Are You Sabotaging Yourself by Micro-Quitting?

In the world of athletics, micro-quitting refers to all the ways you give less than 100 percent. It can look like ducking out of an hour-long workout five minutes early, cutting your run a couple miles short, or adding an extra rest day. While they might not be bailing on their athletic goals, they’re giving up on themselves in small and subtle (and temptingly easy) ways. While it’s not talked about quite as often, micro-quitting is a common occurrence amongst students, too. So, how can you identify your own micro-quitting? More importantly: how do you stop micro-quitting so that you can meet your academic goals?


What Does Academic Micro-Quitting Look Like?


Just like the athletic examples described above, academic micro-quitting is subtle yet damaging. Often, they’re small behaviors or decisions that seem like “no big deal.” However, micro-quitting is the very thing that often keeps us from hitting our goals and achieving what we originally set out to achieve. In school, this might look like…

  • Skipping an assigned reading
  • Procrastinating on an assignment until the last minute
  • Cutting a study session short
  • Not getting enough rest
  • Putting half-effort into a project or assignment
  • Copying a friend or classmate’s work
  • Skipping class
  • Not taking sufficient notes during class


While none of these micro-quitting examples involve dropping or failing a class entirely – or explicitly giving up on big goals you’ve set for yourself – they add up over time and cause you to fall short. Often, these are the reasons we ­renegotiate our goals, deciding they’re impossible or too lofty. How many times have you decided you’d be fine with a B instead of an A, despite skipping readings weekly or studying halfheartedly for your midterm? In micro-quitting, we slowly chip away at our potential by cutting corners and skipping the hard day-to-day work.

When we continuously micro-quit, we are subconsciously protecting ourselves from the pain of falling short of an ambitious goal. If we put 100% effort into something and fall short, it is painful and feels personal. If we don’t try that hard, missing a previously set goal doesn’t feel quite so bad. Micro-quitting feels easy and comfortable… but it’s hurting you in the long run.


Break the Habit of Micro-Quitting


When you can understand and identify the various ways in which you micro-quit, you’re halfway to your solution. When you become aware of the damage that micro-quitting can have on your goals and plans, those “insignificant” cut corners suddenly don’t seem so insignificant. If you’ve noticed you have a habit of micro-quitting in your studies, here are a few ways to break it.


Map out the route to your goal – and put it in writing.

At the beginning of a semester, you probably have every intention to follow the syllabus, stay on top of reading, take great notes, and ace your course. Come midterms, that motivation may be fading. Don’t let Future You get away with that! At the beginning of your semester, create a contract with yourself and type it up. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals that will set you up to reach whatever goal you have in mind. Put your plan in writing and refer to it throughout the semester – hold yourself accountable!


Challenge any thought telling you that micro-quitting is “no big deal.”

You’ve had a long day and you’d much rather watch a TV show than study for a quiz… it’s just one time, right? Instead of telling yourself that it doesn’t matter, consider how the most successful students hit their goals: they put in the hard, often monotonous work day in and day out. It might seem like a “small thing,” but it’s a series of “small things” that get us where we want to go! Every time you want to micro-quit, decide to micro-commit instead. Small steps lead to big successes.


Commit to your plan, but release any attachment to the outcome.

The only thing you have control over is what you do. Focus on your micro-commitments and honor yourself and your goals by putting maximum effort into whatever is important to you. That said, you must release any emotional attachment you have to the outcome. This doesn’t mean you give up your passion for the goal, but rather you give up your fear of falling short. It means leaving your ego at the door and recognizing that going full speed toward an objective is worthy and courageous, and the ultimate outcome does not change that.


Once you become aware of the various ways you micro-quit on yourself and your dreams, you’ll be unable to ignore it. Once you set the intention to quit micro-quitting, the sky is the limit.