How To Kill A Project

I’m a big proponent of starting lots of things. I think it’s a really good exercise in learning to become a doer. But there comes some times when you have to admit that some things fail (or even just didn’t go the way you wanted them to go).

Chris called this “letting go of a project.” Letting go sounds really nice, but I’ve found it to be much more difficult than simply “letting go.” The truth is that “letting go” often means a project dies, and you’re the one responsible for killing it.


And that means you have to be a little heartless. When you start a lot of projects, you have to get okay with killing a project (your baby) now and then. In the past 6 months alone, I’ve had to kill at least a half-dozen projects that simply didn’t pan out, were distracting or taking up too much mental space.

A few notable ones you may have noticed

  • I’m no longer a part of Nerve Rush
  • I took the forums down (they’re not coming back up).
  • I closed down an e-commerce store I ran.
  • I shuttered several niche-type sites that were taking too much anecdotal energy.
  • I’ve closed down multiple other side projects & turned down a lot of ancillary opportunities.
  • I’ve fired a few marketing clients.

Sometimes you have to kill a project and when that time comes, here’s how you can kill your project and focus on what really matters.

How To Kill A Project

Figure Out What You Want

Figure out what you want.

When you start something, you often have no idea what you want. That’s not a big deal when you start because the hardest part of everything is starting. When you’re starting out, simply starting trumps all.

However, down the line, once you get the hang of starting things, you might find that one or two of the projects aren’t what you thought they would be or don’t quite fit into your future plans. You’ll need to get rid of those projects.

Spend some time figuring out what you really want and the rest of this will be a lot easier.

Take Inventory of Your Projects

Before you kill your different projects, you’ll want to take inventory of all of them by asking a few important questions.

Time Investment
How much time is this taking me on a monthly basis? How much time am I investing in this every week? Multiply that by 4.

Monetary Investment
How much money is this costing me on a monthly basis?

Unseen/Intangible Investment
Some projects don’t take a lot of capital investment or even a lot of your time, but they do take a ton of your energy. They sap your energy and enthusiasm from what you really should be spending your time on.

You’ll find yourself dreading doing some projects and simply not interested in other.

This can be the most dangerous of all these investments, because you’re not always aware that it’s happening.

The Return

Once you’ve figured out what your inputs are, it’s important to figure out what you’re getting from each project.

Am I getting any additional time from this? Is my time being utilized correctly?

How much money is this bringing me every month? Is this substantial/sustainable/worth it?

What additional opportunities is this bringing me that may not be immediately obvious (relationships, opportunities, curiosity, enjoyment).

Opportunity Costs
If you kill this the project, what will it allow you to do in the future.

  • What additional things can you do with your time?
  • What can you do with your additional resources?
  • What parts of your business/life can you focus on now that you’ve cleared your mental space?

Ask The Hard Question

Once you’ve gathered all the info above, you have to ask yourself the hard question:

Is it worth it?

Is whatever return you’re getting on the project, worth whatever you’re putting into it?

At this point in the game, it’s important to keep in mind the answer to the first question of this whole process: what do you really want?

Decide Which One To Kill

You may have one. You may have 3. If you have a bunch of different projects, some with more success you’ll probably have to kill a couple of them.

Weigh what you want with the inputs & outputs of each project.

Pick which one to kill and decide.

Walk Away

This is the hard part.

Walk away.

You keep telling yourself, just six months. Just six more month. Six more. S-I-X. Walking away seems like quitting, but eventually you just need to do it

If something is a side project, you need to treat it like a side project. If something is a business, it needs to be a business.

The worst thing you can do is drag things out and slowly bleed yourself out and let the project die a slow terribly death while taking your other projects with you and slowly sapping your enthusiasm through the whole process.

What About When A Project Isn’t Necessarily Bad?

This is the worst scenario to be in.

If a project hasn’t succeeded and hasn’t failed, it’s in danger of settling into solid mediocrity – which unlike failure, can go on for eternity.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Am I really set on completing this project?
  • Can I get this project out of mediocrity in 3-6 months?
  • Do I want to put the effort into getting this out of mediocrity

Set a Time Bomb
Set a time bomb for this. Essentially an exploding deadline that makes you kill your project if it doesn’t get to the level of success you want by a specified time.

If _______________ (project name) doesn’t achieve  _______________ (directly measurable metric of success) by __/__/____ (specific date less than 6 months in the future), _______________ (project name) automatically shuts down. I’ll cease future work on it and the automatic consequence of goes into effect and I have to shoot my project in the face (figuratively) and walk away.

This is extra tough, when you have a project that’s not necessarily bad, but may not be the best project.


It’s worth nothing that this isn’t advocating simply quitting when things get hard. Things will get hard, but you’ll have much more energy to allocate to fight through the truly hard things if you’ learn to quit the projects that aren’t really strategic in your overall master plan.



Launching multiple projects is great. Throw something against the wall and see if it sticks. But…if lots of things stick, you’ll probably have to pick one or two of the “most successful” projects and kill the rest.

It’ll be hard, but if you don’t do, somebody else will do it for you (or worse, it’ll die a slow, painful death).

[photo credit]

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  1. says

    Nerve Rush will miss you Runyon. Respect your decision to step away and know that it’s the right move – from what I gather, 2013 will be the year of honing in one what really counts, for the both of us.

    And while you may not be poking around the NR back-end, interviewing athletes, scheming up amazing ideas – please..please DO NOT lose your sense of gut-wrenching adventure.


  2. Marit says

    You know what’s impossibly awesome? I was on the team that made the red stress ball featured in that picture. The product development process took a huge time and monetary investment but we sold thousands and it ended up being our best selling item. Good thing we didn’t kill it!

    Small world.

  3. Ryan says

    While I didn’t post much, I’m bummed to see the forums get the ax, and not be coming back. I actually met a friend locally through the forms who shares a lot of the same ideas & loves the doing the impossible idea. I’ve since ran a 5k with her and she’s gotten me to do Impossible Abs. With that being said, it seemed there were a lot of extremely similar posts that kept cropping up, plus extremely difficult to organize the flow of info that was coming in from all over the place.

    Guess we’ll just have to meet fellow Impossible-ers through the comments!

  4. davidd says

    I’m sure it’s tough, mentally and emotionally, to drop some of those projects and sidelines. For what it’s worth — and this is not intended to disparage Nerve Rush in any way, because it’s a cool site — I never quite felt that Nerve Rush meshed completely with what you’re doing with Impossible Things. While inspirational to a point, Nerve Rush seemed geared toward people who were already achieving the Impossible, rather than those who were working toward their Impossible goals. The strength and appeal of Blog of Impossible Things, to me anyway, is that it’s more about the pursuit of Impossible goals, rather than a “look at how Impossibly Awesome I am and check out the Impossibly Awesome stuff I’m doing.” At BIT you’re actually helping all of us develop skills and work toward accomplishing the Impossible together, in a sense, rather than simply showing us the accomplishments of others. So from my outside perspective as a follower and fan of your sites, I agree that tapering off your involvement in Nerve Rush for now seems to better fit your area of focus.

  5. says

    This is so great. And exactly what I needed to read… I have WAY too many projects going on right now. Making a couple of ‘Time Bombs’ will do wonders for my life. Thank you!


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