butThere’s no question that work life can be overbooked, overwhelming and stressful. A goal you may have is to get the things done that are important to you and still maintain some kind of sanity. In almost every case, you have enormous control over just how much you get done and yet you may not exercise that control as much as you could.

Do any of these statements sound familiar?

  • I want to work on this project today, but I really need a chunk of time to devote to it.
  • I should follow up with this prospect, but I’ll knock out these other quick tasks and then I’ll make the call.
  • I’ve been meaning to get this office organized, but I just don’t have the time.
  • I need to make a plan for each day, but I really have to hit the ground running just to keep up.
  • I know I shouldn’t check e-mail first thing in the morning but I’m afraid if I don’t I’ll miss something really important.

Follow-through is pretty much a black and white thing. You either do or you don’t. Doing the thing you say you’ll do gets results you’re happier about. Not doing the thing you say you’ll do and coming up with a “good” excuse for why you didn’t do it leads to feeling unaccomplished, frustrated, overwhelmed or insert word describing your bad feeling here ____.

Here’s an equation to remember:
No Results + A Good Excuse ≠ Good Results

In the above instances “but” is just an excuse cleverly disguised as a reason. How do you overcome the but?

Using the examples above, the real reasons for the behaviors might be…

  • Not knowing how or not taking the time to make a project plan so the project can be completed one small task at a time
  • Not knowing what to say and feeling less than confident about handling questions and objections leads to avoiding the conversation
  • Many people get their office looking great for a short period of time but it quickly reverts back to a sea of paper and clutter. Who wants to keep starting over every time? Who has the time? Creating a system of organization that will last, makes carving out the time to make it happen more motivating.
  • People with unreasonable workloads need help. Administrative, accounting, IT, etc. Maybe it’s just being a better delegator. Getting help doesn’t have to mean hiring a full-time employee. There are creative ways to share the load in order to take the “but” out of the overworked businessperson.
  • E-mail is a blessing and curse. More often than not what I see is that folks check e-mail looking for something more appealing to do than the things that are already high priorities, albeit less appealing. On this one you just have to be straight with yourself. Can you cite specific incidents where vital, time-sensitive information was received via e-mail first thing in the morning? Don’t use email as an excuse or a crutch.

As always, I recommend slowing down. If you find yourself using the but, take a moment to figure why the excuse seems necessary at this time.  What would it take to be able to eliminate that excuse?  Training? Support? Time to think and/or plan? Sheer willpower?

2 Comments

  1. Paul Swarthout on March 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Those statements sound familiar. But I found myself wanting to reword them because of something I learned a few months ago. Rewording them changes the mindset and my intent. I thought that was the lesson you were about to teach us. But you went a different direction.

    My thought was to change the statements from: “I want to work on this project today, but…” to “I will work on this project today” or “I should follow up with this prospect but…” to “I will follow up with this prospect.”

    By changing the verb, we change our own intent and challenge ourselves to follow through with a committment to ourselves.

    “I should” or “I want” gives me a way out — sort of sets the stage for the “But”. “I will” forces me to mentally take action and acknowledge it as a committment to take action.



  2. Mary Kutheis (kooth-ice) on March 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    I agree with you Paul. The words we choose are important, since our brain works very hard not to make us a liar. What we say has an enormous impact on our results.