The Art of Letting Go
I am not a quitter. I hate giving up on projects or putting something on the backburner because it's just not the right time. It makes me feel like I am disappointing someone (even if it's just a project I'm working on), and I disappoint myself. Sometimes, however, letting go of a project is exactly what needs to happen.
As I've mentioned before, I'm a people pleaser, I agree to most things. By nature, I want to take part in everything. This goes back to learning good time management (see: Time Keeps Ticking Post). Sometimes, however, it's good to know when to put a project to bed. Whether it be that you've worked it to death or you don't have product-market fit, meaning it's not the right time. How do you know when to do that though? It's taken me a long time to figure this out I'm probably still figuring it out. But here are some steps that I've used to evaluate when it's time to let go.
In the past, I used to hang onto projects and not let go because of time sunk. Thinking of the hours I'd sunk into a project I'd think: gosh, I've gone this far, I need to keep going! Sometimes it's a good thing to cut your losses. Think about what you have accomplished along the way, what you have learned and evaluate. Have you given a project you're all? Even though it's either completed or over, do you feel proud of it? If the answer is yes, then perhaps it's time to call it a day. A lot of people believe that giving up is a weakness, that it will get you nowhere and you will seem like a quitter. That is not true. One thing I have learned over the years is that no one ever regretted trying something, they only ever regretted not doing something.
Are You Still Learning?
Perhaps it's selfish, but a lot of projects I take on I do so to learn and expand my skills. A question I always have for myself is, am I still learning? This goes for jobs as well. It's easy to get comfortable in a position or a project. You've done it for so long that it's now second nature. Are you learning though? Do you have the opportunity to keep expanding your knowledge base? For me, when I am no longer learning or growing then I know it's time to move onto a different challenge. This is not an easy decision. If it is a job you are thinking of leaving, do not make this decision on the fly. Have a conversation with your manager, tell them how you are feeling, ask for new tasks and see where it gets you. If it is a project you are leaving, see how you can pivot before jumping ship. Learning doesn't just happen inside a classroom. It happens everywhere.
Product Market Fit
Yes, this is a tech term. However, I believe it can be applied to various things. There have been some projects that I've considered are great, that my team has believed are great but the market? Not so much. Find out if your project has product-market fit first before getting in too deep. Chat with your peers, the people the project is targetted to and find out if it's actually what is needed. This applies the same to jobs, find your product-market fit. Find a career you love and see who will allow you to do that job. While you will not enjoy every aspect of your job, you can grow into those elements and at the very least improve those skills you are only marginally good at.
Find the Joy
I always compare new projects or jobs to a new puppy. At first, it's great, it's cute, it's cuddly, then it shits on your floor. You still, however, love it, and the dog brings you joy. This is how I frequently see my projects. At first, I'm excited by them. They bring me joy, then comes the stress. Do they still bring me joy? Sometimes I need to go back and remind myself about what I loved about the project in the first place. Does it allow me to grow? Am I doing something good for my community? Does it make me happy? If a project is no longer bringing you happiness (even if you are not satisfied with it at the moment, see dog shit on the floor), then perhaps it is time to give it a break. Take some time, figure out if it's where you want to be and if you still love it at the end of the day find the joy.
Practice Doesn't Make Perfect
I love perfection. In my world, there is nothing better than a flawlessly executed project. In reality, there is no such thing as perfection. Should you strive to do your best? Of course! Is perfection attainable? Nope. Letting go doesn't necessarily mean stopping. It can also represent knowing when something is ready to hit the street. Knowing when something is as finished as it is going to get and deciding to put a project to bed. Sometimes taking a step back, sleeping on it and then reviewing a plan is the best way to gain insights into what you are working on and knowing when it is ready for public consumption. Just because you see all the flaws and the items you hate about it, doesn't mean the rest of the world will.
Letting go doesn't have to be difficult, it also doesn't have to be forever. Sometimes moving on and letting can give you new insights and clarity. It can also make you realize what is essential in your life and allow you to clear yourself of excess projects and baggage. Give yourself some breathing room and see how fast clarity can come and help you move onto bigger and brighter things.