I believe that 80% of your overall efforts as a leader should be directed toward execution, toward making things happen. Only 20% of your time should be spent planning. Think about that: 80% of your time. In my experience, this level of commitment to execution is rare, which is why so many leaders and organizations struggle to get the results they desire.

I want to outline some of the common ways I have seen emerging leaders get bogged down by strategy at the expense of action. If any of these examples resonate with you, don’t despair. Not only are these mistakes common, but they usually come from the best of intentions. We overplan because we want to do a great job, and we have been taught that the way to get results is to plan well. While this “rule” might seem sensible on paper, when it comes to the real world, it just doesn’t hold up.

I have fallen prey to most of these pitfalls at one point or another. As you’ll discover, many seem, at first glance, to be perfectly rational things to do, when in fact they can derail progress and forward momentum. But look back on your own experience and consider instances in which your time and effort might have been best spent taking action.

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The key is to be aware. When you notice yourself or someone on your team hesitating or failing to take action because of one of these stalling techniques, gently draw attention to the problem and then refocus on your best next move.

Overplanning is common when it comes to personal investing. People don’t invest because they have too much information. Should I listen to this financial expert or that one? Should I invest in this fund or that one? What’s the very best decision I could make? Days, weeks, months, even years pass, and that person has forfeited lots of compound interest in favour of seeking too much counsel.

Years ago, after a short period of planning, I decided how I would manage the bulk of my investments. I hired an investment adviser, and together we agreed on an investment strategy and what we’d put into this portfolio: growth-oriented mutual funds from respected institutions and shares of stable, well-managed companies. Do I have the most up-to-date, sophisticated investment strategy? Probably not. Do I take full advantage of the brilliant financial advisers I have within my network? I do a pulse check regularly but not so often that I might be repeatedly tempted to change my approach.

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Instead, I have focused my energy on trusting my own plan, one that includes input from a small handful of people, and executing this plan consistently. Sticking to this plan has allowed me to be free of second-guessing. Meanwhile, I know of others who have consistently out-earned me, but in paying too much attention to the latest brilliant fund manager or financial wizard, they have not been as effective with their money.

Economists sometimes talk about the law of diminishing marginal returns. The law works like this: You eat one bowl salted caramel ice cream, and it’s bliss in your mouth. The second is amazing, but not quite bliss. The third is sugary. The fourth gives you a stomach ache. Seeking input from others is also governed by this law of diminishing marginal returns. When I am putting together a plan or seeking input on a course of action, I will choose two or three people I trust and respect, and who think differently from me. The thinking differently part is critical. Often we consult people who think the same as a way of reinforcing the path we want to take. I seek diverse input, make my decision and begin focusing immediately on pulling off that decision as well as I possibly can.

If there are instances in your life or career when you find yourself wondering what someone else would do in your situation or constantly seeking advice and input from others, you may be using this stalling technique as a way of devising a brilliant strategy while delaying taking action. When I notice this happening in my own life, I gently remind myself about the law of diminishing marginal returns. I make sure I have heard from a small handful of people with diverse approaches, and then I place trust in myself, make a call and act. This technique works every time.

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