to market myself, but I don't know what message I want to send about myself so I'm going to go to the library and get  out 15 books on personal branding and read each of them halfway through and do five of the self help exercises and learn nothing."
  • "I really like so and so. I should go out with him because it would be fun. But what if he falls in love and I don't like him and we have to break up and...? I think I'll stay in tonight and look at pictures of cats on the internet."

My draft box is filled with emails I never sent because I spent so long trying to word them perfectly that I gave up. Before I do things I think about the consequences 5 years in the future. I worry that I'll invest effort in something and not have the reward that I expected. What if I do it and it's not perfect? What if there's a more efficient way to do it?

There are four things that get me out my over-thinking rut:

  1. Desperation - I do it because I have nothing left to lose
  2. Competition - I do it because I want to one-up you (this can backfire if I spend too much time thinking about how to be perfect)
  3. Curiosity - I do it because I want to know what happens if I do it

And sometimes, like today, I just get sick of not getting anything done and the new smell of spring inspires me to do something, like write a blog post.

It's hard, but it's worth it. I find that I'm a lot happier when I stop thinking about things and just do them. It doesn't matter that I can't do everything as long as I can do something. It doesn't matter that I can't do something perfectly as long as I can do it at all.

So I'm going to stop re-reading this, I'm not going to scour the internet to make sure that this exact same post hasn't been written before (I'm sure it has but who cares), I'm going to stop editing this and I'm going to press "Publish."

And then I'm going to update my website.