You might remember that I started a No Excuses experiment back in February. Well, it’s time for an update. Actually, it’s past time, but more on that in a minute.
Overall, the No Excuses experiment has been a success. I’ve definitely learned a lot about myself, and also gotten a lot done in the last month.
I want to share some of the lessons I learned, and also some of my most common excuses.
Part of the experiment involved keeping an “Excuses Journal.”
The Excuses Journal idea was pretty simple. Anytime I caught myself making an excuse (even if I just thought about making an excuse), I wrote it down, and wrote down what I was doing (or avoiding) at the time.
This was extremely helpful and eye-opening, and I wanted to share a bit about what I learned from my Excuses Journal.
At the beginning of the month, I had impulses to make a lot of excuses. As you’ll see, I didn’t let these excuses stop me from doing what I needed to do, but it was really interesting.
I’m going to share the first three days of my Excuses Journal, and some lessons learned. Forgive the harsh language (I swear a lot in my own head, and I’m still learning how to be nice to myself). 🙂
Excuses Journal Days 1 – 3
**February 1 – 4:00 PM**
Excuse: I don’t feel like publishing my blog post because it’s not as good as it could be.
Answer: Fuck that. It’s fine. And you can change it later if you want to. Also, no one cares. And you’re a better writer than you think.
**February 1 – 7:30 PM**
Excuse: I don’t feel like doing my workout because I’m tired and just ate dinner and had a glass of wine.
Answer: Fuck that. I’m doing my workout and I’m going to push extra hard.
Note: pushed super hard and I can barely lift my arms. Feeling good.
**February 2 – 7:40 PM**
Excuse: I don’t feel like doing my workout because I’m tired and just ate and had a glass of wine.
Answer: Fuck you, dude. You said the same thing yesterday. Time to fix this for good. Workout starts in 5 minutes.
Note: Did my workout. Pushed hard. Feel awesome.
**February 3 – 7:00 AM**
Excuse: I’m too tired and cold to get out of bed. I should snooze a while longer.
Avoiding: Getting up.
Answer: Haha. You goofball. Being cold and tired doesn’t mean you have to stay in bed. Get up, take the dog out and make a cup of hot green tea. It will wake you up and warm you up. Then take on your day.
**February 3 – 9:52 PM**
Excuse: I put my workout off again, because I was working and writing.
Avoiding: Working out.
Answer: I did walk about 6 miles today, but I’m going to do my workout now anyway.
This is why it’s so important to keep notes as you do your experiments!
1. I should stick to my exercise schedule.
Look at days 1 and 2. I had the exact same excuse at almost the exact same time.
What was the problem? I was putting my workout off until after dinner, and I didn’t feel like doing it. Obviously working out right after dinner isn’t exactly ideal, but whose fault is that? Mine. I didn’t have to put my workout off until the end of the day. In fact, I normally exercise in the morning between breakfast and lunch. I wasn’t sticking to my routine on those days, and I was making excuses about the ripple effects.
Of course, because I wasn’t allowed to make excuses, I worked out anyway and always felt great afterward.
After the first three days of running into the same problem, I made sure to get my workout done in the morning for the rest of the month. I cured myself of the “it’s too late to work out” excuse by sticking to my usual routine. Problem solved.
2. I almost let my insecurities get the best of me.
On the very first day of the experiment, I made an excuse about not publishing the post where I introduced the experiment. Apart from being the literal definition of irony, I told myself that the post wasn’t “good enough” as an excuse.
But guess what? No one cares if I don’t think something is good enough. I had to confront the cause of that excuse and face that it was just a mental block in my own head. I mean, maybe I do publish crappy things from time to time, but no one has ever told me that. (Thanks!)
So, why was I worried about it? Fear? Perfectionism? Shame? Even if the article wasn’t good, is that really a big deal? No. No one cares. I was just picking on myself and making excuses about it. Writing a mediocre article isn’t a big deal anyway.
What is a big deal is letting my insecurities stop me from doing something that matters to me.
And I almost let that happen, but since I wasn’t allowed to make that excuse, I published the post anyway. I rose above my silly insecurity that day. Of course, lots of you seemed to like the post, and committed to joining me for the No Excuses experiment. A win for all of us, and a lesson learned for me.
3. I’m lazy sometimes.
On the third day of the experiment, I wrote down that I didn’t feel like getting out of bed. This cracks me up because it’s sounds so wimpy, but I’m sharing it for an important reason.
I usually wake up earlier, but always set an alarm for 7:00. That day, I slept until the alarm went off, and I remember laying in bed thinking, “It’s cold in the house, and I’m tired. Screw it, I’m going back to sleep.” Then I realized I would have to write that down in my excuses journal and I started laughing.
I realized I was just being silly, and I got out of bed and had a cup of tea and got to work. I didn’t feel bad about my wimpy excuse, it actually put me in a good mood to start my day with a laugh.
Of course, it’s ok to be lazy sometimes. I like to take naps and sleep in once in a while, but I didn’t need to that day. I was making an excuse, and I’m glad I didn’t hit the snooze.
The Rest of the Month
After those first three days, I was much better about not making excuses. I still had a few entries later in the month in my Excuses Journal, but they were less frequent. Some highlights…
I did slip up on the 17th, and ended up putting off my daily physical therapy until 11pm. My excuse was that it was really boring (because it is), but of course I did it anyway because it’s important for me to keep from getting injured.
I also did a lot of things I’d been putting off for a while, like having an awkward conversation with someone I work with. Ok, actually, like three awkward conversations. But I felt much better afterward.
As the experiment progressed, I found myself diving into things instead of putting them off. I was much more productive, and generally just got a ton of stuff done.
One interesting side-effect was that I got better at recognizing my own negative emotions, like fear and anxiety and frustration. Instead of letting those emotions get in my way, now I just make a mental note and try to “be a witness” to the emotions. That means observing your thoughts and feelings and letting them pass instead of letting them control your actions. It might sound strange, but it feels kind of wonderful.
Even though most of the experiments I do here only last for one month. I’m actually going to keep going with the No Excuses experiment for an additional month because I’m still learning, and I can tell I haven’t completely “cured” my impulse to make excuses. I’m much better than I was a month ago, but stopping now doesn’t feel right to me.
I also think this experiment is tougher than average because it’s so broad. Because we can make excuses about anything, giving up your excuses is actually like trying to change a lot of different habits at once.
For me, I’m creating the habit of not postponing my exercise and physical therapy, the habit of not being lazy, the habit of not letting my emotions get the best of me, and other habits too.
Those happen to be my stumbling blocks. I’m sure yours will be different, and that’s good. What matters is that you figure out what they are and push past them so you can grow as a person and accomplish your goals.
When Should You Stop An Experiment?
The idea of extending the No Excuses experiment brings up an interesting question, and I want to get your feedback on it.
When should you stop an experiment?
My answer is: You should stop an experiment when you stop learning from it.
I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer, but I want to know what you think.
I also want to know how your No Excuses experiment has gone. What were your most common excuses? What did you learn?
Let me know what you think. 🙂