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Offer valid til...

I often find myself planning as if I have unlimited time to take advantage of opportunities and make decisions. This is silly. It means I often miss out on things that are time-sensitive. It is not appropriate in all circumstances.

It is sometimes a good idea to act as if I have a long time horizon, which is why I do it. Often you are pressed to make a decision that for you is not terribly time-sensitive. Sometimes "time sensitivity" is out to get you. The classic examples are when you are buying a house or a car or renting an apartment. In those circumstances you may be pressed to make a decision now. The car salesman or real estate agent or whoever would like you to behave quickly. Resisting this frame seems like a good starting point in general.

But it's not always a good idea.

The problem is, opportunities really do decay. Especially if nobody explicitly tells you that they do.

Examples of opportunity decay abound. Job leads go away: Eventually that organization will fill the role, or give up on looking and find other things to do with itself, or go broke, or... et cetera. Conversation topics go away: Eventually you will lose interest in that thing you wanted to talk about. You want to ask that person about what they learned from that project they did? You want to ask about that Slay the Spire run log someone posted? Better ask soon. Before long they will forget. Dating leads go away: That person you might want to date probably isn't sitting in a dark room waiting on you. They may find someone. They may move away. They may otherwise become out of reach. Friendship leads: See both previous areas. That meetup group or Discord or other community: May implode, or explode, or drift apart; maybe the "leader" runs into real life issues and no one fills that void. Anything could happen. That conference: You buy admission and show up, or you don't. It happens on the day it happens, no going back. No option lives forever.

You really may not get another chance.

You will get at most finitely many additional chances.

It is worth acting like this is the case.

This isn't to say you should do the thing, whatever it is. It is often a good idea not to do the thing. There are a lot more things out there then there is time to do them.

But: Remember your budget. This chance will only last so long. Sometimes you have to take it or leave it. Sometimes you have a few moments or minutes to think. Sometimes you have hours, or days, or weeks. Still, a finite amount of time. Know how much time you have and use it wisely. Going overbudget means you lose the chance by default.

Getting more info is often available and a good idea. Sometimes that looks like asking about benefits on a job posting: Write down a specific question and contact someone who would know the answer. Sometimes it looks like pursuing the opportunity a little bit: Talking to that person you want to talk to, which will give some information about whether you two may want to continue talking. Sometimes it might look like talking to someone who would know more about the opportunity – to a friend of that person you might want to date. If you have the budget for it, more info is often useful. Don't go overboard, of course.

Pursuing the opportunity a little bit is not the same as committing, especially in social scenarios. You are committing to the next little bit: In a conversation, a brief question/response or statement/response cycle; with dating, the next date. (There was a David R. MacIver (notebook?)/Overthinking Everything post about this but I can't find it right now. I may edit it in later.)

Efficiency counts. The less time you take, the sooner you can execute. If you don't have particular actions you can take to improve your decisionmaking, consider that thinking about it more may not help, especially in a social situation. If you have time, ask yourself what information could you get that would be helpful. If there's nothing more you can learn that would help, don't waste more time worrying about it, because you've already made the call – act like it.

Abstaining can be a mistake. Even if in this case it happens to go "not amazingly." There is no single error rate. Often doing the thing is not that expensive. Say you decide to talk to someone and the conversation peters out quickly. You don't hit it off. On average you lose a few minutes. Even the worst case is probably not so terrible unless you have a specific reason to believe it would be; let's suppose here you don't have a specific reason. The upside meanwhile can be quite high. So give it a shot. You might get something out of it.

Remember that if you don't want to do it now, you probably won't want to do it later either, for exactly the same reasons. Do your future self a favor and do it now. Unless you really can't, in which case you should plan to do it the very next chance you get. Barring specific reasons you can't do it, plan as if it will never be easier than it is now and you'll be, if not precisely right in general, only rarely meaningfully wrong, in the sense that it really was a bad idea to do now.

(Remember, every time you put it off you're going to be making the same decision in the future. Putting it off makes you more the kind of person who puts that thing off. You are probably not going to make the decision in the future if you don't make it now. Unless there are specific reasons now that will be different at some specific future point you specify. Ask yourself if that's the case.)

For a social event like a party or a conference, it is probably useful to plan on changing your plan. As far as planning goes, outside the things you are obligated to do, it is fine to "write down" an idea for what you may want to do. But at the same time, it is worth being open to opportunities as they come up. You should plan to do something else in those "loose idea" time slots if something comes up that seems like a good idea. For example: Talking to a person you met at the conference. I may write more about this later.

Probably it would help to meditate. I couldn't say for sure yet; it seems likely but I can't point to any concrete results yet. I may get back to you on that.