It’s past my bedtime, on a Sunday night, and I'm just now sitting down to write.
This happens rather too often these days, and it got me to thinking about the excuses we make for our behaviour.
I’m sure you can relate: there are things you know you SHOULD do (like getting to bed at a “reasonable” hour, avoiding sugary foods, tackling that household repair job that’s needed doing for weeks…) but there’s always a good excuse.
“I don’t have enough time to get everything done by 8 pm, so I have to stay up to finish _________.”
“Mom baked those cookies especially for me, so it would have hurt her feelings if I’d declined when she offered them to me."
“The job will take at least 2 hours; I haven’t been able to find a two-hour stretch to complete it, and I don’t want to start and then leave things in a mess.”
You may be thinking, these are REASONS, not excuses.
Are they? Really?
Let’s break this down, shall we?
The staying up late example is obviously one to which I can personally relate. And this is the rationale I’ve often used. I’m holding down a full-time job, AND building a business. I also want to have a bit of a social life. That requires careful management of the calendar. But does it really require burning the candle at both ends?
The truth is, the later in the day we work, the less productive we are. Our brain isn’t working at the same capacity at 11 pm as it is when we first wake up. That means that tasks take longer in the evenings, and YES, this is true even if you think you’re a night-owl who gets her second wind at 10 pm.
If I go to bed at 9 pm and get up at 5 am, I can fit two full hours of work into my morning BEFORE I have to get ready to start the “day job”. And that’s not counting my morning routine of journaling and working out! But the best part is, in terms of productivity, those two hours can be the equivalent of 3 hours or more at nighttime.
So, by shutting down the computer at 8 pm, instead of “losing” time to work on my business, I’m actually GAINING time! I can just as easily write a blog post in the morning as I can at night, and chances are it will be more coherent than what you’re reading right now.
I DO have enough time. I just need to slot it in a different part of my day.
It was an excuse, not a reason.
We can analyze any other rationale you might use to avoid doing something (or to explain having done something).
Those cookies? The fact that you couldn’t say no is a symptom of a bigger issue – not being able to set boundaries for yourself with certain people in your life. Moms can be great at the “guilt-tripping”, but that’s only because we’ve allowed them to be. What if you just explained to Mom that you’re avoiding sugar because it’s not healthy for you? She might accept that, or she might argue with you.
But it’s not about the cookies. That’s an excuse.
And that 2-hour repair job? You have options. You could hire someone to do it. You could carve out a 2-hour time slot in your calendar NOW and make it happen. You could decide to live with a bit of mess or inconvenience temporarily, and split the job up into two one-hour sessions.
You’re just procrastinating. Understanding the psychology of procrastination is a whole other blog post – and then some. But the fact is, the lack of time is because you haven’t MADE the time. It’s an illusion, and therefore it’s an excuse.
I’m not trying to beat you up here; I’m just as guilty. We ALL do this. Every. Single. Day. It’s normal human behaviour.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t strive to do better.
Awareness is the first step. Next time you are tempted to put something off, or to break a promise you’ve previously made to yourself, take advantage of that brief moment (about 5 seconds, according to Mel Robbins) in between the thought and the decision, stop and think: am I making an excuse here? Is this really a legitimate rationale, or just a convenient way of getting out of something I don’t want to do (or of doing something I know I shouldn’t do)?
And then, do what you believe to be the right thing – with intentionality. No more excuses!
Did this resonate with you? Let me know in the comments below what excuse you’re going to let go of. I’m cheering you on! And I’ll let you know how things go as I shift my business activities to the early morning hours.
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