The Excuse: It’s Not What You Think It Is

Some people are able to conjure an excuse, banish procrastinated tasks from their mind, and contentedly go about their day.

My guess is most of us aren’t like that.

Little pangs of guilt, doubt, or anxiety tend to accompany such procrastination. Little bonuses.

As it turns out, it’s pretty easy to do away with all the negativity and get things done.

In today’s post, I’m going to give you an actionable way to stop making excuses and put an end to procrastination.

people celebrating no excuses on beach at sunset


Prefacing Procrastination

Excuses and procrastination are thick as thieves. But it all starts with the excuse.

We think of creating an excuse for something as just that—a one-time, single use alibi. Folks, we’re dealing with something much more insidious than that.

If we teach ourselves to manage excuses, we will learn how to tackle the bigger picture of what’s really going on in our lives and mind.


“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”

-George Washington Carver Read


The Bruise of the Excuse

When we put off a task, that first excuse comes in as a little nudge on the arm. We are pushing something away and forgetting a very important Law of Physics:

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

We push the task away . . . The excuse pushes back. But we don’t notice. It’s just one measly excuse, a little push…right?

But then we put off the task again. The excuse nudges us again.

It may be a different excuse, but if it’s the same procrastinated task, it’s same nudge. Not necessarily more forceful, but in the exact same place. Pretty soon all this repetitive nudging starts forming a bruise.

Excuses work like compounding interest—the impact builds on itself. You can’t see the bruise, of course, because it’s in your mind. But you can feel it.

The problem is that no matter how nagging the ache, you are looking in all the wrong directions to find it.


The Parable of the Boiling Frog

Toss a frog in boiling water (not really, please), and he will immediately try to jump out.

Let the water heat from cool to boiling, and the pain will have worked too slowly for him to notice it happening.

 . . . Dead frog.

I’m not saying you’re going to die (yet), but what I am saying is that little things, when they come together, can make a big thing.

Sometimes the accumulation works so slowly and stealthily that we simply don’t notice until it’s gained a stronghold.

This is how Saruman fooled Gandalf. (Just thought I’d throw that in there)

toad hanging out

You may think that with each new day you get a clean slate on which to write your excuses.

But it doesn’t work like that.

The more we put off a task, the more the excuses build up. They linger. They create a dark pile in our mind whose sole purpose is to consume mental energy.

And the more excuses you heap on, the more strength and pull the pile has. It’s gravity, baby. Physics . . . again.


Excuses in the Wild 

You would think that that’s bad enough, but there’s more. Because here’s the thing:

Excuses love each other. 

It’s pack mentality. Think of excuses like ants. When you let a scouter ant make a trail into your mind, it leaves scent markers along the way. It’s little ant buddies perk up their antennae and start making their way to you as well.

Maybe they use the same route as the first guy, but maybe they’ll find another task that you’re trying to put off and try to make their way in with that.

The point is: They know. The signal is set. They’ve discovered you’re vulnerable. Now you’re a target.

They come in one at a time, spaced apart just enough so that you don’t realize they’re coming in at different angles and getting sooo so crunk about their new home.


The Excuse Maze

All these excuse piles and ant colonies…well, they’re weightMental weight.

And it slows you down. When you need your mind to be sharp and focused, it can’t. Why? 

Because it has to push past heaving excuse piles and dodge meandering trails of excited ants. These ants are also wearing hats. But why!??

That’s a distraction, too.

All you want is to be able to think of the next sentence for your book or the next angle on your design or how to build an engine that will save the earth but you can’t because of EXCUSE PILES and HAPPY ANTS IN HATS.

cement maze


This is why we can’t go around making excuses. Whether big or small, they stay. They take up mental space.

And get this:

It’s almost worse to let the minor excuses slide in, because they carry weight but apply to easier tasks.  Completing the small tasks is like a freebie toward mental clarity.

So, if making excuses is such a sly, tiny, and sneaky process, how are we going to stop?

There is a way. There are ways. Find out in my next post: Making Excuses Go Away . . . Right Now.

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