“Excuses are lies we tell ourselves so that it doesn’t have to be our fault.” – Chris Creed
I’ve been on a rant this month at Compete Every Day about excuses and our need to kill them. It’s not because I’m upset with you, it’s more of me sharing the conversations ongoing in my own journey. I found that using excuses was trying to take a foot hold in my work since I was in an uncomfortable growth stage.
“I’ll do that tomorrow.”
“I’m just too busy right now.”
“Later is probably a better time for ___________ than now.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t since ___________ is already doing it and probably better at it.”
There are seriously a million excuses that I can whip out of thin air instantaneously, for any given reason. We all can.
Because using excuses is easier than doing what we need to get done.
But as you’ve heard me say all month, excuses don’t get the job done. Excuses don’t add an extra “0” to your bank account and they won’t help you reach your goals. Excuses don’t create champions – and Champions don’t create excuses.
So how did I break up – and then kill – the excuses my inner critic was trying to create?
Here are the four actions I took to curb, and then bury, the excuses I caught myself going back to time and time again.
1. Get Real With Your Excuses – and Fears
This is one of those “this sucks but I have to do it” things. I took out a yellow tablet and wrote three columns:
- The Task
- The Excuse I Was Letting Myself Get Away With
- The Real Reason (I Was Making the Excuse)
I then wrote down every single excuse I’d been using on two goals I’d set for the previous 100 days and hadn’t fully reached. I then wrote down the real reason behind the excuse. “I haven’t had the time” – actually means “I didn’t make time for what I said was most important because doing the urgent work is easier than dedicating the time to what I needed to do.”
I wrote everything down. Every task, every excuse, and between me and my Maker, every real reason behind the excuse.
What was I afraid of achieving?
What was the worst scenario I’d imagined in my head if I failed?
What pile of crap (excuse) was I trying to cover with sprinkles and pass off as an ice cream sundae?
This was important because it required a) complete honesty to show myself what I was doing, and b) made me physically look at my excuses on paper and see how silly they held up. They weren’t great. Heck, they weren’t even good excuses. They were just reasons I was trying to pass off blame to some other circumstance about why I hadn’t gotten a project done.
It was apparent I’d been lying to myself all along. Whew, and that sucked to see written down in front of me. But the good news was that I’d come to terms with what I’d been doing to self-sabotage my progress and I could then begin building a plan to get out of my own way.
Ok, band-aid ripped off. Now what?
2. Commit to a Daily Process
“In short, motivation isn’t something you get — motivation is something you create, on your own, by following a process that allows you to improve, bit by bit. The key is to create a process that guarantees a series of small improvements.”
This is why a daily process is so important to killing your excuses – it keeps you motivated and moving forward. And being motivated is one of the easiest ways to kill an excuse. Consider this – why do we so often create excuses as to why we can’t do __________ (you pick your goal)? I believe a number of our excuses arise because we are focused too heavily on the gap between where we are and where we want to be – and how big that gap is.
We lose motivation – and in turn create excuses as a “way out” – after believing the distance between now and our goal is too much. It’s too far for us to reach, so we create excuses that allow us to accept this lie as fact.
Instead of allowing the gap to discourage you, commit to a daily process that forces you to focus on one day at a time and the action steps required for that day.
Consider a workout & nutrition plan to lose 100lbs. Most people get overwhelmed by having to lose that much, and many of those who start the process only drop off 1-2 weeks in after they’ve “only” lost 3-8 pounds. “I still have 95+ more to go. It’s too much. I just can’t do this.” is the story they tell themselves over and over again.
But what about those who succeed?
They have a daily plan and they focus solely on that daily plan.
It’s not about losing 100lbs in one day or week. It’s about asking themselves, “what am I going to do today for my goal?” – and then doing it.
- What is my workout today that I will complete?
- What is my next meal (that I’ve already planned out)?
Reaching the goal will take care of itself because you’re controlling every day on the path to it.
A rigid daily process helps eliminate room for excuses because you’re only focus is on the day’s task at hand, not the future tasks.
But in order for us to create a strong daily process, we need to know what is currently taking control of our day. Which led me to…
3. Track My Entire Day, Hour by Hour
It sounds like overkill, and time consuming, but it’s actually quite easy with the right tool. For me, this involved using my Best Self Planner to track my entire day. I plot out my entire day between 6am – 9pm. Every single hour.
This is crucial for two reasons:
- It forces me to create bookends for my day (thank you Darren Hardy). Bookends ensure you control how each day starts and ends – both crucial components to making sure you are running your day instead of vice versa.
- It forces me to make sure I’m utilizing each hour of the day most effectively. I can’t use the excuse “I don’t have time” or allow myself to run after urgent tasks when I’ve dedicated time to my most important tasks. (I even block out windows in my iCal to make sure that I get an alarm notification throughout the day of when I’m scheduled to invest time on specific, important tasks)
By understanding how you’re spending each day, and then intentionally creating your hour-by-hour schedule for the day, you’re eliminating opportunities for excuses to derail your plans. To double-down on killing your excuses, you’ll also want to…
4. Find Accountability
It’s very hard to kill excuses and compete when you’re trying to go it alone. Your accountability can be a best friend, a mastermind group, a business or life coach, or even your coworker. The key is to find someone that you:
- Is committed to holding you accountable
- Will encourage you onward but isn’t afraid to call you on your crap
This individual will be important in checking in on your progress and calling out any excuses you try to use as to why you didn’t get a particular task completed. Knowing that you’re accountable to more than just yourself, and that someone will know when you don’t finish the activity you claim you’re working on is a great motivator to keep your feet to the fire.
Excuses Can Be Killed.
They aren’t unstoppable. It may seem like we always go back to them, but like any negative habit, they can be curbed, or eventually eliminated with the right action plan. Take these four steps and commit to yourself (and your accountability partner) to compete by killing the excuse, burying it, and choosing intentionally to never look back.
Compete every day.