Enough is Enough

When do you cut it short?  When is enough enough?  When is throwing good money or time or energy or your soul… when is it enough?  When is it “too much” already?

How do you know when you’ve put too much energy into a project that hasn’t had a satisfactory return?  How do you know when to sell and when to hold?   When you’ve passed the point of no return?  When it’s time to part ways?  When it’s time to get on with the rest of your morning, your day, your life?

I’m asking these questions because lately it seems like a lot of my energy is getting sapped away by what should be little projects that take more time, energy, sustained attention, and commitment than they should.  And there’s something about staying the course that feels kind of ennnnndddlllesssss… like if my energy reserves could be turned into a sound, it would be a great sucking noise.

Here are two examples.  The first is a personal project that, I must admit, has leaked over into my work time:

Example 1: the free gift calendar

I got a “free” $19.99 calendar from Shutterfly as a result of having made a camera purchase on Amazon in November.  By the time I received the notice, the deadline was only seven days away.  Seemed like a good deal.  I like their calendars.  Okay.  A gift for someone coming right up. 

Suggestion: You can skip all the hairy details in this next paragraph and just feel the time adding up.  And up.  And maybe you’ll begin to notice a spot in your chest getting progressively tighter.

But if you feel compelled to revel in the hairy details, read on:

Set up the account, learn how to do get started.  Decide to make a collage on each page.  Needs more photos than I can upload one by one.  Download the uploader.  Pick out photos and store them in an album on iPhoto. Upload them.  Add them to the calendar creation page.  Start making the calendar.  Have to decide on background, when to start the calendar, which format for each page, how many photos I have for each topic, be creative, etc.  Deal with making mistakes and not being able to undo.  Exit without saving saves anyway.  Use a different web browser so I can add birthdays. And then… the dreaded “I’m talking to someone in India” phone call to resolve a website oddity that I couldn’t imagine they could understand in an email.  But Great! it got resolved. (Competent service. Yes!) With the credit I have, my free calendar only costs $6.47 to ship. 

Yes, it will be a wonderful gift.  But how many hours did I spend?  When I started the project, I figured 3 hours max start to finish.  Real time estimate: 6.4 hours.  Was this how I wanted to spend those 3.4 hours?  No, it wasn’t.

Example 2: Transferring Quicken on my old PC to my Mac

 I won’t even go into the details.  Suffice it say that coming up with what may be the best solution has taken too many steps, each of which has required research… and, when I go forward, trust that whichever solution I choose will not beat me up in the process.  Yet, I have to pick one way and try it.  As you can guess, my old PC was still crowding my desk more than a year after I switched to Mac for everything else but Quicken.

Examples from Academia

  • A career that’s not a good fit.
  • An institution that’s not a good fit.
  • A department that’s not a good fit.
  • A project that’s been stalled too long… hard to get back into it or to get others re-invested.
  • Protracted relearning or exorbitant energy required to migrate to a new computer system.  This could occur when you upgrade to a new computer, of course, but there are many other opportunities for it to show up, including when you modify, upgrade, or convert to: databases, evaluation systems,  computer operating systems, online course management systems, grading schemes, contact maintenance software (e.g., Outlook), and so on.
  • Changing offices.
  • Getting “organized.”

I’m sure that without too much hesitation you can come up with a list of what’s sucking you dry.  So go ahead and do it!  Write down a small handful of projects that fit that criteria.  Then pick one, just one, and write it on the top of a sheet of paper.

OK. OK.  I’m not really sure what you should do with that paper, now that you have spoiled it by writing on it.  Come to think of it… maybe you should stop reading this article right now… or commit to going to the end.  What a PAIN!  These decisions are everywhere, aren’t they?

So here’s the thing to remember: this stuff is not easy to deal with.  Each of us has a point where we just know that we’ve committed too much time, money, energy, or whatever it is, and that we’ve come to the place where we can’t avoid putting off the decision to cut it short or go on.

It seems to me that our goal should be to get to that place sooner and sooner, so that, over time, we reduce how much of our precious personal resource we commit to projects that should have died an early death. 

And that’s where I’ll leave it.  

For now.

-Steve Reiter
comments are closed