Don’t Decide Anything Until You Do This

Woman sitting on stairs with hand on her mouth, thinking.

Here’s a rundown of my typical morning: I’d wake up, make myself some coffee, sit on the couch, then just stare off into space while I finish the coffee. Once I’m done with that, I start exercising.

What usually happens during coffee time is me pondering the day ahead, thinking about what I’d like to achieve. But somewhere in the back of my mind—like Instagram running in the background on your phone—is me convincing myself that I deserve a break from working out.

I used to listen to that voice. A lot. Thankfully, through lots of trial and error, I’ve discovered a better alternative: to delay all my decisions until I’ve started on the activity in question. Hence this topic.

Wait till you’re in the thick of things

Like I said, I believe that the best time to make a decision is while you’re acting on said decision.

Not when you’re on the couch, nor during your rush-hour commute. Because what happens when you simply think to decide is your mind starts conjuring a thousand different scenarios—most of them being excuses.

And because there’s only space for one reality, you’d have wasted all your mental energy imagining the 999 other sequences of events. So why not do away with the assumptions and act before you think?

At least that’s how I got over my penchant for overthinking.

I told myself that when it came to exercise, I’d decide whether I’d complete the routine only after I’d worked up a sweat. Then, if I really need the day off, I’d allow myself to stop.

I never ended up quitting. Not once. Every time I was in the thick of things, the choice was always to continue. And that’s a pretty neat hack if you ask me.

The spirits that govern you

You know the angels and devils that bicker over the characters’ shoulders in cartoons? That’s how I see the decision-making process. You get two people telling you whether or not you should do something, and you’re stuck in the middle listening to them argue.

The evil spirits of inertia don’t care about your hopes and dreams. They just want you to remain where you are. Don’t swim upstream. Don’t even lift a finger.

Conversely, the benevolent spirits of momentum are always rooting for you, and they’ll keep you going once you start. And that’s the most important bit: starting.

That’s why it’s good practice to decide only when these benevolent spirits are around. How do you summon them? By being in their world. The world of action.

Don’t really work out? You can apply this to any other discipline too.

Say you want to finish your novel. Draft a couple hundred words, then quit if you really want to. Eat your healthy meals first before reconsidering that doughnut. Saw open your patient’s skull before deciding if you’re really in the mood for brain surgery.

Okay, maybe not that last bit. Wouldn’t want to get ‘a head’ of ourselves. Hee hee.

The minimum guarantee

What I love most about this method is that even after the tiniest investment, and even if I choose to quit after I start, I’ll still have something tangible in hand.

Because writing 250 words a day becomes a full manuscript by the end of the year. Doing 50 push-ups nets you 18,250 in the same timeframe. Meditate for 10 minutes and you’ll end up having spent 3,650 minutes exploring your mind.

Those aren’t rookie numbers too. But get this: they come from rookie effort. Let’s factor in the days when you actually choose to continue, and you’ll easily double—or triple—that amount.

It’s beginning to sound like a great deal, huh? Well, not so fast.

A quick disclaimer

I actually wrote this post using this method. I wasn’t feeling it today. In fact, with work being so hectic, I wasn’t feeling it the entire week.

But I wouldn’t allow myself to decide until I wrote the first paragraph. And look where that got me. I’m currently 700 words in. Not bad for a ‘one paragraph’ effort.

The flip side is that now that I’m here, I’m ready to call it a day even though I’m like 500 words shy from my usual word count. But this is me making that choice now because I can.

And that’s the reality of it. Despite the benevolent spirits’ best intentions, there are days when you’ll just have to throw in the towel. So here’s me practising what I preach on both fronts—to decide only after I start, and to be okay with quitting once I’ve given it a chance.

Because whatever the results, it’s way better than overthinking yourself into oblivion and not knowing what could’ve been.

And you know what they say: nothing great is ever achieved on the couch.

No real message here. Just want to let you know I want your e-mail address in case the site ever goes down. That way, I’ll still have a way of sending you content like this. Plus, you get a free guide on how to grow your blog too.

49 thoughts on “Don’t Decide Anything Until You Do This

  1. Great post! I 100% agree with you on this and this method works perfectly with me too – when I actually want it to work! It is pretty similar to doing things on “auto-pilot” to avoid last minute lazy change of plans. Also “the first step is the hardest” as they say, so the first step is usually the thing that gets us moving, and everything else neatly falls into place afterwards!


    • I love your final sentence. If remind me about the concept in chess. That if you develop your pieces properly, that everything else will take care of themselves. Love finding connections like this. Thanks so much for your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We gotta start somewhere and I like how you used the methodology and plowed through this post with a little less words than usual Stuart.
    The couch is a good place to start.. getting off of it is an ordeal in and of itself.

    This is sound advice…
    “Like I said, I believe that the best time to make a decision is while you’re acting on said decision.’

    With that said, I’m still trying to get back on track since my yoga retreat and WP overload catch up. but first I’m gonna hit the chocolate and hit the chocolate for a boost, then a nap.. lol

    Great post as always with food for thought! 💗


    • I’m guilty of making decisions before I even attempt them, such as talking myself out of an event without knowing if what I imagine will really happen.

      And every time I’m in the middle of an activity, I realise it’s not as bad as I thought. So yeah, deciding one acting is the way to go!


  3. Hey Stuart!

    I really enjoyed reading this. I’ve even put some of these hacks into practice myself – oftentimes with my writing projects. I’m so glad to be back on WordPress reading from some of my favorites like you. I’m even more excited to get back into my writing groove. There’s just something about connecting with others through storytelling that is so incredibly compelling to me. The value I get from WordPress is just a treasure I don’t/can’t get from social media platforms. WP is such a relief for me. Maybe I’ll even write about that, too ;)

    Anyway, I hope you are doing well & I am looking forward to reading more from you in the future!

    All the best,


    • Honoured that I’m part of your favourites list, so thanks for taking the time to drop this kind message! And yes, WordPress’s social climate is much different than the other platforms we have today, isn’t it? And you definitely should write about that.

      Thanks once again, Kaitlyn, and I wish you all the best in your part of the world!


  4. Incredible and detailed oriented blog post my brother Stuart. I really appreciate your input on the blogosphere encouraging us Bloggers to get out of our comfort zone because like the last paragraph, nothing good comes from the couch thus one needs to be action oriented🔥🔥🙌

    Also, I love the point that says “The spirit that govern us” and yes such spirits influence your actions and decisions one way or the other. Lastly, the making decisions whilst your are on the thick of things is a valuable tip because we need to think first then act and not just be helter skelter in driving action and making moves in life💯


    • Building off that spirit comment, I think it’s important that we train the proper spirits so that they become dominant. I’ve realised that when something happens, I can choose to be negative or positive. And whichever I choose, it’s because I’ve nurtured that spirit. Which is why I like to take things harder on myself. So that I get the confidence to default with the positive. Can’t get it any other way. Anyway, thanks for stopping by as always!


  5. This is such a great point. Once I start something, I pretty much always finish. One of the things I took away from reading “Atomic Habits” was “You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist.” Sometimes you just have to start somewhere, no matter how small and insignificant it seems.

    When it comes to fitness, I aim to do “something” every day. Yesterday, I had to go into the office so I missed my workout in the morning. To make up for it, I booked one of our walking workstations and did an hour of slow walking while I called into a meeting. This morning, I was tired but I did a quick 20 minute workout instead of my usual 30-40 minutes. It all adds up!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The 20-minute workouts in place of your usual is a godsend for sure. After the day’s passed, you still get to tell yourself that you did indeed work out, and I think that’s the key in building our identity. Today, I see myself as someone who just works out. All the normal sessions—plus the short ones on days that I feel knackered—have culminated in this identity, which wouldn’t have happened had I only followed my mood. Love your comment, Michelle!

      Liked by 1 person

    • And that’s already better than most. No zero days, as they say. I always love repeating this: I’ve achieved more in life through small steps than through big ones. So here’s to many more five-minute tasks!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah yes, this is really good Stuart.

    The angel-devil deal is akin to the voice of the intuition or Holy Spirit versus the voice of the ego. The angel-Spirit is real and the devil-ego is an illusion but of course, the ego seems so incredibly real because it is all most of us has known. Listening closely to the Holy Spirit requires stilling the mind, quieting it sufficiently to hear the little voice that is Reality, perfect and always guiding you toward fun, freedom and for clearing the deep, unconscious fears that cause all of life’s problems.

    I happen to love meditating to listen to the intuition….right up until it unearths unconscious ego-devil fears that feel highly uncomfortable to embrace. Of course, hug these emotions we must to clear the muck that influences us to make poor decisions in every area of our life.


    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah. I know many people don’t subscribe to this school of thought, but I like seeing my thoughts as radio waves passing through the universe, and that I just happen to be the antennae. It gives me so much more self-forgiveness for the intrusive thoughts, and I can let go of any downward spirals easier. It’s interesting to see how the devil rears its head when it comes to self-negotiations though!


  7. For exercise, I’ve used a variation of your “do it until you work up a sweat” trick. It’s “do it for 10 minutes and if you still aren’t up for it, you can quit.” Occasionally I get 10 minutes in and quit, but usually stick it out. Funnily enough, I talked myself into taking a rest day today (devil 1, angel 0), but I take a rest day every week, so it’s technically ok. I’m on spring break and was considering driving 20 minutes to the gym for a class. That’s when the “10 minutes” thing gets tricky. It would be an awful waste of gas (and time) to only work out for 10 min. Plus, I’d look like an idiot leaving the class that early. Who knows? I might just go for a run later this morning. We’re only going to have a daytime high of 31 degrees F (-6 degrees C), but at least the sidewalks are dry!


    • Well how coincidental that I read a Terry Crews (I think) advice on how you still should just go to the gym, just to make it a habit. Take the gas money as an investment. It’s about building the synaptic grooves in your brain so that it will one day be automatic.

      This is why I love having a couple kettlebells and doing bodyweight routines though. Because I have no excuse not to do it, since the ‘gym’ is just in my living room. Love your comment. Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Yep. Agree totally. The famous Nike slogan really sums this up so well. And so has your post. We should just plunge first, then sort it out later. Even if we didn’t score the 20 laps up and down the pool, at least we’re wet now. So here’s to diving in first, and worrying later. Thanks again for reminding us Stu!!


    • I like the swimming analogy. I think it was Terry Crews who said you should build a habit of going to the gym. That’s it. Just go. Don’t worry about the workout yet until you’ve made going a habit. Of course, once you find yourself there, there’s no reason not to work out, amirite? Thanks for your comment, Kelvin!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I have seen this tactic work so many times but let me tell you, the bad voice sometimes wins 😅 however, just like you said, throw in the towel and start fresh again. Thank you again for your blog posts. They’re my picker uppers. Love reading them <3

    Liked by 1 person

  10. There is so much power in just starting. True that. It’s a shame starting is so difficult. I really DIDN’T want to finish that brain surgery, but if I put it off, I’d just have to scrub up all over again later, so…

    I’ve been off so many blogs for so long. I hope I didn’t miss any goat jokes aimed at me. :/

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I believe this is an approach worth trying. Though again, I will keep in mind that what works for you may not work for me 100% of the time. Still, this is something which can be tried without ahem. Purchasing some expensive course, or turning your home into a gym.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ha. What works for me won’t even work for me 100% of the time, lol. But yeah, it’s all about the averages. And yes, it’s great to have plans that don’t involve a lot of investment. We should only scale up once we want to explore more, amirite?


  12. I’m sadly hearing some anti-donut vibes here..can’t we start with a donut and coffee on occasion🙂🙂? ..excellent advice to start with momentum instead of defaulting to inertia..thanks for the gentle push in the direction of more action.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m actually pro-dessert by heart. But I gotta watch those insulin spikes, since a lifetime of unhealthy eating has gotten me a certain way :P

      And yeah, can never have too much momentum! Unless we’re headed for a brick wall, that is.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. My wife and I both have IQs in the 180-range, though having a high IQ can certainly feel like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s undoubtedly a gift to have an intellect that allows us to see the world in a unique and nuanced ways. We often revel in being able to spot connections between seemingly disparate pieces of information, and come up with creative solutions to complex problems. This can be incredibly rewarding, both intellectually and professionally.

    However, there’s no denying that there can be a downside to this level of analytical thinking as well. The constant need to analyze, and dissect every detail and possibility can be incredibly tiring, both mentally and physically. It can lead to a state of “analysis paralysis” where we sometimes find ourselves unable to make decisions, or take action because we’re so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information we have accumulated.

    For me, personally, I’ve found that the key to managing this balancing act is to try to find a middle ground between my analytical and intuitive sides. While I certainly value my ability to analyze information in a detailed and systematic way, I’ve learned that it’s equally important to trust my instincts and intuition. Sometimes the best decisions come from a place of intuition rather than pure analysis.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I overthink the simplest decisions, like which backpack I should buy (without all the IQ, lol). It gets frustrating because the analytical mind knows it’s overanalysing but can’t do anything about it. I guess my best method of getting over that is by reminding myself that everything won’t matter in the end. Not in a bad way, but in a universe sort of way.

      Thanks so much for sharing your point of view, Thomas!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m not sure about this start without thinking Stuart. I have a bathroom renovation I keep postponing. Once the toilet comes out, I’ll be in deep poo poo with my family if I mess it up.
    Think I’ll keep reading how to manuals. 🚽 Stuart. 😆

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great post Stuart! When I first started reading my brain said ‘NO! that’s not the way to get things done.’ But then I continued reading and I understood. I do this all the time actually, to trick myself into getting things done. Don’t feel like doing the dishes – just wash 2 plates – before I know it they’re all done. Same with laundry folding, just tell myself I can fold 2 items and stop but, like you, I never stop. It’s just a mental trick for me. And it works. Hope you are having an awesome day!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I used to look at it from just do it standpoint, but now I look at it as a I can make the decision after I start. Kinda interesting how our brain changes dramatically, just with these little tweaks. The momentum is real. Thanks for sharing your side of the story! I appreciate you stopping by, Roze!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. As a fellow overthinker, I have discovered the “just get started” approach to both exercise and writing as well. The key is, like you said, truly being okay with quitting if you really want to. Most of the time, I keep going, but either way, I don’t waste so much time and energy trying to talk myself into and then back out of getting going. As far as the gym goes, there was only one time I quit the workout ten minutes in; turns out I had the flu. Thanks for giving me a “great minds think alike” moment today.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thinking really is overrated sometimes. We think too much for our own good, and then those scenarios rarely happen. So for people like us, it’s great that we have the just do it mentality. Else we wouldn’t get anything done lol. Great minds think alike indeed! Great connecting with you!


  17. I love it. There’s a lot packed into this post. I’ll be thinking about it and revisiting it from time to time. And you inserted a chuckle in a great spot:
    “Okay, maybe not that last bit.”

    Liked by 3 people

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