The Smallest Excuses

Jacob Allred

I read a post on a blog somewhere awhile back that went something like this: A daughter visited her mom’s house and was given a bunch of yummy food to take home. The food was securely placed in a plastic bag to make for easier transport. When the daughter got home and put the food in the fridge, she realized that she wasn’t going to eat the food. Why? Because it was in a bag, and opening the bag to get to the food was too much work.

At the time I thought this was funny but a bit ridiculous. It takes almost no effort to take the food out of the bag. But then I noticed myself using tiny excuses, too, again and again.

Some of them weren’t a huge deal. For example, I’ve delayed stripping the paint off of some chairs for over a year because I didn’t have the sandpaper I needed, and finding it at the store was too much effort (I finally bought the sandpaper online instead of at a physical store and am nearly done with the paint stripping). Waiting a year to strip some chairs hasn’t had any dire consequences. The chairs still work, it will take the same amount of work to strip them now or later, and the cost hasn’t changed.

But I’ve been using at least two little excuses to keep me from getting things done that are actually important:

  1. I use YNAB to keep track of my income and expenses, and to help me budget my money. When I buy something, I take the receipt, enter it into YNAB, and then file it away. It takes 5 seconds. Well, that’s the plan anyway. What has actually been happening lately is I buy something, I take the receipt, shove it in a pile, and avoid looking at the pile until my wife gently pesters me about updating YNAB. Once it gets to the wife pestering stage, however, the task is no longer small and no longer 5 seconds. This past week, however, I’ve been great at punching in receipts as they come in without the slightest temptation to put it off until later. The difference? I cleaned our second bedroom where we keep the filing cabinet so I no longer have to navigate my way through the piles of stuff every time I need to file a receipt.
  2. A few weeks ago my windshield caught a rock (again) and got a chip (again). To get a chip fixed, I have to go to, fill out a form, and wait a few days for a guy to show up in a van to fix my windshield. It’s free and takes only a few minutes of my time. If I wait, the chip may turn into a crack which will force me to shell out another $281.95 to replace the windshield (again). So why wasn’t my windshield fixed 2 weeks ago? Because I like watching Hulu more than I like scheduling glass repair. To eliminate this excuse, my wife and I have instituted a no TV on Monday/Wednesday/Friday policy. This gives us more time to do the things that actually matter, like having FHE together and me having a productive lunch hour. The policy works, too. I scheduled the windshield repair at lunch today.

What I’ve learned from these couple of examples is that it is easier, faster, makes me happier, and is often cheaper to just eliminate whatever dumb little excuse is keeping me from getting stuff done rather than procrastinate the task. Sometimes that isn’t easy (I am completely addicted to Hulu) but it is so worth it.

What is keeping you from doing the things you actually want to do?