Quitting When it’s Time

I got an email from the president of a club I was previously active in.

Hey Maria!

I haven’t seen you at our meetings for a while. Just wondered if there’s anything I can help with, or if you plan to return.

Hope to hear from you soon!

It was such a nice email. I was happy that they were reaching out (to me! They like me!) and I also thought it was also a very smart thing for them to do for the health of their organization.

The truth was, I did think about returning. I still paid my dues. I had the regular meetings on my calendar and every other week when I got the meeting reminders, I would consider whether it was a good time to return to meetings. But the meeting times didn’t work well for my schedule, and so I wouldn’t go. My plan had been to pay my dues for another 6 months and see if my interest returned.

Then the email came. I started to reply that I’d been busy, but hoped that I’d return someday to see everyone. I had the email mostly composed when it the thought occurred to me: I could just quit now. Why am I waiting?

Rip Off that Band-Aid

True confession: I love books in the “self improvement” category. My recreational reading often entails books on personal growth, behavioral psychology, or productivity. It’s just how I’m wired.

But even if you don’t like that type of book, I’d probably still recommend Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less to you. Should you read this book? Well, has anyone ever asked you how you’re doing, and your reply involved some variant of “busy”? If so, then yes.

The premise of the book is “less, but better.” Focus on fewer things, those that are essential for your happiness and well being. The author, Greg McKeown, recommends ruthlessly eliminating everything that is not essential. If something is not an absolute, jump-up-and-down, exuberant YES!, it is a very firm No. One a scale of 1 to 10, he says you should only do things that are a 10.

But what if you’re not that ruthless?

I’m not. I struggle with making decisions, and can’t imagine feeling the certainty of an absolute yes about anything.  So that’s why I like this version:

Go ahead and rate how you feel about the activity or action on a scale of 1 to 10—but  you can’t use the number 7. All of a sudden, everything below a 7 drops away as being lackluster and everything that remains rises to the surface as being important. It’s the 7s—the things that sound a little interesting, a little fun—that will suck all of your time away if you don’t stop them.

I had been letting the club linger in my inbox and on my calendar, even though it was not even a 7. Once I realized this, I deleted the email I’d been writing and started a new one, one that said this wasn’t a priority* for me now and that it was time to quit.

It probably wasn’t the answer that she wanted, and it even caught me by surprise. But the decision was an immediate relief. The feeling was like when you clean out a cabinet and you feel so good that you want to clean out the entire room. I couldn’t help but wonder: What else can I quit doing?

I haven’t quit anything else—yet—but I could probably benefit from doing less but better. What about you?


*In Essentialism, Greg McKeown also points out the the word “priority” originally referred to the single thing that was most important of all. It had this meaning for hundreds of years, and it was only in the 1900s that the plural version came into being.


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Last Week’s Travels: Northern New Hampshire

I haven’t had too much time to write the past few weeks, so this is just a quick post to hit some highlights of my travel last week. I flew to Burlington, VT, for work and then traveled with a few colleagues to a meeting at a rustic location extreme northeast corner of New Hampshire.

The road into our meeting location.
The road into our meeting location.

I hadn’t been to this part of the Northeast yet, so I was excited to see it. I was also excited to spend some time in New England forests during the growing season, as most my trips seem to take place in late fall or early spring once the leaves are off.

The landscape.
The landscape.

We were split across two cabins. One had solar electricity and running water in the sink, but still had an outhouse. We had our meeting in that cabin, but slept in one of the older cabins. It didn’t have electricity—it had gas lights. Continue reading “Last Week’s Travels: Northern New Hampshire”

Back and Forth across Southern New England

After a good long while with no travel, I’m back on the road—this time for a two-week travel-ganza across five New England states. I’m halfway done and figured it was time to post some pics and highlights from the trip so far.

Connecticut, Part 1

We (one of my co-workers joined me for the first part of the trip) started off with a two-day training in Connecticut to help natural resource professionals integrate climate change into their work.

Maria looks at a wall of notes
Me and the large sticky notes I use during just about every training.

Typical of conferences and trainings, we had to spend almost the entire day outside. Fortunately, the weather cooperated one evening and we took a really nice stroll around campus in the spring-like weather.

new england church on hill
A really pretty church on the U-Conn campus.

Then, on our way to Rhode Island, we made sure to stop at Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge to stretch our legs and check out the coast. Also of note in the area near Mystic, Connecticut, is a St. Edmund’s nearly 800-year-old mummified arm. It’s in a beautiful little church in a little retreat center on a little island out in the ocean and sits in a glass case near a number of other relics—which is just a really weird practice.

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The wind was brutal out at Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge.

Rhode Island

Then, it was off to Rhode Island to meet with partners and visit some field sites. This was absolutely great because I haven’t gotten to spend much time in the woods in southern New England, and I felt like I didn’t know enough during the Connecticut training earlier in the week. , Also, it was my first time to Rhode Island, so I got to cross another state off the list.

It was a great day to be out. It was below freezing, but that was good in that I could often walk on top of the frozen crusty snow. The forests in Rhode Island really reminded me a lot of where I grew up in Wisconsin. In one spot, I felt like I could have been standing in my brother’s woodlot, if only the northeastern pitch pine was replaced with red pine.

I love when I get to be out in the woods on a nice day!
I love when I get to be out in the woods on a nice day!

Connecticut, Part 2

Then it was back to Connecticut for the Connecticut Land Conservation Conference. Juan Martinez of the Children and Nature Network gave a keynote about engaging across different generations—particularly us millennials that are finally getting old enough to have a greater impact on the direction of the world.

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I still need to check out his TEDx talk.

Also of note was that yesterday was the International Day of Forests.  Of course I was stuck inside all day and only got to talk and think about forests, but I still celebrated. I “borrowed” a bunch of pins from the New England Forestry Foundation‘s exhibit booth, and then distributed them to the foresters that I knew or met while I was at the conference. Ha!

I *heart* forests pin
I did keep one pin for myself!

Now it’s time to head north for the rest of this trip!