Knowing When to Stop

Red stop sign

“There’s a big difference between giving up and knowing when to stop.”

– Unknown

For various reasons, I’m currently making a decision about a project I’ve been working on for a few months now. In all likelihood, I will decide to bring it to a close. Why? Because it hasn’t had the impact on my business I was hoping it would have, and all it’s doing is eating time and stressing me out.

Giving up on something or calling it quits is rarely easy. But it’s also an important thing to be able to do. If you never give up on things or bring things to a close, you’ll end up with a bunch of projects that are eating all your time and still not getting you where you want to go.

So how do you know when to stop? Here are a few signs you might want to look out for.

The thought of stopping makes you feel relieved

Your gut often knows exactly what’s up if you just listen to it. When you think about giving up on that project, ditching that client, closing that door, how do you feel? If you feel relieved, even if that relief is mixed in with other emotions, that’s a sign that it might be time to stop.

It’s not making you money

Obviously making money isn’t the only reason we do things. But if you’ve undertaken something as part of your work or business life and it isn’t bearing fruit, at a certain point it can be a good idea to leave it behind.

Things can take time to make you money, of course. I’m hoping this blog will generate cash someday, though it certainly hasn’t yet. Remember that things can also make you money in indirect ways. For example, your blog or mailing list can bring in leads for your business. But if something isn’t making money (directly or indirectly) within a reasonable amount of time, it’s perfectly fine to call it quits and cut your losses.

It’s not making you happy

Passion projects are a thing, and they’re something I am very in favour of. But perhaps this project once brought you joy, but isn’t doing so any more? Or perhaps you didn’t enjoy it as much as you thought you would? That’s okay! The point of passion projects is that you need to be, well, passionate about them.

If you’re not, you’ve just made an obligation for yourself that is going to stress you out. It’s okay to stop.

It’s taking up time you could better use elsewhere

Time, sadly, is finite. That means we need to be mindful about how we’re spending it. If you’re ploughing tonnes of time (or even a little time) into something that isn’t making you happy or yielding results, it’s time to stop.

Do you find yourself thinking about what else you could do with that time? Whether it’s another project, or just resting or watching Netflix? If so, it might be time to move on and use that time to do that other thing instead.

It has no clear direction

Why did you want to do this project in the first place? Presumably you had a goal, an end point, or at least a direction in mind at some point? But projects can easily lose direction and veer off from their intended course. If this is happening, it’s a good idea to take a step back and assess the project’s purpose and goals. And if it no longer has a clear direction or goal? Yep, it’s probably time to stop.

Your business or goals have changed

Businesses and goals go through changes over time. This is pretty much inevitable. If your business, your focus, or your long-term goals have changed, your projects will need to change to match. And that might mean letting go of something that is no longer serving the bigger picture.

The bottom line: trust yourself

You know your business, your goals, and yourself the best. That means you’re best placed to know what is good for you and what it’s time to move on from.

So trust yourself, listen to your gut, and if it’s no longer fulfilling its purpose? Let it go!

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