While I do believe in the power of quitting, I want to suggest recalibration before quitting as a path to explore instead. I encounter this when working with women who want to be more fit and start running. They hate it. It feels terrible. The magical endorphins of a runner’s high never appears. Races are just full of uber-runner gristle sticks taking it all too seriously.
And they quit declaring exercise to not be for them.
What I encourage instead is recalibration before quitting. Small, sustainable adjustments to habit change to make it something that does work for you. There are paths to recalibration depending on the person, the habit change, and the reasons it is not currently working.
Let’s take a look at a few.
Too Much Too Soon
Sometimes a habit change or project is just too big to tackle all at once. I mentioned on a recent Sustainable Productivity Podcast episode that I was working on a photo clean up project that I avoided for about two years because of the size and complexity. There are about 180,000 photos on our server, but at least a third of those (maybe even closer to half) are garbage or duplicates. I made a mistake when transferring files from our old server resulting in 180,000 photo mess.
“Fixing Lightroom” has been on my to do list for over 700 days. But that was too much so I quit before I got started. Recalibration with this effort looks like small, repeatable bites at the 180,000 photos.
My original goal was 1 hour of editing most days of the week. This is just the right amount for me right now.
I Keep Forgetting
It is hard to remember that you want to start or change a habit. It sounds weird, but it is hard to put something where nothing existed before. A friend and I agreed to exchange gratitude lists at the end of each day. It was important to me. I committed to her. I thought about different things throughout the day that I wanted to send. Then turned on Netflix and promptly forgot.
Instead of me throwing up my hands and declaring this to be a failed experiment, enter recalibration. I set a reminder on my phone to go off each night at the same time. The voice in your head saying you would remember if it was important is a liar. Your brain is full and just needs help. Here are a few ways you can help your brain help you.
- Add a recurring appointment to your calendar to do your new/revised habit.
- Set a reminder on your phone for the same time each day to do your new/revised habit.
- Put a post it note in your planner to remind you of your new habit. Once you complete it that day, move the post it to the next planned day for your new / revised habit.
I Don’t Know Where to Start
Part of wanting to grow the Sustainable Sue business is showing up consistently. For myself, other creative business owners, and for my readers/listeners. When I first started writing here, I did not know what it meant to show up consistently in all of those areas. I was all over the place. Sure each week I got an essay put up, but I felt like I was spending a lot of time on the process instead of the creative stuff.
I decided to make a checklist of what I wanted to do each day. It started as a brain dump something like this:
- Write weekly essay
- Write, record podcast
- Connect with other creatives
- Research freelance writing opportunities
- Social media outreach for Sustainable Sue
- Learn how to be an entrepreneur
Then I split things out based on the rhythms of my personal energy, my day job and personal schedules, and spreading out the content. For example, I do podcast activities on Mondays while I am fired up and rested from the weekend. Fridays tend to be lower key on the fixed schedule stuff so I use it as a catch up Sustainable Sue day.
This is really helpful when I am tired and generally out of sorts. I only have 1 hour each morning before my day job starts to get Sustainable Sue work done. Late last year I took a week off from Sustainable Sue work. When I sat down after a week off, I did not know what to do. It was just brain fog from being out of routine (and lots of candy and cookies during that break). Because I had my list of what I do on a Monday, I could recalibrate my brain fog into my routine.
Lack of Motivation
Tell me if this sounds true: The Sue that comes up with these plans is seldom the Sue who shows up to execute them. Please tell me I am not alone in this. Once a week I do a specific set of physical therapy exercises. Each Friday I put “PT exercises” on a day for the following week.
This week when that day came it seemed much more important to find out what happened to Igor from Season 9 of Alone than to do the pushups and clam shells. I wanted to quit before I got started. But you know what – the work does not need to be liked. It needs to be done. I promised myself 10 minutes of Igor between each set instead of just barreling through it all. No set? No Igor.
I pulled up my PT checklist and worked my way through the exercises. If I asked myself in the moment, what exercises I wanted to do?
Yep, none. Don’t rely on motivation, you will quit more often than not. Have a plan that you can use for recalibration.
Sustainable You Reflections
- When is the last time you wanted to quit? Whether you did or did not, how did it feel?
- Where can you use calendars, timers, or reminders to support habit change?
- What carrots (or Igors) can you use to motivate you to recalibrate the next time you want to quit?
Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that work for you.