(Please) Stop Making Excuses

As you may have gathered, I am a huge fan of Steven Pressfield’s books The War of Art and Do The Work.

I’m not going to attempt to persuade you to buy them, however, if you apt to make (daily) excuses that stop you achieving your best work then either book could be the best investment you ever make.

Forget 7 Habits or How to Win Friends, if you can’t beat procrastination then you can talk all you like about being proactive, first things first et al, but it will move you precisely nowhere when it comes to reaching your goals.

In my line of work, I constantly hear people lament the fact that they have so many things on their plate they couldn’t possibly squeeze in another activity – whether that is focused on social media, business development or excellence.

What’s really stopping you?

Resistance, or more commonly known as that chattering voice inside your head, which will outsmart you every time and persuade you that now is not the time to do the one thing that will make the biggest difference to your life. It feels like being taken to the edge of a cliff, but never working out how to jump (safely).

I can’t recall the exact story, but I remember reading about the one piece of advice that, if religiously applied, will guarantee your success.

And here it is:

 > Make a list each day.

 > And complete it.

It sounds too simple to be true. But, think about it. If you could kill the plague of interruptions, reduce or better manage the unexpected and focus on the important and not the urgent, then you would have no excuse not to complete your list. Of course, we all know that life is never that easy (the understatement of the year …) but step #1 is to admit that you have a problem.

Admitting that you procrastinate is important. Up to now you have been telling yourself that you are super-productive, and that once you knock off this latest barrage of priorities you will get to the thing that you have been putting off for the past few months. To start to overcome Resistance, you have to be honest with yourself and admit that you have been advertently putting things off. In other words, even though it may seem hard to admit, you have been deliberately building barriers because it is comforting to have a tangible excuse for your lack of action.

If you are with me to this point, to escape Resistance you have to radically simplify to enable you to focus on the thing that you you have been putting off.

This means adopting all the classic hacks:

  • Decluttering;
  • Delegation;
  • Trashing;
  • Working out your body rhythms to understand when you are most productive;
  • Prioritisation; and
  • Understanding the difference between urgent and important tasks.

I can’t pretend the process is easy. Indeed for many people, they are so conditioned to work in a particular way that it seems heretical to suggest that they might try something new. But you have no choice if you want to beat the Resistance.

For me simplicity has been my saviour. At the mundane level that has meant clearing my desk, closing the tabs on my computer and using a list programme. As to some of the other issues, I don’t have anyone I can delegate to but I know my limitations, and when I need to reach out for help, I do.

What you are aiming for is to have the smallest manageable list each day that you can complete. I use Leo Barbauta’s system taken from his blog of writing a list of the 3 most important things for each day, and completing them. You might think, “3 things. Is that all?” but, trust me, it’s not as easy as it seems, particularly if one of those is a fairly major task. Of course, there is no reason why you couldn’t do more than 3 things – your Plan B – but the sense of achievement will be palpable that you won’t want to risk allowing Resistance back into your day by cluttering up the process with a longer and longer undone list.

If you adopt this system, you may just find that making excuses becomes a thing of the past.

But don’t think you have Resistance licked. It is far to clever to be defeated by any amount of planning, but if you can force yourself each day to do the one thing that you least want to do, then you might just find that the voice becomes muffled in the din of results that build on each other every day.

Summary

I really that a blog post is not going to make any difference to the way you run your life. But if you have spent that last 12 months just getting by then perhaps now is the time to figure out if there is a better way to deliver on your plans.

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Working with me:

I am available for speaking, consulting and one on one coaching. Please feel free to email me at juliansummerhayes@gmail.com or contact me on 075888 15384.

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