10 Powerful tactics to smash every excuse
In this guide, I will go through some tactics that you can use for almost every type of excuse that you have. I didn’t come up with them, this is a collection of the most effective and time proven tactics that have actually helped a lot of people and I’m sure they will help you as well.
Usually you see various tactics on how to tackle procrastination, but what they forget to talk about is excuses. There are so many types of excuses and for every type there is a technique on how to deal with it.
I’m a firm believer that one size doesn’t fit all, which is why I’m creating this guide, so you can find the technique that fits your most common excuses and use it. Remember, when you’re playing the procrastinators game in order to win, you MUST take the first step. You have to be able to get over that first “I really don’t want to do it” and apply the technique.
It’s a paradox – you don’t apply the anti-procrastinator technique because you feel the urge to procrastinate, but in order to stop procrastinating you have to use the anti-procrastinator technique, but you don’t apply it because…
And so it continues, you MUST break the cycle! That is up to you. I can bring you the toolbox, but you have to start using the tools!
All right, enough of my ramblings. Let’s get into the techniques. The titles are the excuses – find what you encounter the most in your thought pattern and apply that!
- 1 1. You think that you CAN’T do it
- 2 2. You constantly come up with excuses
- 3 3. The task seems just too difficult
- 4 4. You feel overwhelmed by how big is the task
- 5 5. You don’t want to do it just because someone told you that you HAVE to do it
- 6 6. You have a difficulty to stick to your habits
- 7 7. When you start – your mind keeps telling you “I’m not going to do it anyways, I’m a procrastinator, that is just the way I am!”
- 8 8. You’re afraid that you will fail
- 9 9. Emotions take the best of you and you feel overwhelmed
- 10 10. You think your work doesn’t matter
1. You think that you CAN’T do it
“I can’t cook”, “I can’t talk to girls”, “I can’t write that essay”, “I just can’t do that!”
Very commonly this excuse stems from perfectionisms or all-or-nothing thinking. “If I can’t cook like Gordon Ramsay then I can’t cook”, “If I’m not fluent like Casanova when it comes to talking to girls then I can’t do it at all”.
We fear the risk of looking silly and screw it up, so in order to save yourself from “humiliation” you don’t do it at all.
Here is the problem – how could you ever cook like Gordon Ramsay if you’ve never cooked? Do you think he came out of his mom’s vagina, with a spatula in one hand and a perfect Crème Brulee in other?
No, he spent relentless hours in the kitchen and probably sucked at the beginning as well! If have had started training doing the thing that you “can’t” do at age 3 how good do you think you would be now?
Probably ass kicking amazing!
Here is what you do! – test your cant’s.
Example: You think you can’t cook at all!
Go to the kitchen right now and make yourself a sandwich!
Congrats you just cooked!
“Oh Karlo, I would never be able to make a full dinner!”
Test it – find a recipe for a food that you want, buy all the ingredients and try it! You burned it? Good, next time you know that you have to put a timer. You put in too much spices? Good, next time put less. Your friends didn’t like it? Good, more for you!
The thing is, you probably CAN do it, don’t expect it to be perfect. Try it – see what didn’t work – next time fix that!
2. You constantly come up with excuses
It is really important to do this tactic on a piece of paper not in your head!
You know how your mind usually combats ever thought of doing the task with a “But it would be so much nicer to *insert any procrastinators activity*”
Use this tactic against it! You can do it as well, just in a positive way!
Example: You really need to do your homework, but you would rather watch House of Cards! This is your exercise might look like.
I really need to do my homework, but I’d rather watch House of Cards ->
But if I would do the homework now, I wouldn’t have to worry about it mid-show ->
But I won’t be able to focus on the homework if I don’t watch the episode ->
But I could do half of it now and half of it after the episode ->
But I really don’t want to ->
But I know that I won’t feel as guilty if I start now, I’ve done it before and it makes the task easier later!
You can go with this as deep as needed. If you end with “I just can’t do that” take a look at the first exercise.
3. The task seems just too difficult
Very often the task just seems difficult and that you will probably not enjoy it at all. I know I had this issue in one of my previous employment places, I really dreaded the thought of having to fill another report! I really thought that I hate that tasks – that was my thought process right before the task.
So I used this technique and it really shows how we blow out of proportion the difficulty of a specific task, just because we don’t like it at all.
It is called the Anti-procrastinators sheet and it requires a piece of paper and a pen. If you work on a computer just open Excel.
Make three columns.
In the first one write the tasks. In the second one write the predicted difficulty of a task ranged from 0 - 100. And in the third one you will write how difficult it actually was.
|Task||Predicted difficulty||Actual difficulty|
|Make that one report that Steve has been asking for!||80%||20% (Took me 10 minutes)|
|Clean up the room.||70%||10% ( I actually really enjoyed dancing to the music while I was cleaning, I had a great time)|
|Go for a run.||9999%||30% (It was hard, since I haven’t worked out for a while, but I feel good because I finally did it)
The trick of this exercise is that you train your brain to see the tasks for what they actually are. The next time you will need to clean your room and you will think that it is super difficult and boring, you can just peek at this log and you will remember, that it was fun the last time and you had a good time. This goes for every task.
Pro – Tip: If you’re super lazy and you have a 7th degree black belt in excuse making, then combine this with the next task. Write all those micro tasks in this log and write down how difficult they were. You will quickly realize something… I’ll let you find out on your own.
4. You feel overwhelmed by how big is the task
I call this the MICRO-To-Do list and you might have seen it as one of my clients posted it on Reddit and I got some Reddit love for it.
In a regular To-Do list you would write things like
- Take out the garbage
- Make the bed
- Go shopping for groceries
- Read a book
But in a MICRO-To-Do list you break those tasks down into even smaller tasks, MICRO tasks.
For example you can’t get yourself up to take out the garbage. Here is how you would break it down:
- Stand up from your seat
- Go to the kitchen and take the garbage
- Go to the corridor and put on a jacket
- Open the door and walk out
- Go to the garbage bin and put the garbage there
This exercise works wonders for people with depression, and I’m sure that if you’re a mentally healthy person it will work even better for you.
The trick here is that you make the tasks so ridiculously small, that you trick your brain into doing it!
5. You don’t want to do it just because someone told you that you HAVE to do it
Sometimes we don’t want to do something just because someone (even you yourself) told you that you should/have to/must do it. Our rebellious voice inside tells: “Why should I?” and just as an act of rebellion you don’t do what you need to do.
It is fairly simple to change this attitude. All you have to do is change the way that you speak to yourself on what you need to do.
You might say: “I have to do my homework!”. In this case you are ordering yourself that you HAVE to do it.
Another way to phrase it would be to put it like this: “I would like to get my homework done, because then I could spend the rest of the day with no guilt and worries.”
You can spin every should/have to/must in this positive way.
I personally don’t have a “To Do” list, I have a “Things I want to do” list. It may sound trivial, but sometimes it helps, because it reinforces the belief that YOU want to do those things out of free will and not because you’re forced to do them.
6. You have a difficulty to stick to your habits
Often when we try out new habits our mind comes up with thousand excuses why you should try tomorrow, how this is not the perfect day or how it will never work out so what is the point.
There are two tactics that I recommend. One is for immediate cravings and the other one is meant to establish that groundwork for positive habit reinforcement.
Dealing with immediate cravings
This will sound a bit ludicrous, but it works – so what do you do when you’re trying to quit smoking, and your addiction kicks in and you just really need that cigarette?
You do nothing! Well… almost.
Sit down and take a deep breath. Find a piece of paper, write down the time and the intensity of the craving from 1 – 100.
Every 5 minutes write down how strong is the craving.
All you have to do is to refuse to give in. Don’t do anything. Just sit there and wait.
You will see that as time passes by, the need for the cigarette or anything else that you’re trying to quit will subside to a bearable level and you can continue with your daily chores.
Ensuring long term commitment to habits.
You’ve probably heard this one a thousand times, but probably for the wrong reasons. With all the excuses that your brain will come up to try to stay to status quo you might forget about what you are really fighting for.
So spend every day about 5 minutes visualizing the positive things that will come from your change of habits. You can even make a list and read it every day. Keep reminding yourself on why you are actually doing it!
7. When you start – your mind keeps telling you “I’m not going to do it anyways, I’m a procrastinator, that is just the way I am!”
When you’ve been a procrastinator for long enough you start thinking that it is just a part of you. It is similar to those who suffer depression, that once you live long enough with it, you start to think that it is your natural state and when you actually get better, even if it is for a brief moment, you think that something is wrong.
To pull yourself out of it all you need is a counter. You can get them in sports shops – those click counters, where if you click it once it shows 1 click it again it shows 2 etc.
Your goal is to click it every time you do something that you want to do.
Took a shower? *click*
Did your homework? *click*
Took out the garbage? *click*
Made your bed? *click*
Put some extra effort in an activity where you didn’t have to? *click*
Find every possible scenario where you could have avoided doing the activity, but you did it anyway. Write down the count at the end of every day and then reset it to 0.
You will see that the amount of things you do per day increase, because of two reasons:
- You see that you don’t procrastinate 100% of the time and you CAN do something without procrastination.
- You might feel challenged by the previous day score, so you will want to do better today
8. You’re afraid that you will fail
There is only one thing that you can do in this situation. Come up with a list of consequences that might arise from the failure and develop a plan of how you might cope with it and value the consequence from 1 – 100 of how devastating it would be towards your life.
This fear is another one that roots from perfectionism and all-or-nothing thinking. You have to learn that failing is not bad at all.
I would suggest also that you do the thought log exercise for every negative thought that pops in your mind every time you think about doing a certain task. (See next task)
9. Emotions take the best of you and you feel overwhelmed
It is easy to get overwhelmed with different mix of emotions and thoughts when you’re fighting with yourself. It can get so bad, that you’re so overwhelmed that you can’t seem to take another step so you freeze.
To untangle this issue, you have to make a thought log.
A thought log is another exercise that usually works great with people who suffer from anxiety and/or depression. It works with your inner voice and if it has a bad temper or it is bullying you, this is how you work with it.
This will be the simple version, as you don’t have to go deeper. Make two columns. Name one Automatic thoughts and the other one Rational response.
|Automatic thoughts||Rational response|
|I can never get anything done no matter how hard I try!||Who am kidding? I’ve done a lot of things. I’ve done plenty of homeworks, I can hold a job, I can make my GF happy (well… most of the time), I’ve done enough chores! There are plenty of things that I’ve done! Of course, there is room for improvement and I don’t always get everything done that I want to, but saying that I can’t do anything is just bullocks.|
|I always fuck everything up!||Another overgeneralization. I don’t fuck up 100% of the things that I do. If this was true I would probably be dead!|
The key with this exercise is to do it every day and in the “Rational response” column write answers that you believe 100%. Otherwise it won’t work!
10. You think your work doesn’t matter
Sometimes you just sit there and think to yourself – why am I even doing this? What’s the point? This stuff doesn’t matter in the long run.
Or that this small tasks is like a droplet in the ocean, it doesn’t change anything.
When you’re tackling really big projects this may be an issue, because the project is so enormous and you can only do that much at a time.
I have a metaphor that I always tell to everyone that I coach: “Imagine that all the food that you have ever eaten and will eat would be put in front of you and you’re told, you have to eat all that! You would probably be overwhelmed and every time you would look at that enormous pile of food you would feel discouraged. But somehow you do finish it in your life time.”
The morale of the story is: don’t look at the big task, it will overwhelm you, keep chipping away with the small ones and with time you will see the benefit.
Keep in mind...
You should use various techniques from this guide and combine them together for the maximum benefit. See what works best for you and don't stop after the first day! I would give something a go for about 2 - 3 weeks before quitting.
If you have any questions regarding the techniques drop a comment, I will reply them all.
Otherwise - share it with your friends.