There’s an insidious quirk in myself and everyone I know that prevents us from action.
Call it “Resistance” or anything else you like, but the result is the same: things don’t get done, and your success suffers for it.
For most of my life, I’ve been told the solution is to “buckle down” and just “do it.” While this is true in many ways if you’ve ever sat and stared at a computer screen for a few hours and gotten nothing done because you were “just doing it” you’ll know this advice is not always very helpful.
What we need is not a one size fits all platitude for any time we struggle, but specific action plans and responses to the different excuses we give ourselves to avoid getting things done.
This post deals with three of them.
I can’t focus
You probably say this to yourself often, but telling yourself “I can’t focus” won’t solve the problem. Nor will sitting at your computer banging your head over and over.
Whenever I catch myself doing this, I tell myself “I can’t focus, okay, but what can I do instead?”
The honest answer?
I can go outside and get some sun. I can make some Bulletproof Coffee. I can delegate my work to someone else who is in a better state of mind. I can reprioritize and do something less mentally taxing. I can workout. I can take a nap. I can outsource my work through UpWork. I can stop working for the day and finish everything up at night.
“I can’t focus,” in other words, is not a valid excuse. If you can’t concentrate, there’s always something else you can do instead.
The next time you’re struggling, don’t sit on it and expect to suddenly find “focus.” Ask yourself what alternatives there are to getting your work done in the absence of focus. There’s almost always an answer.
I have too many interests
I hear this from young people all the time.
They don’t start on a given project because they think they have too many choices for what to do first.
Most of the time, when I ask them to define those interests, they aren’t able to give me anything clear and concrete.
The uncomfortable truth is that you don’t have too many interests, you have undefined, unactionable interests.
The solution I’ve found is to stop focusing on interests and start focusing on hard deliverable projects. Instead of saying “I’m interested in coding” and “I’m interested in marketing” and “I’m interested in Classical Languages,” you should outline projects you could work on around those interests.
You could build a website. You could get a client to manage social media for. You could blog for 30 days about Classical Languages.
If you can only come up with one project for one particular interest, now you know where to start. Ignore the rest until you have something concrete to act on.
I’m too busy and don’t have enough time
I read the other day in Make or Create by Dan Norris that the only thing that is true about the statement “I don’t have enough time” is that everyone else has the same amount of time as you.
Instead of trying to cram more into your day, find things to remove.
The hour you spent on Facebook? You probably didn’t need to do that.
The half hour you spent on the phone with the bank? You probably could have outsourced that or done it another day.
The twenty minutes you spent debating whether to spend the extra few dollars on the hardcover book or just buy the paperback? You’ve got better things to do with your time.
You’re not too busy to do the important stuff. You’re just spending too much time on the unimportant things. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t stress. Don’t try to create overly complicated schedules and routines. Just start cutting things out of your life that distracts you from the few essential tasks that matter.
There are far more excuses we give ourselves that I can’t cover here in this post. Whenever you find that voice in your head saying “I can’t…” respond with “what can I do instead?”