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Why I’m Trying to Become a Quitter

Why I’m Trying to Become a Quitter
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    I’m one of those people who’s terrible at saying no. I take on too many projects at once, and spend too much of my time doing things I’d rather not be. I get stuff done, but it’s not always the best I can do, or the best way I can spend my time.

    That’s why my newest goal, both as a professional and a person, is to be a quitter.

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    Being a quitter isn’t being someone who gives up, who doesn’t see important things through to the end. I aspire to be the opposite of those things, and think we all should. The quitter I want to be is someone who gets out when there’s no value to be added, or when that value comes at the expense of something more important.

    I want to quit doing things that I’m asked to do, for no other reason than I’m asked to do it. I want to be able to quit something in mid-stream, because I realize there’s nothing good coming from it.

    A friend of mine once told me that “I knew I was an adult when I could stop reading a book, even after getting 500 pages into it.” Odd though it sounds, we all tend to do this. We get involved in something, realize we don’t want to be a part of it, but keep trucking through. We say “well, I’ve already invested so much time in this, I might as well stick it out.”

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    I propose the opposite: quit as often as possible, regardless of project status or time invested. If you’re reading a book, and don’t like it, stop reading. Cut your losses, realize that the smartest thing to do is stop before your losses grow even more, and quit. If you’re working on a project at work that isn’t going anywhere, but you’ve already invested tons of time on it, quit. Take the time gained by quitting the pointless project, and put it toward something of value. Instead of reading an entire book you hate, read 1/2 a bad one and 1/2 a good one. Isn’t that a better use of your time?

    If you’re stuck doing something, and don’t really want to do it anymore, step back for a second. Ask if you really have to do this, and what value is being produced from your doing it. Don’t think about the time you’ve put into it, or how much it’s taken over your life. If you don’t want to do it, and don’t have to do it, don’t do it.

    By quitting these things, you’ll free up time to do things that actually do create value, for yourself and for others. You’ll have time to read all the great books out there, or at least a couple more. You’ll be able to begin to put your time and effort into the things you’d actually like to do.

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    Let’s try it together: what are the things you’re doing, that you’re only doing because you’ve been doing them for so long? Quit. Don’t let time spent dictate time you will spend. Let’s learn how to say “no” at the beginning, or in the middle, and free up more of our time to do the things we’d like to be doing, and the things actually worth doing.

    Saying no is hard, and admitting a mistaken yes is even harder. But if we do both, we’ll start to make sure that we’re spending our time creating value, rather than aggravating our losses. Let’s be quitters together.

    What do you think? What in your life can you quit?

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    Photo: windy_sydney

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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