Fridays are tip days at SimpleProductivity blog.
I really try to take what is useful from my blog reading, and leave the rest alone. But an article over at Dumb Little Man, “How to Know When to Quit” really rubbed me the wrong way.
It’s not that I don’t believe in quitting. I do.
I believe in the power of jettisoning things to make room for things that have more meaning. And I do have criteria for when I personally know the end is near.
The article lists four times when it is good to quit, and gives examples. It’s the examples that really put my back up.
You Just Wish It Was Over
The example given here was a long term project, like a degree, or a career. Really? Quit a degree program a few months before it’s done? Hang up on a career because you wish you were doing something else at the moment? The truth is, with both of these examples, this is not when you want to quit.
Leaving a degree program with a few months to go is just a waste of time and money already spent. I personally think that getting a degree is mostly more about learning to think than learning specific skills (there are exceptions, like medicine, and most of the engineering practices).
Of most of the highly successful programmers I know and work with, very few of them have a degree in computer science…and those who work with us who have degrees in computer science are rigid in thinking, unwilling to consider deviating from the way they learned.
Same with many careers. No one gets the dream job right away in a corporation. Everyone has to pay their dues. Junior accountants are required to put in the long hours — no fresh CPA is going to be given a partnership in a firm without those hours of experience. Yet it is those same hours that are long, boring and tedious.
So no, I don’t think that wishing it was over is a good way to determine when to quit. Many times, persistence pays. And you have to take that into account when deciding to quit.
Just as a side note, I realized three months before my graduation date that I really didn’t like designing computer chips. But having lost a complete year at university due to a switch between music performance and engineering, I was certainly not going to prolong my university experience. I finished the degree, got out, and went to work in a field I enjoy.
There’s No End In Sight
The point here in the article was that sometimes there is no end in sight, and it’s no longer enjoyable, so you should consider quitting.
Some things don’t end, and they are not all that fun or challenging. In fact, most of the things that we do everyday to make ourselves presentable and our homes sanitary and liveable fall into this challenge. It’s not an option to give up on doing laundry just because there is always more to be done. Dirty clothing is a byproduct of wearing clothes, and must be dealt with.
Do I get to give up cleaning the cat box because I don’t like to? I think not. No, I choose to be an adult and go with the sometimes tedious tasks that result in enjoyable outcomes (in this case, having two wonderful feline companions).
You’re Not Gaining Anything New
The point here in the article was that you might have moved beyond a particular activity, or are no longer gaining knowledge, and should consider quitting. While I can see the point of not engaging in hobbies you have lost interest in, I find the statement of leaving “particular groups or classes where there’s nothing new to learn” arrogant. There is always something more to learn. And if you can, you should teach what you know. I always learn something from my students, because they challenge me to look at problems in different ways.
Another mention was made about employment — consider quitting “a job which was once exciting but now feels stale”. For me, my job is rather humdrum. I am not learning new technology. But I’ll share a secret with you: my job is just a job, where I exchange my knowledge, skills and time for a decent paycheck. It’s not a career for me, it’s a job. I leave it behind at the end of the day. It’s not exciting, for the most part. I don’t work in cutting-edge technology anymore. But I am getting paid, and that paycheck supports other areas in my life.
Your Priorities Have Changed Radically
The example given here is that radical life events should make you consider what you do and possibly quit. Having a child does alter your schedule. I laugh at all the grandiose ideas I had before I had my daughter.
But the thing is, a radical event in your life is just the time that you don’t want to fly off and start jettisoning things. I believe you need to take time to let the dust settle before upsetting your life further. Six months, in fact, is my rule of thumb.
The point here is that you don’t want to reject something based on the emotions of a major upheaval. Too much is going on, and in the case of having a new baby, the lack of sleep can really cause a lapse of mental clarity. To quit pursuing something in reaction to a life event is not the way to go. Evaluating an activity rationally, without emotion, is best, and after a major life event, that lack of emotion comes only with time.
When I Know To Quit
My quitting things is based on two considerations. I first consider the impact on myself or others before quitting. For instance, walking away from my degree was not an option because of the effort I had put in. Having spent five years and thousands of dollars in student loan, it would be unconscionable to not get something to show for it.
If there are other people depending on me, that has to factor into it, as well as what is at stake. If people are depending on my doing something, I personally cannot just walk away without an effort to find a replacement.
For things that do not impact other people, I put them in a “lockbox”. I put them away for a few months, and evaluate them again at that time. Sometimes it is only a break which is needed.
I also make sure that emotion is not part of it. I went through a particularly nasty spell on my job this past summer, where I would walk in and ask myself, “Is today the day I walk out without notice?” My emotions were running high, but I chose to implement the six month rule, and work toward a solution. By making my concerns known to our HR department, and talking directly to two Vice Presidents, things worked out and I transitioned to a new team.
A Word on Responsible Quitting
When I aborted over half of my commitments a few years ago, I didn’t simply walk away. That wouldn’t have been responsible. I instead made sure that things were covered and handed over so that the projects could continue. It took me almost four months to transition the website I was doing for a local non-profit, but when I left, it was with the knowledge that this critical organizational function would continue to work for the group.
What do you think? When do you quit? Do you agree or disagree with me? Let me know below!
Photo by fuzzcat