Waiving the white flag can be a productive move. Notice here how I didn’t use the words “giving up or “cutting our losses? It might seem like simple semantics, but my word choice highlights the point I’m making; I’ll get into the reasons below. Apropos of this season of spring cleaning, I want to discuss how surrendering that which doesn’t serve us is a smart way to make forward progress.
Surrendering is Proactive Behavior
“Why does ‘surrendering’ count?” you might ask. Integral to the act of surrender is one’s acknowledgment of the facts of their present situation. Surrendering is seeing the situation for what it is, and then choosing to capitalize upon it.
Productive Surrendering in Action: Sock Bankruptcy
Recently, a friend said to me, “I heard something life-changing on a podcast today.” I asked her to share what she’d learned. “Sock bankruptcy,” she said. “Declare sock bankruptcy.”
It occurs to me that the life-changing advice my friend received perfectly explains this concept of surrender. If you know, you know. (Or, for my most progressives, IYKYK.) Some of us have a slow-growing collection of mateless socks that lives in the bottom of our clean laundry basket. At first glance, the little colony appears innocent enough, but the truth is the orphaned socks function as a pull on the laundry-doer’s productive mindset. Just when the task of folding the clean laundry is complete, the laundry-doer is reminded that there is unfinished, possibly impossible to ever finish, business remaining.
The solution for those in this predicament? Set a (truly) realistic timeline for pair reunification. Then, when time’s up, throw in the towel and throw out the orphans. Replenish, if warranted, and move on, sans the mateless colony.
Where Waiving the White Flag Might Make Sense for You
Orphaned socks are just one example. The truth is we accumulate a lot that, though it isn’t serving us, we find it hard to let go. The inability to let it go often turns out to be a real productivity drain. Consider:
- Software or other subscriptions we are paying for but hardly, if ever, use.
- Signing up can’t be your motivation for someday using something. And just because you signed up doesn’t mean you can’t discontinue it and better reallocate your resources. A couple of my friends have signed up for weekly fresh-ingredient meal plans. One found the cooking required too taxing for her schedule, so she discontinued it. Another struggled with the one-off weeks where she ran out of time for cooking. We talked about how, when this happened, she could still freeze the meat for later use and then use the vegetables for snacking. Surrendering a meal, in her case, didn’t mean surrendering the entire meal plan program.
- Friendships or business relationships we’d be better served distancing ourselves from, or perhaps even walking from entirely.
- Are you giving far more than you’re receiving in a friendship? Is maintaining the relationship consistently draining, or worse, toxic to you? Sometimes setting boundaries is the answer but sometimes we need to terminate a relationship. Doing so will free us up to pursue more fulfilling engagements. This applies the same to an employee or client who simply is not a fit for you or your business. All parties involved could benefit from a parting of ways.
- Clothing hanging in your closet that is currently too small.
- Most experts agree this is not motivation for weight loss. Like the orphaned socks, seeing such clothing hanging up, unworn, will drag down your overall mindset each time you encounter it. Consider gifting the clothing to a friend or family member, or donate it. Invest in clothing that fits you well and boosts your confidence.
- A weight loss program or gym membership you aren’t using.
- Like the clothing example above, just having it isn’t motivation for using it, and having it and never using it is likely dragging you down. If you aren’t using it, it isn’t working to satisfy the broader goal you’ve set, i.e. better health. Now would be the time to look at alternatives.
I wanted to spend a bit more time on the business of surrendering a S.M.A.R.T. goal as these situations can be deeply insightful. Firstly, I want to underscore that reassessing a timeline is not surrendering a goal. It would be nonproductive black-and-white thinking to abandon something you want just because you missed a time-bound window you set for yourself. Setting a new timeline for a goal, one that factors in what you’ve learned thus far is a smart adjustment to a goal. For example, if you set a goal of running a 5k by the end of the year and it didn’t happen because you injured your ankle, you can set a new goal that factors in timing for recovery and accounts for proper training.
But let’s say you have/had an admirable goal you’ve found yourself continually pushing down the road. Now might be the time to take a closer look at the objectives you have for the goal. Is this something you really seek? Are more valuable things competing with your goal? Is it time to redefine the goal, or is abandoning the goal entirely your best course of action?
Study the Situation for Productive Insights
Finding that missing Nike running sock you loved might be satisfying, but buying a new pair will give you the chance to use the socks as intended, to go for a run. Is your goal to never, ever lose a sock? Is that a productive goal?
Missing socks are pretty straightforward but oftentimes, when we arrive at the point of surrender we can pluck out valuable insights we can take with us for productive use going forward. For example, that accounting software you paid for but never used over the last year might have been purchased with the intent of keeping you financially organized. Maybe a different, more user-friendly software is a better choice, and/or paying for some training to use accounting software might ensure this year’s investment pays off. Digging into why something wasn’t used or why something isn’t paying off will be telltale.
Surrendering Can Protect and Promote Your Productivity
Identifying when it’s time to surrender and then taking action is being proactive. Such action protects and promotes our productivity. Can you identify areas in your life where surrendering will pay off?
Sara Genrich is a Productivity Consultant, an Evernote Certified Consultant and the creator of the Organizing@Work for Success Workshop. She’s committed to providing real-life solutions so her clients have time to focus on the things that really matter.