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Start an Excuse Diet in 2021

12/18/2020
Excuse Diet

As we approach 2021 and New Year's resolutions, let's examine what we need to be relentless about in the coming year.  Being different in 2021 requires change.  What are you willing to change to be different?  How can you improve without changing?  Doing the same things over and over is the definition of insanity.

Psychologists place excuse-making in the self-handicapping category.  It is the behavior we express that hurts our performance and motivation.  Why do we make excuses?  Why is time the most common reason?  Moreover, why don't we make time to improve our situation?  Does misery love company?  I don't have time to be healthier, happier, or more successful. 

Think of time as money.  We all get 168 hours a week.  With a few exceptions, like boot camp or prison, we get to choose how we spend those hours.   When we sleep eight hours a night, we end up with 112 hours left to make magic happen in life.  Subtract forty hours for work, and we get 72 hours (3 days) to change the world each week. 

As a business coach, time is the most common excuse.  You don't have time.  In reality, you choose not to make time.  Work expands to fill the period available for its completion. You know this as Parkinson's Law.  We are good at growing the estimated time to complete something.  We intuitively build in a fudge factor for almost everything in life.  We block time in larger segments and then wonder why we run out of time each day.  What if we scheduled 17-minute meetings instead of one-hour sessions?

The first excuse has surfaced.  John, there is no way to have "my" production meeting in 17 minutes.  It is impossible.  Or is it?  If you told your five-person team to provide a two-minute situation update ahead of time, could they do it?  It gives you five minutes to summarize and adjourn.  Yes, they can do it, John, but how effective would it be?  Horstman's corollary to Parkinson's Law says work contracts to fit in the time we give it.  You can contract almost any work if you decide to do so.  If you mandate 17-minute meetings, the result will contract to fit the time.  You will likely need to schedule another follow-up 17-minute meeting with someone that needs more time. That's 34 minutes instead of one hour. And it is only for the people that need extra time.

You get the point.  When you default to 17-minute meetings, the way you organize your day changes.  Your expectations and mindset will change.  The expansion and contraction of time is your choice.  You default to one hour because it is habitual.   It is not necessary; it is a selection.  You can choose any unit of time and hold 23-minute meetings. It is just a number.

Habituation is the problem.  You don't have time to exercise is another excuse.  You can have a great cardio workout in 21 minutes.  You can burn those shoulders in 16 minutes.  You can smoke those legs in only 11 minutes.  Again it is a choice to be made.  We have prescripted units of time-based on past habits or standard practice.  Stop doing that.

Control your time by using Horstman's corollary, and you will be amazed at how much work can accomplish in smaller blocks of time.  Do this methodically, and you will have more time to react to events that may need an undetermined time to achieve desired outcomes.  Be as protective of time as you are of money.  People will give up 20 minutes in overextended meetings (without any consideration) multiple times each day.  Do you give twenty dollars to everyone in business meetings daily?  What is the difference?

There are five reasons we make excuses about time and other things in our lives. First, we default to familiarity.  Instead of pushing through change boundaries with new habits, we stick to the past and what feels familiar.  It is just easy.

Second, we doubt ourselves.  Enthusiasm for change gets replaced when your inner voice tells you it may not work or people will think you are strange for scheduling 33-minute meetings.  Before you realize it, you have defaulted to past practices with a short memory and mouthful of excuses to do so.

Fear of change is the third reason you make excuses.  Change requires being out of your comfort zone.  Fear of failure, rejection, mistakes, or judgment are legitimate human feelings.  What if someone laughs behind my back for scheduling a 17-minute meeting?  The need for approval and acceptance is vital in everyone.

Fourth, you are not prepared.  When you plan to change, feeling ready is a key factor that helps you take action. Once you've prepared the steps you can take to move things along; leaping is the next step.  You may not be 100% ready, and it will feel awkward at first.  Make a list of what you need to feel more prepared to move your plans forward.  What actions can you start to implement to help you build your confidence to leap? 

Motivation is the final reason you make excuses.  Be aware of what drives you and tap into those feelings to avoid forcing yourself to connect with ideas that don't resonate with you. When you stay tied to your motivators and review them regularly to ensure they remain relevant to you, you put yourself in a position to follow through on your goals. You can also hire a coach to create a plan of action and maintain your momentum.

There are many things you can be relentless about in 2021.  Health, wealth, and happiness are standard in the tradition of resolutions.  None will occur if you make excuses because you do not have time.  Making time to be healthy is essential.  Making time to learn can make you wealthy.  Having time to do what you enjoy and spending time with people you love can make you happy.  Choose how you spend your time.  It is one of the few things you can control if you decide to do so.  Commit to sticking to your excuse diet, and you have precious time.

Thanks for being a loyal reader of my work.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!