Do the work that’s in front of you

You might think that overthinking and paralysis-by-analysis cause procrastination and inaction.

But it’s kind of a chicken and egg problem.

Because you can view it the other way around as well: inaction, procrastination, and general laziness often lead to this overthinking and paralysis-by-analysis.

We don’t always know what comes first.

This is also the reason why procrastination and overthinking can be such a vicious cycle.

You start overthinking, which causes you to procrastinate, which causes you to overthink even more, which in turn… causes you to procrastinate.

It sucks to be in this cycle.

Here’s how I tried solving this problem (for years), without success:

I would always get stuck in this vicious cycle.

I would procrastinate on my work, because I didn’t feel it was the “best thing” I could be working on.

And then I’d overthink, because I wanted to find the “best thing” — the best project, goal, business — to work on.

But there was no “best.”

Every idea that came my way had some sort of perceived flaw. Or I came up with some excuse to avoid discomfort.

At one point I thought about building a marketing agency, but told myself that I didn’t like dealing with clients. So I never pursued that goal.

I thought about going all in on writing. Starting a newsletter, writing books, doing the author thing. But I told myself that was too risky and I like business more.

I was trying to find this elusive “perfect” goal that would solve all my procrastination and overthinking problems.

But all I was really doing was avoiding the work in front of me.

The way out is through

The truth is, you do want to find work that you love doing, are curious about, and can ideally get obsessed with.

This will take you much further than mere discipline can.

But to even get to that point, you often need mere discipline.

As Paul Graham writes in his excellent article How to Do Great Work:

“The way to figure out what to work on is by working.”

And he goes on to say,

“What should you work on if you’re young and ambitious but don’t know what to work on? What you should not do is drift along passively, assuming the problem will solve itself. You need to take action.”

You can’t fix overthinking with more thinking.

You can’t fix procrastination with more passivity.

You must act.

As Goggins would say, “process without purpose.” (I made a video on this concept)

Do the work that’s in front of you

Right now, as you’re reading this, you have work in front of you.

You might object to that and say, “No, Sam. I really don’t know what to do.”

I get it.

But there’s still work in front of you.

It might be the boring administrative work you’ve been putting off for months.

It might be filing your taxes.

It might be emailing a bunch of potential clients.

It might be finishing that piece of art that you started making a year ago.

It might even be something as simple as cleaning your bedroom.

And what you’ll find, is that when you do the work that’s in front of you—the obvious work—that voice in your head that causes you to overthink and remain paralyzed is replaced by one of confidence, clarity, and momentum.


P.S. If you liked this email, you might also enjoy:

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