man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair

Sometimes it’s better to just quit.

I headed out to my workshop this evening to continue my ongoing project of purging, rearranging, and getting it into a general working condition after quite a period of neglect. Standing amid the mid-purge chaos I tried to jump in and get things going. Notice I said “tried”. Success eluded me.

Earlier in the week I made significant progress in the effort with cabinets moved and bags of trash and unnecessary items drug out of the way. I finished an evening of work with satisfaction things were headed in the right direction and I returned tonight to pick up where I left off. Alas, the hyper focus was long gone and I ran face first into productive paralysis.

I tried getting going, really, I did. I’d pick up something and move it, only to sit it down again somewhere else with no real resolution when I saw three more things needed to happen first. There’s a point where the effort became a lost cause for the night, and I did something I normally don’t do. I quit before I got frustrated.

Up until recently I would have plugged away at the work, pushing myself to show some progress, only creating frustration instead of success. Tonight, I recognized exactly what I was doing to myself, or what my brain was doing to me, and I took off my gloves, turned off the lights, and packed it in for the evening. Now I know you may be saying, “but that doesn’t seem very productive to me” and normally you’d be right if I was measuring things with my old lens of productivity equaling things done. In this case though, I was going to be less productive by doing things than if I stopped.

I changed my focus and started perusing my Pinterest boards (yes, I use Pinterest heavily for ideas for the shop and projects) and found an idea to fix a problem with my workbench that makes it easier to move. This gives me a specific objective to target when I return to the shop. Making this fix I’ll get the little kick of dopamine I need to get rolling again. Without recognizing my “productive paralysis” I’d still be out there, frustrated, angry, and not accomplishing a thing.

Taking the time to be aware of ourselves and working with our brains and how they want to work rather than pushing the “common wisdom” can go miles towards improving your productivity and reducing your stress. Give yourself permission to walk away when you and your brain are working at cross purposes.