Project Strategy 101: Know When To Quit

First you strip a bolt and then you throw your wrench. After you lose the wrench, you spend too much time looking for it. And this entire time you’re simply getting angrier and more frustrated. By the time you get back to work, your patience is wearing thin and it seems like everything you touch, breaks. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there. And even though it’s easier said than done, we all know the answer. Know when to quit.

Take a break—you’re making yourself crazy.

There comes a point in every project when it’s simply time to walk away. Whether our brain needs a short rest or the job can no longer justify the budget, sometimes you need to throw in the towel. The problem is that many of us don’t know when to quit. And we’ve gotten good at ignoring the signs. We spoke with two tradesmen about this very topic to get their two cents on the matter: Tommy Urbanski, a lifetime car enthusiast and mechanic at Ken Slezack’s Auto Repair in Suscon, PA, and Dan Guyer, a Wheel and Tire Category Manager at Keystone Automotive with a background in racing, off road, and street projects.

Whether the job is for business or pleasure, it’s not always worth trucking on when things go south. In fact, the best thing you can do for yourself is put the wrench down and take a break. “If you keep going and going, you’ll wind up with more of a headache,” said Urbanski. “You’ll start throwing things and smashing them.” And really, then where does that leave you? Guyer agreed that stubborn frustration serves no purpose and outlined the consequences well. “Everything you see becomes a nail and the only thing you have is a hammer,” he chuckled.

Regroup. Refocus.

When working on a project for your own enjoyment, it’s important to remember just that: it should be enjoyable. Sure, a hard day’s work is a rewarding feeling. But so is a good night’s sleep. “If you’re constantly making yourself miserable, the whole project experience is going to suck,” said Guyer. It might seem like you need to get a jump on things—and maybe you even want to. Excitement is a great motivator. But, “once something breaks, you don’t just keep going and wait for the next thing. Tomorrow’s another day,” added Urbanski. “Do something else to take your mind off it … the more you keep going, the worse it’ll get.”

Unfortunately, when work deadlines are closing in, it becomes much harder to know when to quit. In fact, you may feel like you can’t. “If there’s something else that you have to do on your project—nice and easy mindless work to get you back in the mindset—sometimes you have to do that,” advised Guyer. Besides what good is staying on schedule if the work you’re offering is sub par? “There’s a lot of times where something breaks and the boss is saying hurry up. [But] it doesn’t always work out that way … The more you push, the more [stuff] breaks,” said Urbanski. In these instances, even if he knows he may face more pressure, Urbanski said he still works on something else to regain his wits. It’s not worth torturing yourself to meet a deadline, when you’re just not all there. “You forget this or that and you wind up having to tear things back apart,” says Urbanski.

Know When To Hold ‘Em, Know When To Fold ‘Em

There are plenty of times when you’ll find yourself needing to walk away from a task for your own sanity. But every gearhead knows, there can also come that dreaded point when you need to give up on a project altogether. It happens all the time: someone buys a car that they don’t expect will need that much work. And it’s really easy to let pride take over and keep you from quitting. But there’s a big difference between not applying yourself and taking on more than you can handle. “Unless it’s something so unusual or you have some sort of emotional attachment to it, you really have to look at what it costs to get to that end point,” said Guyer.

And like most things in life, our projects can suffer from tunnel vision. Sometimes we’re just too focused on the end result, that we don’t realize we’re knee-deep in a money pit. Guyer revealed the telltale sign to know when it’s time to jump ship: “When you start selling parts off of other projects, you know you’re in trouble.”

Remember, there’s no lost pride in making a smart move. And sometimes that means walking away from a project—even one you’ve invested a lot in. While solid planning and a practical budget can help you stay focused, it’s also critical that you be realistic about your goals. If that classic ride you picked up at the junkyard is really beat up, and you don’t have a state-of-the-art facility, maybe it’s not worth expecting show-car results.

Press Pause

The point is: know when to quit. Know when something is zapping your wallet, or your energy, or your happiness to the point where it’s simply time to part ways. Little stumbles warrant little breaks, but if you find yourself experiencing more stress than enjoyment—say so long. There are other cars and trucks in the sea, my friend. And many of those are better for your mental health.

And just like a bad breakup, sometimes you need a shoulder to lean on. “Something to make a project enjoyable, is having friends who also have projects,” said Guyer. “You help them and they help you.” Having friends to keep you on track or take over a task you’re struggling with is an invaluable asset. Just remember, what goes around, comes around. So when our buddy tosses a wrench in frustration, tell him to relax, crack open a cold beer, and lend a hand.

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