“He that is good at making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”
― Benjamin Franklin
I used to be my own worst enemy and making excuses was part of my everyday routine. It wasn’t until I learned to take full responsibility for my life that my outlook, and results, started to change. When I finally realized that what I was experiencing in my life was a product of my choices I became emotionally empowered to make changes – but a change had to first start internally before I could experience any external results.
I believe that the habit of “making excuses” was, at least in part, motivated from a disempowering story that I had in my head about how life was supposed to be, and what I was capable of doing. The stories that we believe have the power to define us – they become our reality. If we create an empowering story about life, and what we will do with it, it will become our reality. However, if we cannot change our story, and if a negative narrative consumes us, it will drag us down and create a reality that we don’t want.
Our negative stories don’t inspire us, they don’t help us to reach our potential or break through our fears. They keep us safe, but it isn’t a good safe. It is a safe that is unsettling because we aren’t living what we could otherwise live if we’d take risks.Advertising
This article will list 10 “common excuses” that we tell ourselves that drag us down – 10 “narratives” or “stories” that we need to change if we are going to live the life that we are truly proud of.
1. I have no qualifications, so I can’t earn a decent income.
If you believe this it’s likely that you’ve been conditioned to think that your schooling controls your income. This just isn’t the case. Look around – you will find many examples of people who built great businesses without much school. Sure there are the famous examples (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson), but there are many more much closer to home. Take 10 entrepreneurs out for lunch, you’ll likely find that several of them either don’t have education, or have built a business in an area outside of their schooling. You can get the knowledge you need to succeed.
2. I’m too old to start.
Really? Do you really believe that, or is that just an excuse you’re telling yourself so that you don’t have to face the risk of failure. There is no such thing as too old. Ever heard of a guy named Harlan Sanders? Most people know him as the “Colonel”. He didn’t start KFC until 66. Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man, he was 43 when he began drawing his characters and his partner Jack Kirby was 44 when he created The Fantastic Four. Andrea Bocelli didn’t do opera until the age of 34. Phyllis Diller became a comedian at the age of 37. You are not too old. If you want it bad enough you’ll find a way to start.
3. I’m worried that everyone will laugh at me.
Being liked by everyone is both impossible and overrated. If you want everyone to like you then just do nothing. That way you’ll never possibly offend anyone. It is better to risk failure than to never try. Many (most) great people have failed, and every entrepreneur will fail at some point. It is part of the feedback mechanism. It is the way you learn to change your actions. You only ultimately fail if you quit.Advertising
4. I’m too busy.
So is everyone else. I know it is tough. I know that it can be tiring, working long hours at your job and trying to get that book written, or that business started, but the reality is that there is someone else, who has gone before you, that was under the exact same circumstances (perhaps even more difficult circumstances) as you and they don’t make this excuse. They find a way to get it done, even a little at a time.
5. I’m waiting for the right time.
The right time was probably several years ago. The second best time is right now. There is nothing else. A couple years from now will be no different. There will always be resistance and things that get in your way. So you make a decision right now to live, to make a change, to build whatever it is that is in your heart. Right now is the best time there ever was.
We never live; we are always in the expectation of living
6. It’s too difficult.
Everything worth having is difficult – but there is a way to conquer any mountain, it is to take one step at a time. One foot in front of the other, over and over, until the mountain is conquered. Chunk it. Break your big, scary, difficult goals down into small bite sized chunks and complete a chunk every single day until the goal is complete. That is the only way to do difficult things.
7. They made it because they’re different.
That is a story that you are telling yourself to guard against the unsettling reality that you’re probably not doing all that is in your power to succeed. If you really want something bad enough you’ll find a way to do it. You won’t settle on an excuse that you know deep down just isn’t true. Our world is full of rags to riches stories – people who had nothing to begin with, but who wouldn’t allow excuses to define their reality. Howard Schultz (Starbucks) lived in low income housing. Oprah Winfrey was born into a poor family in Mississippi. Ralph Lauren was once a clerk at a Brooks Brothers store. No matter what your circumstances are you can change them.
8. I’ve already put a lot of time in a different path
Is it the path that you want to be on? If not, then who cares? First of all, it is a sunk cost, so it shouldn’t factor into your future decision making. I know this one from first hand experience, I went to school for nearly a decade and spend over a hundred thousand dollars to become a lawyer. But I didn’t want to be a lawyer, so I couldn’t let my “time on a different path” define the future I wanted to created. If you don’t want to be on the path you are on then change it.
9. I don’t know where to start.
None of us know where to start when we begin. So what do you do? You find someone who knows (someone who has experience in your field), you figure out what they did, and then you take the same action. At least to start, and over time you develop your own unique voice. If you can’t find anyone who will give you the time of day, go to the Internet, a couple search engine queries and you’ll be able to find an article about someone who did something similar to what you want to do. Read their story, and take similar action. Once you’ve done 5 things, then find another 5, then another 5, then keep taking action until you get what you want.Advertising
10. It’s all about who you know, and I don’t know anyone.
This is a common excuse that isn’t serving you, and it isn’t true. Leonardo Del Vecchio, the owner of the world’s largest sunglass manufacturer, with brands like Oakley and Ray Ban, was born into an orphanage. Do you think he relied on his “family connections” to get going? Legendary financial trader George Soros survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary and arrived in London as a penniless college student. Larry Ellison, one of the richest men in the world was raised by a single mother in Brooklyn. It wasn’t his connections that helped him. Jerry Yang, the founder of Yahoo, was an immigrant from Taiwan who didn’t even know english when he came to the US.
Start today. Eliminate those excuses that you are carrying in your head. They aren’t serving you. They aren’t empowering you. They aren’t helping you live the life you want. They don’t need to define you.
Last Updated on July 13, 2020
How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day
Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.
1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind
The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.
Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.
For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.
The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.
2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos
Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.
As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.
Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.
3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law
Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))
This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.
We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.
Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.
When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.
Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.
4. Use the Power of Your Calendar
Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.
For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.
Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.
5. Make Decisions
For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.
If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.
If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.
Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)
I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.
This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:
The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.
6. Take Some Form of Action
Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.
The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.
It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.
Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.
The Bottom Line
Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.
When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.
More Tips for Reducing Work Stress
- How to Eliminate Work Stress When You’re Stressed to the Max
- Want to Feel More Energized Throughout the Day? Start With This
- 8 Important Things to Remember When You Are Feeling Overwhelmed
Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com