The other day my manager asked me to do a certain analysis for him. And me being a helpful little worker-bee, I set off to do it immediately. After about an hour of some programming and combining spreadsheet, I realized that I was tackling the problem in a less-than-efficient way.When I started, I had just jumped on the first idea to cross my mind on how I might be able to get what was required. And though the idea in itself was sound, it certainly wasn’t the quickest or most elegant solution. If I’d taken five minutes to think it through before I started, I would have realized that.
In the end I started over using the better method and got the results with another hour of work.
The lesson I might take away from this is: “Think before you do something.”
But that would be wrong.
Or better, it would be wrong in many cases.
First, taking the time to think about something can mean an opportunity is passing you by. Sometimes you need to make a decision in a split second, or have the choice made for you. And though this won’t happen often, the decisions that need to be made this was tend to be far-reaching. The choice to snatch a child from in front of an on-rushing train needs to be made now! Or a bit less far-fetched, saying hi to that cute girl (m/v) that just smiled to you now instead of after a minute is the difference between coming across as self-confident and a bit awkward.
More importantly though, there are decisions where deliberation will actually produce worse results. We have finely honed intuitions, through which a lot of mental processing has been automated. Thinking about how to ride your bike gives a much higher chance of crashing into something than simply doing it. Or when you start thinking about what you’re going to say to that cute girl (m/v), you can be sure that you will sound contrived instead of natural.
Finally, you don’t know in advance whether the current choice you have to make is one that’s better to think about for a bit or whether it’s best to jump right in. And once you start analyzing that, you’ve basically committed yourself to the path of “let’s think about it”.
So, less thinking, more jumping right in! Even if the results are sub-optimal, at least you have a new subject for a blog post!
I’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.
If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!