When to Quit
January 13, 2016
Filed In: Philosophy
Around this time of year, I'm always excited by the potential of the new year. I have a long list of things I want to try and do, and inevitably I start running at all of them, at the same time. While the new year is a great time to add some things to your life, it's also the perfect time to pare down activities that aren’t producing results.
Productivity and focus are as much about being diligent with what you take on as they are about quitting. Too often we get lost in our pride, intransigent to our calendar's pleas that we let go of some things. Whether you're single or married, the day still only has 24 hours which means that every minute you dedicate to one pursuit, another pursuit sits idle. The finite amount of time in the day is the biggest reason why you need to be willing to cut certain activities or goals from your life.
Choosing what to cut and what to keep is a major decision. It's made that much harder by the fact that you'll have to face down a lot of emotions. There will be some projects that you should keep moving forward with but that you'll feel the urge to cut. Laziness and inaction are always advocating their case. Ignore them. If it's important, even if you haven't seen progress recently, keep pushing. Projects that need to be cut are the ones that have little potential for success or that don't deliver a good return on investment.
Here's an example. For years now, I've wanted to develop mobile apps. I have no programming experience, but assembled the tools and coursework to get me on my way. A few months into learning how to code, I was making steady progress. As a part of my learning, I immersed myself in the world of developers, listening to their conversations and understanding the nature of the market. I came to the realization that I was going to sink a massive amount of time into learning how to code, more time each year learning new coding languages, more time into programming the app, and a significant chunk of my daily workload into customer support and new feature implementation. All of this time was going to be dedicated to what would likely be very small returns, less than $10,000 over the lifetime of the app. So I could sink a ton of time into a project with dim prospects, or I could work really hard to build up my web design business which was waiting and ready to go.
You're going to face decisions like this all of the time, and January is the perfect time to clean out your to do list. Get rid of the stuff that's getting in the way of doing work that matters. Add in more things that will propel you and those around you to greatness. Be brave enough to quit.