Making Excuses Go Away…Right Now.
Excuses aren’t one-off events.
They build, they fester, and they bruise. They work together, no matter which task you’re shirking, and they build a nice, gravity-laden pile in your mind.
We figured out the wily ways of the excuse in my last post—go read it. You must understand the enemy to defeat the enemy.
Now? Engage DESTROYER MODE.
The Excuse Prevention League
This is probably going to come as a surprise, but you have within you an Excuse Prevention League (hereby referenced as The EPL).
I know, I know. You had no idea. But it’s true. The EPL is a mindhack that is especially important for those of us in charge of our own schedule.
But the catch is that it will not function on its own. It’s kind of like a golden retriever. Super loyal, but without guidance it will just uselessly jump into water and lick butts.
So, my friends, you’re going to have to make the first move toward putting an end to the vicious cycle.
The good news is that the little first moves you’ll have to make are, in act, little. That’s why we call them hacks. They’re easy and they make life easy.
Let us begin.
How to Stop Making Excuses
1. Notice the Excuse
This step will be the most difficult (at first), but it is the most rewarding. Consider posting little notes around the house asking yourself if you’ve been making excuses. This will instate a pattern of noticing.
(I used the post-it technique to finally master brushing my teeth and…I guess you’ll just have to read about it.)
Once you notice, use an excuse notepad (real-life or smartphone) and write down the task and the excuse you made in two-column format.
Contact So-and-So about interview
“I’m so hungry. Must cook eggs”
Clean my room
“Must edit blog post immediately“
Format Indiegogo landing page
“I should research that podcast idea now“
As you can see, sometimes the excuses might seem “good” or “worthy.” But that is not the point. The point is to know what’s going on in your brain.
The reason for the list-making is twofold:
1) You’ll begin to notice which tasks get the most excuses (and thus which are causing the most pile-up).
2) You are now accountable for all the excuse-related decisions you’ve made (despite whether they’re “good” or “bad” excuses).
2. Address the Excuse
If possible, take care of it right away. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that small tasks are less-important. These are the easy wins; do them immediately so they can’t take up mental real estate.
Use the two-minute rule. If it can be done within that time, do it. Don’t question the rule ever again, decide you’re optionless against it.
There, one decision-making process banished from your life forever. Take THAT, decision fatigue.
It’s like dish pile-up in the sink—better to put that one plate in the washer before it becomes twenty.
If you can’t deal with it right then, write it on your general to-do list along with the excuse notepad. Then, set a specific time and date on your calendar to tackle it.
3. Write a Letter
Who writes letters to tasks? We do.
The minute you take to write a letter to the procrastinated task will eventually save you hundreds, if not thousands (millions?), of minutes. This is how you make the task a real, pseudo-tangible thing and not just debris swept around in your brainspace.
A magic thing happens when you write—you get a peek into how your mind has been working to foil you
Writing places a key into the lock of our unconscious minds. You’ll be surprised at what comes out on the paper and you may gain insight into…
A) Why you’re putting off the task
B) The fears you may have around completing the task
C) Discrepancy among your priorities (i.e. maybe you’re not doing the thing because deep down you don’t want it to be part of your life, maybe it doesn’t actually need to get done soon, etc.)
D) Acceptance and understanding of your feelings and a resulting ability to better deal with them.
Dear Messy Room,
I’m sorry I keep not cleaning you. I have anxiety about where I’m going to put everything because it reminds me that I am only living here temporarily and I don’t know where I’ll be going after all this. And that reminds me of my life being kind of ridiculous and my future unforeseeable and I’d rather just avoid all that.
But I guess I am reminded every time I look at you, anyway, so perhaps it would just be better to put everything away and uproot the reminder.
(er, you might’veve guessed this is a true-life example; I cleaned my room and feel so. much. better.)
Now you know how to stop making excuses. Life would be easier if we could do all this stuff without lists and letters and conscious thought, but it just doesn’t work that way for all of us.
So, we mindhack.
Let me know if you have any suggestions. What do you do to stop making excuses and put an end to procrastination? Leave a comment below!
I feel as if you were to ever lose the ability to form new memories, it wouldn’t even hinder you.
Hmm, what do you mean?
Sometimes I have to give myself literally no other choice. If i have distracting thoughts, then i have to follow them to their ends to get back on track. It feels like a stack of pancakes and I have to eat each pancake to get to the chocolate chip one on the bottom. Sometimes I can sort them though. Dunno why. Sometimes it just feels like there is indecision on certain pancakes and if I evaluate the condition of the pancakes, I can rearrange them, but sometimes there are those certain peculiar pancakes that I simply cannot take my eyes off of.
Ahahaha I love this! Also, now I’m hungry. Do you have any techniques to give yourself no other choice? For example, I might sequester myself somewhere and say I can’t eat until the task is finished. I’m also considering stickK (anti-charity) for longer-term goals.
It doesn’t matter what you do if the threats or promises you make to yourself are uncertain or inconsequential. When Cortes wanted to conquer the Aztecs he sunk his own ships after landing so he and his men would have no retreat.
Maybe one of those contraptions from the Saw movies would work!