It’s Not Just Knowing When To Give Up

Common sense tells you if A doesn’t work, you take B. If B doesn’t either, you take C.

It’s easy to talk about giving up the failing option.

Until you’ve sacrificed so much time into the original option, there’s a sunk cost.

For example, you’ve been writing a book for years and year and one day you found out no one cared about the topic anymore, all your efforts are lost but because you’ve sacrificed so much time into it, you want to give it a shot anyway.

And with the same result.

The Sunk Cost Fallacy and Us

The Sunk Cost Fallacy isn’t something new e.g. the more you’ve waited at a bus stop, the less willing you are to leave because you’ve already invested time into waiting, so there’s the sunk cost in effect.

Now, this fallacy isn’t just about buses. It’s about any possible task that we can tackle.

  • Writing a report, document.
  • Reading a novel, a book.
  • Doing research.
  • Any projects.

If we were told to stop halfway, we’re probably a bit unwilling.

The Common Productivity Solution

Normally, we would continue regardless of the reality.

But then, some of us understand the Sunk Cost Fallacy, that how much time you invest into something doesn’t mean you’ll get the results you want.

You just have to give it up…

…and move on.

There you go: time wasted, efforts wasted, energy wasted.

Give Up and Simply Move On?

So the common productivity trick is all about learning when to stop and move on?


  • Clearly evaluate the decision. Are you sure your task really has no point of going forward? Or is it just as of now? Would it be valuable in the future? Check whether it is really the best option to give up.
  • Store it. Everything has value. No matter what you have produced, it will always have value and be worth your time, just maybe not now. Don’t immediately throw away your creation, store it for later use.

It’s Not Just Knowing When To Give Up

Knowing when to give up is one thing, knowing what to do next is another.

  • Reflect. Spend some quiet and alone time and think about why you have given up on the task. What you can do to prevent this in the future. Learn from the past.
  • Twist and redevelop. Often times, with some revision, your produce can be remade and converted into a usable form again.

So, what’s the real lesson today?

When you follow the productivity concept about sunk costs, it means it’s wise to give up when you know it’s time and further efforts will be pointless.

Furthermore, the efforts you’ve “wasted” should NOT be wasted. This means you should find ways to turn those time-used creations into something usable. Which means your efforts are never wasted, but just failed work that can be converted to successful work with a little extra time, rather than failed work directly sent to trash.

In other words, the lesson here is, the smarter technique behind knowing when to give up is persisting and converting your task into something you no longer have to give up.

Practical Examples

  • I recently switched my IB (school program) course for Chemistry into History because it was just too hard for me, but the 3 weeks plus the previous introductory years I had in Chemistry allowed me to teach my schoolmates who were younger than me. So, my efforts were not wasted.
  • When I first started this Mind Fuels, it was a weekly posting of random personal development thoughts without a clear topic, so it was sort of a jack of all trades. So, a few weeks ago I refocused the blog into about productivity. This way, I not only did not waste my previous works (which were valuable), I continued the blog with even better stuff.
  • I often wrote articles on a certain topic, at one point, I had several articles I absolutely wanted to delete, but just left them there in my folder. Because I spent some amount of time drafting these and came up with a good story I didn’t want to throw them away for nothing. So after about 1.5 years, I suddenly needed creative ideas and content, and they proved their worth.

Learn to question your habits, should you be continuing it?

Final Thoughts

Knowing when to give up is good.

But knowing how to un-waste the time spent is smarter.