Knowing When to Quit a Project

You invest so much in your projects. At work, your hobbies, your side hustles. Huge blocks of time and energy go into them.

Sometimes projects stall. Sometimes they grind to a halt. Sometimes they’re stressful, or just not as successful as you’d like. During these times, it’s natural to ask the question:

When is the right time to quit?

It’s not an easy one to answer. Rationality will jog your memory of the reasons you began the project, the instances you regretted quitting past projects, and the rewards that inspired starting. Your gut will jerk you back to quitting because continuing is emotionally draining. Then your gut promptly jerks you back to carrying on because you’ve invested so much already.

We all fall victim to that last one, obsessing over the investments we make. That’s one of the hardest things about quitting.

It’s called the sunk cost fallacy, and it says that it’s irrational to base decisions today on the things we’ve already and lost before. So even though you invested the last 3 months of your life in a startup (or whatever other project you’re contemplating quitting), that doesn’t mean you should continue.

Your previous investment decisions were made with the best information you had at the time. If the information today is different – how you feel, the possible outcomes, what you want – then your decision should be different, too.

That’s how you know when to quit.