When Do You Kill a Project to Save the Time?

download (8)Time is precious.
I know; thank you, Captain Obvious! It seems like freelancers, especially ones with a bajillion hats (parent, editor, teacher, etc) know that time is the most valuable commodity more than most people. So, it’s important to look at what goes into your hourglass and evaluate when to give up, when to stay at it.

I realized this several times lately.

One was while reading The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. Over the course of 2008, I have read at least one book per week. Most of them have been non-fiction , either about writing or financial planning. I figure I can become responsible – I just have to buy the book! And yes, I do have to buy it.

Despite what those financially planning books suggest about using the library to save money, my library fines tell me otherwise. You try getting banned from a public library – it’s tough, but if you’re tenacious enough, they will revoke all of your borrowing privileges. But I moved away from that municipality, on to terrorize some other poor librarian looking to secure my feckless buck.

So, back from the tangent. I’m reading The Portrait of a Lady. It’s the first fiction book I have read in ages, so I might have started off with a lighter, less plodding read. I’m on page 364 and I’ll be there until I pick it back up again, at some undefined point in the future. So, technically, scratch that – I’ve NOT read The Portrait of a Lady.

Some people pick up a book and are comfortable tossing it after the first ten pages of boredom. For me, it takes about 364 pages.

But this is a symptom of the disease. I now notice I am notorious for picking up projects, jobs, friends – ahem – and then find I am not enjoying the process. Then I stick with it, trying to squeeze champagne out of rocks.

So, when do you know that it’s something to give up, and not one of those times when persistence will pay off? I obviously don’t know. Just like I don’t know why Isabel Archer had to marry Osmond, or why I decided to read the book in the first place. Probably because I hadn’t read anything fiction in a long time, so I wanted to cart around something that made me seem pretentious on the bus.

So, there’s the root problem – motivation. My motivation for reading the book was to look smart and cool on public transit. Let’s just face it – if I don’t already look like one of the coolest people on the bus, I’m in real trouble and no longer have any business querying fashion magazines.

So, when deciding the time to pack it in, and lose the book under your bed until the next time you move, the best place to start is considering your motivation when you began the endeavor.

Are you getting what you wanted out of the situation? Why or why not? Are the solutions outside of your realm of control? Is the amount of effort required to repair the situation worth the outcome?

Have you given up on anything recently that brought a welcome relief?