Leap Before You Look! Four Times When It’s Best to Get Started Without Overthinking

Don’t let perfection become an excuse for never getting started. – Marilu Henner, American actress

Have you ever felt paralyzed when facing a work project or task, to the point where you just can’t seem to make a decision or get started? This can happen for a variety of reasons. You may suffer from perfectionism, from classic over-analysis, or from what I call the tyranny of choice: Sometimes you just have so many options you can’t easily choose. And then there’s the fable about the donkey between two mangers, who starved to death because the hay in both mangers looked so delicious he couldn’t decide which to eat.

Animals are too practical to let that happen in real life, but I see similar situations with people all the time. Sometimes I think too much talent and intelligence are a curse, especially when I see very smart people consistently overshadowed by those who just pick a direction and get to work. You might think of workers like that as everyday plodders, but you can learn a lot from them.

Those Darn Ducks!

The higher you are in the corporate hierarchy, the more people your decisions affect. But regardless of your position, too much meditation without action hurts the whole team, especially when others depend on your output as their input—for example, in some software projects, or when your report, book, or manual must go through an editing process before management releases it to users. Such projects tend to be tightly scheduled, meaning you can’t spend too much time arranging your ducks before you pull the trigger.  Sure, we all want everything to come out right the first time, but some changes are inevitable—no matter what you do.

Let’s look at some cases when it’s often best to leap before you look.

1. When you know the task so well you can do it in your sleep. If nothing has changed since last time, why waste time making meticulous preparations? Just check to see that the pool still has water in it before you make your dive, and get moving. You can fix any minor problems that pop up along the way.

2. When you need to discover what you can do. Experimentation is important in all aspects of life. You may never determine your full capabilities until you’ve made a few unprepared leaps. This is especially important for creative people and innovative companies. Don’t rush headlong into a huge project unprepared, but do make small leaps when you’re not 100% sure of what the outcome will be to see where, and how, you land. It’s a great way to expand your comfort zone without endangering yourself or your job.

3. When your company or team needs you to make the leap. A friend of a friend who is a military nurse was asked to take on a difficult position because she was the only person in the unit who could. Her leadership knew she was very inexperienced for the position, but she had their full support. So, she leaped in with both feet. Although it was a difficult job with a steep learning curve, she’s glad now she made the decision to go ahead, because it was an amazing experience from which she learned so much—and that still influences almost everything she does. In fact, she’s including the experience in a book she’s writing. If people who depend on you need you to make that leap, and they’ve got your back, make some quick preparations and go.

4. When you need to prove you’re good enough. If the consequences of failure seem minimal, or your company doesn’t harshly punish initiative, take the chance. If you have confidence in yourself, you know you’ll be able to get it done, making adjustments and course corrections as you go. When management needs a volunteer for something new, raise your hand. If something important has been left undone, just do it.

Leaps of Faith

As the saying goes, luck happens when preparation meets opportunity. Some opportunities, like trains and SAT tests, are so well-scheduled you can key your preparation to their arrival. But most aren’t —which means you can’t always take the time to look when an opportunity arrives. Sometimes, if you take time for more than a glance, the opportunity passes. If you’ve maintained your working edge and made a sincere attempt to maximize your ROI, then when opportunity knocks, it may be best to make an Olympic leap of faith without looking.

Side note: Now isn’t always the time to make a big leap, but it’s probably the time to make a small one! Making yourself or your team just a little better than you were yesterday can add up over time, and before you know it you’ve covered leaps and bounds. In this video, I talk about the power of making a very small, just 1 percent improvement every day. Video: The Power of a Daily 1 Percent Improvement. 

© 2017 Laura Stack.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email Christine@TheProductivityPro.com, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland