I'm one of those people who's terrible at saying no. I take on too many projects at once, and spend too much of my time doing things I'd rather not be. I get stuff done, but it's not always the best I can do, or the best way I can spend my time.
That's why my newest goal, both as a professional and a person, is to be a quitter.
Being a quitter isn't being someone who gives up, who doesn't see important things through to the end. I aspire to be the opposite of those things, and think we all should. The quitter I want to be is someone who gets out when there's no value to be added, or when that value comes at the expense of something more important.
I want to quit doing things that I'm asked to do, for no other reason than I'm asked to do it. I want to be able to quit something in mid-stream, because I realize there’s nothing good coming from it.
A friend of mine once told me that "I knew I was an adult when I could stop reading a book, even after getting 500 pages into it." Odd though it sounds, we all tend to do this. We get involved in something, realize we don't want to be a part of it, but keep trucking through. We say "well, I've already invested so much time in this, I might as well stick it out."
I propose the opposite: quit as often as possible, regardless of project status or time invested. If you're reading a book, and don't like it, stop reading. Cut your losses, realize that the smartest thing to do is stop before your losses grow even more, and quit. If you're working on a project at work that isn't going anywhere, but you've already invested tons of time on it, quit. Take the time gained by quitting the pointless project, and put it toward something of value. Instead of reading an entire book you hate, read 1/2 a bad one and 1/2 a good one. Isn't that a better use of your time?
If you're stuck doing something, and don't really want to do it anymore, step back for a second. Ask if you really have to do this, and what value is being produced from your doing it. Don't think about the time you've put into it, or how much it's taken over your life. If you don't want to do it, and don't have to do it, don't do it.
By quitting these things, you'll free up time to do things that actually do create value, for yourself and for others. You'll have time to read all the great books out there, or at least a couple more. You’ll be able to begin to put your time and effort into the things you'd actually like to do.
Let's try it together: what are the things you're doing, that you're only doing because you've been doing them for so long? Quit. Don't let time spent dictate time you will spend. Let's learn how to say "no" at the beginning, or in the middle, and free up more of our time to do the things we’d like to be doing, and the things actually worth doing.
Saying no is hard, and admitting a mistaken yes is even harder. But if we do both, we'll start to make sure that we're spending our time creating value, rather than aggravating our losses. Let's be quitters together.
What do you think? What in your life can you quit?