Thursday, September 10, 2015

Quit Before You're Finished

I played volleyball in college for two years. I knew I was on a downhill stretch after I turned down a varsity spot twice; what's really the point after that unless you are playing for fun? I have to try really hard to play for fun; I want to win. We were playing to lose and I don't like losing. 

When we lost a Thursday night game I was aching all weekend to get back in the gym. Sweat through another practice remembering it wasn't over yet. That loss wasn't the final call.  Practice was like a sign that it wasn't over. There was still a game even if we had lost. Again. 

I love to play volleyball so practice was always over before I was ready. I loved to play even in the gym with no air-conditioning and I would have ran drills and scrimmaged all night. But for some reason even colleges are weird about you spending time doing homework and passing classes and not just playing ball. So I left every day looking forward to the next practice. 

One of the tricks you learn with kids is to quit before they're done. Stop the activity while everyone is still having fun. Stop before they get bored and start looking to derail the activity. It's a great rule of thumb for small children. 

I've also learned that most rules of thumb for small children are also applicable for adults. Don't run yourself into the ground over something (without a serious deadline) if you want to keep enjoying it. I love to blog. I make no money from it and I'm not trying to. I've read that's one of the quickest ways to hate blogging and I think it would be for me. I don't want to start stressing over something I enjoy. 

This principle means that I don't do things to exhaustion. Ok, correction, I don't do "work" tasks (writing, art, piano) to exhaustion. Some of this is others-imposed. I can only practice piano for so long before my children start climbing the walls. But this practice pays off. 

Creative experts tell you to quit when you know what you're doing next. Quit when you know what the next line is, the next topic, the next chapter. Quit when you know what you need to work on next on the piano- the next scale, the next add-in. Quit when you want to draw another picture or work on chins one more time. 

It's much easier to come back the next day knowing where to start. That's a lot more energizing and you waste less time than if you have to sit and try to think of what to do. Find the new places to start while you are still in the work flow. Give your future self a head start. 

So put up the playdough while everyone's having fun. Stop practicing piano while you are still loving it. Write the first section of that new chapter and then put it down. Let it live in your mind until it's time to go at it again. Work in enthusiasm and not necessity whenever possible. 

Of course this doesn't really apply to cleaning toilets or folding laundry. Just do those and be done. Until tomorrow at least. 

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