There comes a point in every person’s mental or creative stamina when progress is no longer being made. Thus, sometimes the key to top-notch productivity is simply knowing when it’s time to quit.
Today I got up early, dropped off my pup at doggie daycare, and returned home to set up my recording studio for the day. I’m in the midst of making my first album as a vocalist/guitarist and today is yet another chance to see if I can record some great takes for any of my 14 original songs.
For the first few hours of the morning, things were going quite well. After recording four or five takes of my designated song for the day, I decided to move on to a second song for extra credit. I got down a take or two but then started making small mistakes: a forgotten lyric here, a stray note there. What was going on? It was no mystery – my brain was simply growing fatigued.
And herein lies the greatest challenge I’ve run into throughout the entire recording process, and admittedly, it’s been a challenge that I didn’t expect in the least. It’s not been mental focus or technical precision. It’s not been nerves or anxiety. It’s not even been the steep learning curve of recording software and equipment.
The most difficult part, as it turns out, has simply been knowing when to throw in the towel for the day and resolve to come back fresh the next.
Perhaps you’ve encountered something similar as you’ve been crafting a proposal, working on a design, writing a session summary, or whatever else it may be that you do in your work. Surely there’s been a time when your mental stamina reached its limit and the quality of what you were working on was going down, down, down by the minute.
In truth, we’ve ALL been there. We’ve all been there because we’re driven and devoted individuals. After all, we wouldn’t be entrepreneurs or creatives if we weren’t.
But what do so many of us do in these situations? The smart thing of course would be to stop as soon as we recognize the onset of mental fatigue and go do something else for a while to give our brains a healthy break.
But is that what we do?
Nope. Not at all. Instead, we press on in absolute futility because we want nothing more than to get THIS thing done, this thing that we care so deeply about.
And when we do press on for another hour, or another three, while we might get lucky and end up with some small gem that comes out of our blood, sweat, and tears – more likely is that the best of us was captured in that initial fresh period, and these additional hours have in fact been an absolute waste.
And so I ask you: Do you know when to quit?
Knowing when to quit is hard, but it also reaps huge rewards. It adds hours to our day that we can then spend in leisure (maybe even playing with the pup?) or getting work done in another area that uses a different part of our brain!
So if you take one thing away from this blog post today, make it this: imagine that you’re installing an alarm system in your brain right now. This alarm will go off when you begin sliding into that place where the best, strongest, most creative version of yourself has retired to the bedroom and been replaced with an exhausted, stark raving mad dum-dum.
Speaking of which, it’s been a few hours since I put my guitar down and went over to my laptop to write this blog. I think I’ll go back and take another crack at that song. Who knows, maybe I’ll nail it this time.