When Is It Time to Quit?

When is it he right time to quit? YBKBS Small Business News for smart business owners
When is it the right time to quit?

“Don’t quit” is popular advice for anyone who is trying to start or grow a business (or, frankly, achieve any other goal.) And I think it’s good advice… up to a point. Giving up too quickly or not persevering through difficulties is pretty much a guarantee of failure. Setbacks are a part of life, and certainly a part of business. 

But I also believe there is value in knowing when you should quit.

What is the Sunk Cost Fallacy?

The sunk cost fallacy is the notion that you should continue to do something because of resources (time, energy, money, etc.) that you have already invested. The term “sunk cost” refers to the fact that you can’t get those resources back. But continuing to do something that isn’t working on account of sunk costs is just going to waste more time and resources.

If something clearly isn’t working, the flip-side of the sunk cost fallacy is deciding to cut your losses. That is, stop before you sink any more resources into a project, business, or activity that isn’t bearing fruit. 

So When is it Time to Stop? 

Quitting is taboo. Many of us are deeply invested in our projects and our dreams, and admitting that something isn’t working out can seem like a personal failure. But it is actually a sign of strength to draw a line under something that is no longer serving you. Quitting doesn’t mean you failed! Instead, it is an opportunity to regroup and try something else.

I asked my colleagues and contacts for their thoughts on when they knew it was time to move on from a project, job, business, or activity. Here are a few of the themes that cropped up. 

When you keep thinking seriously about quitting

“If you’re asking yourself that question for a reasonable length of time, that’s enough,” Andrea said on LinkedIn. If you continually find yourself thinking (or even fantasising) about quitting, that’s something to pay attention to. 

The nature of life and work means it isn’t always easy or possible to walk away just because you want to. But if you really, truly want to and keep thinking about it over a period of time, it might be time to do something different. This is your gut telling you something – listen to it. 

When you’re overwhelmed and unhappy

Burnout can mean you need to take a break, regroup, and then come back to working on your goals. But it can also be a sign that something fundamental needs to change, whether that’s shifting gears entirely or throwing in the towel on something that’s hurting you. 

If you often feel overwhelmed, unhappy, stressed, depressed, or anxious, that’s an excellent sign that it might be time to stop… or at least to slow down and recalibrate. 

Woman walking away with a suitcase, for a feature on knowing when to quit
When you’re not being true to yourself

I realised recently that I was continuing with projects and activities that weren’t serving me not because I wanted to, but because I thought I was supposed to. Other writers said blogging twice a week worked for them, so I should be doing it too. Internet gurus said I should be posting on Instagram to a strict schedule and making my feed colour-coordinated and beautiful, and who am I to argue with people with tens of thousands of followers? And so on. 

“The life I was living just didn’t match who I was,” Georgie said of her previous job. Since quitting and setting up her own business, she is happier and healthier than she ever imagined. The message is clear: stop doing what others expect, and be true to yourself instead. 

When it has no tangible benefits

Does the thing you want to quit doing make you money, get you closer to your goals, bring you joy, or serve others in a way that is meaningful to you? If it doesn’t do any of these things, then why are you doing it? 

Having no good reason to keep doing something is a great reason to stop doing it. 

When your goals have changed 

Very few of us have the same goals and ambitions throughout our life (case in point: I have, at various times, wanted to be a vet, a teacher, an actor, and a competitive horse rider before I settled on being a writer.) 

Goals change for many reasons. Money, major life events like getting married or having a child, and simply undergoing a change of interests as you get older are all very normal reasons. 

If you’re doing something in service of a goal you no longer have, or even one that you feel half hearted about, ask yourself why. There’s no shame in discovering that your goals and priorities have changed, and giving up things that no longer serve you to make room for things that do. 

What Next?

It’s a cliche, but a true one, that everything is a learning experience! Regardless of the factors that led you to do it, try not to see quitting as a failure. Instead, see it as a chance to pause, take a breath, and learn from what went happened. Knowledge and experience is never wasted, and will always stand you in good stead for whatever you want to do next. 

Have you quit a job, business, project, or activity and found yourself happier and healthier for it? Let us know – we’d love to hear your story! 

Do you have a story?

Do you have a small business success story from the COVID-19 era? Drop us a line if so – we’d love to talk to you.

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