How to succeed at quitting, which makes you a winner in using your time

by | Oct 8, 2022 | Blog | 0 comments

Is “quit” a four-letter word in your world?

Technically yes, because of its four letters: q-u-i-t.

But it’s not one of those four-letter English language words that’s considered profane.

For many though, to quit is to fail, another four-letter word that has a bad rap. If you quit, you’ve failed to stick with something to the finish line, such as a project, an assignment, a job, or a relationship. And therefore, the act of quitting can make you a failure. In this situation, quitting is proof that you don’t have the grit, perseverance, and fortitude to follow through.

But is having grit always a virtue, especially when you intentionally make the decision to quit?

For example, quitting a job can be a badge of honor that sets you up for future success. (Cue up Johnny Paycheck in Take This Job and Shove It.) And the current craze of quiet quitting is an act of bravery by some. (For another point of view, check out Derek Thompson’s The Atlantic article Quiet Quitting Is a Fake Trend.)

Knowing when to quit jobs, passion projects, relationships, and other commitments and then doing so can be a valuable skill in today’s world. And the quitting skill is easier to develop and practice when you view time as money. That is, time is something to spend and invest to get a meaningful return.

In her recent essay in The Atlantic, Why Quitting Is Underrated, the author and former professional poker player, Annie Duke explained that in poker “knowing when to quit is a survival skill that separates elite players from the rest of the pack.”

Duke further observed that “We fear that when we quit we are admitting failure—that we have wasted our energy. But we need to start thinking about waste as a forward-looking problem, not a backward-looking one. That means realizing that spending another minute or another dollar on something that is no longer worthwhile is a far bigger waste than whatever we have already invested.”

YES!!! I concur with Duke that considering the value of time–current and future—is a useful life skill. Thanks to my experiences in consulting, I learned this early on in my career. The consulting firm that hired me right out of college assigned me an hourly rate, a whopping $52 an hour.

I fully embraced the value of my time and started doing cost/benefit analyses around almost everything that involved spending time. For example:

Q.From my location in Fairfield County, CT, should I drive into New York City or take the train?

A. Take the train because I can do two things at once: read while traveling.

Q. Should I take a cab to my next appointment in NYC or walk?

A. Ride because it’s faster and keeps me fresher. (Today I’d walk to get the exercise. Plus it would probably be faster considering the traffic patterns in NYC for cabs, Ubers and all other vehicles.)

Q. Should I sew a new dress or buy one?

A. Buy one. (True confession. I think my calculations either discounted or excluded shopping time since shopping was fun back then.)

Over time, I also started analyzing the time my colleagues and I spent in meetings and other practices. For example: Were we realizing the full value of all of us meeting? Did we really want to invest this much brainpower and time in a proposal if it was so unlikely we’d be awarded the work? Was this email message deserving of this much time?

Years later, one of my corporate clients who had recently left an agency told me he appreciated working with individuals who had agency and consulting experience because we were much more conscientious about how we spent and invested our time than those who had been in corporate all of their careers. My client’s comments inspired us to do a segment on “time as money” in one of the offsites I designed and facilitated for him.

Today, in my role as an executive coach, I encourage my clients (and myself) to regularly analyze how they’re currently spending their time and how they’re planning to keep investing it. And if they’re not getting the value they want and expect, it’s time to figure out how to cut their losses and move on. Yes, that can mean quitting passion projects and graciously bowing out of other commitments at appropriate times.

To help you decide if it’s time to quit, you can ask yourself these questions, using a scale of “1” to “10” with “1” being low and “10” being high:

  • How well does this (thing) fit my purpose/brand/goals?
  • How well does this (thing) fit my personal needs/goals?
  • To what extent does this (thing) recharge me? Drain me of energy?
  • To what extent is this (thing) helping me grow, develop, and learn?
  • To what extent is this (thing) exposing me to new people, experiences, and opportunities that I can leverage for my future?

When I ask my clients and myself these questions and others, we often find major misalignments between what we’re doing with our time and what we’re wanting. (If you rate one of these questions “7” or lower, you’re likely to be feeling misaligned.)

Some common problems include the following:

  • Involved in too many solitary pursuits for those craving craving collaboration with others, especially after the past two-and-a-half years.
  • Feeling spread too thin over too many pursuits to make a meaningful impact on any of them.
  • Having lost interest in a topic and are going through the motions as if sleepwalking.

Whatever the degree of alignment you find, taking the time for this analysis is worth its weight in gold. You then can decide if you want to move forward as is, pull back, or quit. And quitting makes you a winner in allocating your time in ways meaningful to you.

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