Knowing When to Think vs. When to Act

Building a habit of structured reflection and planning to maximize your effectiveness

Mike Sturm
4 min readDec 11, 2021


“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.”

- Andrew Jackson

There is an important line that separates when to think and when to act. But it’s not easy to see-especially in the practice of daily life. On one hand, you don’t want to spring too quickly into action. Acting too quickly, without thinking things through, can end up causing all kinds of issues. You can end up doing the wrong thing, or doing way more than you actually need to.

On the other hand, we don’t want to suffer from paralysis by analysis. Spending too much time thinking about possibilities and mulling over minutiae can keep you from doing anything at all. I ‘ve been known to get way too into the weeds, and become so ensnared that I never end up starting a course of action.

Developing the Skill

With those two undesirable possibilities, it should be clear how important it is to know when to think and when to act. It’s a skill that deserves attention and development. But how exactly can you develop it?

In my experience, there’s one habit above all else that develops this skill: regular and extensive reflection and preparation. It’s why a weekly reflection process is so important, and remains at the top of my task list in the closing day of each week.

When I reflect, deliberate, and plan-it sets me up to act much more decisively and effectively in the coming week. It makes filling out each day’s list easier, because I’ve already reflected and decided on what deserves my time and attention.

A Regular Reflection Session

In order for a regular reflection session to be effective, there’s a minimum amount of ground you need to cover. I’ve found the best success with doing the components in this order because it takes me from past, to present, to future. Though perhaps others are wired differently. As always, use what works for you.

Reflect on the period since your last session.



Mike Sturm

Creator: — A simpler personal productivity system. Writing about productivity, self-improvement, business, and life.