How to develop a bias for action?

Nilesh Mahajan
2 min readNov 10, 2021

There is a popular saying — an idea can change the world. I disagree. Ideas are powerless. They cannot move a grain of sand by themselves. What really changes the world is — ideas set in motion. Without anyone acting on the idea, nothing really changes.

I was fortunate to work with some of the top engineering minds at Uber. The ability to get things done was easily the most identify-able distinction between successful and unsuccessful colleagues.

Unfortunately, it does not come naturally to everyone. I have seen many peers, even senior ones struggle with it. The primary reason for this is overthinking and fear of failure.

But there is good news — you can build bias to action like a habit by doing below things over and over -

1. Set constraints

Interestingly, the human mind works miraculously well when it operates under constraints. So define reasonable constraints on your idea like kind of use cases, time, capital etc to reduce overthinking.

2. Get over perfectionism

Perfect things cannot be built on day one. Rather, things are built and then perfected over time. So don’t let this compulsive desire to make everything perfect stop you from doing things.

3. Break down into actionable milestones

This is a basic productivity hack. Break down your work into milestones. Once you identify what’s most essential to your next milestone and forget everything else. Then start with smaller tasks to build the momentum.

4. Learn as you do

Don’t expect yourself to know everything before you begin. Instead, believe in yourself that you will adapt as the new problems emerge.

5. Take calculated risks

Don’t wait for all permissions before you do things. If the action is reversible, take charge, do it and be open to apologise later if required.

This one habit has the ability to change the trajectory of your entire life. So, just do it.

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