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Is This Project Worth Doing? Know When It’s Better to Walk Away

Is This Project Worth Doing? Know When It’s Better to Walk Away

Sometimes a project is just not worth doing. In your business life or your life-life, there are times when it is better to walk away.

In this context, I’m using “walk away” to mean that you are consciously deciding that this project is no longer worth your time and energy. It does not mean you failed. It does not mean you surrendered. It means you are done – even if the project isn’t.

An Easy Example

I love jigsaw puzzles. Over the past three or so years, I’ve been doing LOTS of them and there have only been two I’ve walked away from.

Look closely, there’s almost no edge and more missing pieces than just the sky.

The first, I got the important parts done, I got a good chunk of the not important part done, and after a month of getting only a couple of pieces a day, this was no longer challenge, it was a frustration. The joy was gone, the puzzle found a new home.

The second has more of a story. I get most of my puzzles from second-hand places, so the likelihood of a missing piece (or four) is high. That, however, is something you figure out towards the end. I knew very early on that this one was going to be trouble because I couldn’t find most of the edge pieces – including the corners. However, having done edgeless puzzles before, I looked at it as a challenge and started from the inside and worked out.

There was a lot of blue.

Once I got all the non-blue pieces placed (and a decent number of blue ones as well), I realized several things. First, there were more than just edge pieces missing. Still no corners, but also a couple of big holes in the buildings. Second, I only had blue left and no boundary for it. Finally, I was done. I met the challenge. There was no value for me to spin my wheels trying to make the sky work. There was no joy.

I admit that walking away from a jigsaw puzzle is not earth shattering. However, many people have the mindset of, “I started it, I’m going to finish it.” While that demonstrates a stronger work ethic than, “Meh, whatever,” it can be self-destructive, especially for projects that are supposed to be enjoyable hobbies.

When to Walk Away

How do you know when to leave a project? Well, I’d say that in life-life it’s easier to tell. Do not leave gaping holes in your home, do not leave people at risk of injury or death. Otherwise, if it’s not bringing you joy walk away from it. If it’s something that you MUST complete, complete it by hiring a professional – it will take less time and the end-product will be better than what you would do.

In your business life, the same rules apply it’s just that the lines are not so clear. Don’t leave something broken, do no harm, the joy part gets fuzzy. As a solo-preneur, doing my business gives me joy. Slogging though emails, not always so much. I’m lucky. I have an incredibly small business doing what I’m built to do. The tedious stuff is minimal. The few things I really hate (my taxes, primarily), I hire a professional for.

When people go into business to do something they love, they tend to forget the other stuff. Unless you opened an accounting firm, you probably didn’t go into business to deal with budgets. And accountants probably didn’t go into business to deal with marketing, or HR, or sales, or <fill in the blank>.

If it’s only you, then maybe you deal. Or maybe you don’t, and that’s a different set of problems. It is OK to deal with some projects – like me and my taxes – by hiring a professional. It is more than OK, sometimes it is better to hire a professional. Do my taxes does not bring me joy and EXPENSIVE mistakes are much more likely, why would I do that project?

– Lorrie Nicoles