5 Excuses Solopreneurs Repeatedly Make (And How to Avoid Them)

We all make excuses. It happens, it’s inevitable and it’s part of human nature to shift blame and take the easy road whenever possible.

Go ahead, just try and tell me I’m wrong!

However if you’re starting out as an entrepreneur, the excuses have to stop.

Why?

Because now the only one left who will feel the pain of those excuses is you.

If something didn’t get done in your day job you could almost always shift blame, buy time, and diffuse the situation.  Guess what happens then?

You still get paid.

Once you’re on your own, if you fall into the trap of endless Playstation sessions and the entire series of 24 – you’re screwed.

In order to be successful, you need to recognize your most common excuses and put an end to them.  As soon as you stop making excuses and just start making things happen, you’ll notice a dramatic shift in happiness, results, and your bank account.

Today we’re going to look at five of the most common excuses new entrepreneurs make that lead to disaster.

How do I know what they are? Because I’ve made every single one of them, and continue to on occasion.

This post is in some ways a reminder to myself.  When I’m not doing what I know I should be and begin taking the easy road, things go downhill quickly.

Use this post as a reference, as I will be doing, to get back on track next time you find yourself making excuses.

Excuse #1: I’m Waiting on My Designer/Developer/Writer

So I’ve got this new project I’ve been working on called Breaking Eighty (obviously a very early stage work in progress).  I’m stoked for it.  Essentially it’s going to be a way for me to turn one of my biggest hobbies into a business.

I was all good to go on it a month ago.  I was pumping out high quality content, and contacting organizations that I thought would allow me to further my goals for it.

A good friend of mine offered to help out with the theme, and said he’d have it to me in a few weeks.

Instead of making sure everything was perfect and ready to go for launch as soon as the design was taken care of, I’ve stopped working on it.

Completely.

I’ve hardly touched it in a month, even though I know it has some serious potential and will be a lot of fun to work on.

I’ve allowed myself to rationalize that I can’t work on anything until I have the design – because that’s the aspect I’m currently most excited about.

Just because I can’t work on the thing I want to work on, doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of things that are just as important to be building out.

How do you avoid this pitfall?

Have you ever found yourself not doing work because you’re waiting on someone else to send you one aspect of it? Here’s what you do: spend 5 minutes and write a list of everything that needs to be done on that project.  If you’re anything like me, it will take all of 20 seconds for that list to get pretty staggering.

Now, do the one thing you want to the least first.  Get it done, then everything else will seem easier and it will give you that all-important momentum that’s so key to entrepreneurial success.

Excuse #2: “I Was Productive for Half an Hour, I Deserve a Break”

No you don’t.

Think about all of the entrepreneurs you aspire to be like. What would they do?  Would they take a break after writing half a blog post?

Of course they wouldn’t.

No one get’s rich and gets the privilege of living a badass lifestyle with that kind of mindset.

So then why is it so easy to do?  I’ll be totally honest, this one is killer for me.  I’ll get one task done, and my 5 minute break often turns into 30 minutes of web surfing, You Tube videos, or any number of other time sucks.

So, how do you stay on task?

When I find myself in a really unproductive mood, I have a document that I turn to that has a list of all the stuff I want in life.

This list is stuff that’s both short term and long term, however I place a particular emphasis on the former.

Things like:

  • A new pair of headphones
  • A plane ticket to Buenos Aires
  • A new receiver and speakers for my home office

Sure I can afford these, but I’m also notriously frugal.  I won’t buy them unless I feel like I’ve earned them, and have made enough money that month to justify the extra expense.

By thinking about these things I want in the short term I’m able to translate my procrastination into real life.

I think of everything I want in terms of sales.  How many Location Rebel or affiliate sales do I need to buy this?  If I’m doing client work, then it’s how many hours do I have to work to be able to buy this?

I’ll figure out what that number is, and then set a goal.

Maybe I tell myself I have to make 5 sales in one week, and then I’ll go reward myself with one of the things I want

When there are tangible outcomes and rewards on the line, it’s much easier to focus on what needs to be done in order to get the rewards you want.

Excuse #3: “It’s Cool, I’m Going to Start on Monday”

Ah, the deferred beginning.

You get a solid plan together, you figure out exactly what you need to do, and then you tell yourself you’ll do it after the weekend, or after the holidays, or next month.

When was the last time you did this in some aspect of your life?  I’m willing to bet at least once in the last two weeks you’ve done this on one level or another.

Why is this one so dangerous?

Because you get the majority of the benefit with none of the work.

Let’s use the most common example of this: The Diet.

It’s Thursday afternoon and you’ve been researching workout routines and diet plans for a week.  You’ve finally decided you’re going to Take Tim Ferriss’ advice and give the slow carb diet a shot from the 4 Hour Body.

You feel amazing about the decision.  A smile careens across your face and you proceed to go out and drink 3 martinis, a half pound cheese burger and fries, and chocolate raspberry cheesecake for dessert.

You do it all guilt free because after all, your diet doesn’t start until Monday!

The reality is, you didn’t do anything.

In fact, you did less in terms of healthy living than you normally do, yet in your head, you’re getting the same benefit as though you’ve been dieting for weeks.

So. Dangerous.

How do you get past this?

Stop thinking about the calendar.

When you think in terms of weekdays and weekends, Mondays and Fridays, it becomes really easy to find natural times to start anything new.

The reality is there’s no difference between a Thursday and a Monday – both are just as good of an opportunity to begin something new.

We all know it’s not that easy though – we need accountability.

Next time you even think about “starting something on Monday” call someone close to you and ask them to check in with you in 24 hours to see how you’re doing with that thing you said you were going to start.

I’ve been exploring all sorts of ways to facilitate this inside Location Rebel, and one thing I’ve learned is that everyone needs a different flavor of accountability – you need to figure out what’s going to work for you. Is it fear of punishment or the promise of a reward?  Decide what’s more motivating to you and then use your accountability partner to help implement.

Excuse #4: “I Don’t Have Any More Work to Do Today”

This one is a little tricky, but the fact of the matter is:

Yes, you do.

While I’m a firm believer that there gets to be a point where you do need to stop working, it’s not because you don’t have any more work to do.

Get used to it because as an entrepreneur, the work will never be done. 

There’s always something that could or should be done, and if there’s not, then you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough.

I’ve written about my to-do list strategy in the past.  Essentially I create my list the night before, and unless something urgent happens, I don’t add anything to it.

If I work hard in the morning and am done by 1, it’s great to be able to enjoy the rest of the day worry free.

The key to making this successful completely lies in your ability to create good to-dos.

They should be proactive rather than reactive, wheneever possible.

Meaning, they should be specific goals that will grow your business, rather than reacting to things within your business.

If you can spend a solid 4-6 hours on growing your business you’ll not only be building something legit, but you’ll still have the work/life balance you’re after as a lifestyle entrepreneur.

How do you fight this excuse?

Simple, you don’t ever say it. Ever.

You can say “I’m not going to do any more work today,” but any time you say you don’t have it you’re lying to yourself.

So make the mental reframe of recognizing you’ll always have work, but that you’re actively choosing not to pursue it.  When done correctly that’s not an excuse, it’s a smart decision.

Excuse #5: “I Have to Check My Email First”

Email is one of those things that you always feel like you have to do.

Sure there may be the occasional urgent email, but usually it’s just an excuse for not doing something that will acutally grow your business.

Email is a great way to feel accomplished without getting much done.

I’ll admit, one of the first things I do every morning is check my email.  However, where I’ve become more disciplined is in the fact that after checking for anything urgent, I’ll set it aside for a few hours while I write.  Whether it’s a blog post or content for a product or site,  I use my most creative working hours (the morning for me) for stuff that will pay off down the road.

I’m willing to bet you’ve wasted a lot of good creative time spending an hour or two plowing through emails – and then when you’re done you never get to the stuff you should be doing.

Remember those reactive vs. proactive activities we discussed?  Same thing applies.

So how do you stop using email as an excuse?

For some of you, you may be able to just stop doing it first thing in the morning – and that’s great, if you can do it.

For others, it may be more of an addiction than you realize.

Use a tool like Rescue Time or LeechBlock to physically block yourself from your email client for a set amount of time.

Perhaps from the hours of 7 am to 9am, you lock yourself into your text editor and churn out content.  You’ll be amazed at how much more accomplished you feel after only a couple days of doing this.

Will This Solve All of Your Problems?

Of course not.

Like I said, making excuses is part of human nature.  However by at least recognizing your actions, and having a good back up plan, you’ll be in a much better position to change your habits, become more productive, and ultimately make your business that much more successful.

What excuses do you make way too often?

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk

Jason Hull October 25, 2012 at 9:26 am

There’s something called the Zeigarnik Effect which causes our subconscious to hate leaving things undone. If you’ve ever been in flow doing something and then been interrupted to answer the phone, you know how this feels. Whatever you were doing rattles around in your brain until you can get back to it.

There are two sides to this sword:

1. It prevents you from starting something – your excuse #3. You say you’ll start on Monday because you’re afraid of not being able to finish what you started and having your subconscious bellow in the background about not finishing. Therefore, you make excuses why you can’t start. That’s the bad side.
2. Once you’ve started something, your subconscious compels you to finish it. You can actually take advantage of that rattling around in the back of your head feeling, because your subconscious won’t let you rest until you’re done. Therefore, if you *just start* something – anywhere, doesn’t matter – then you can engage your subconscious to help drive you to finish the task.

Though I’ve not used the Pomodoro method myself, I know of people such as Ben Nevsig who do use it and swear by it. Might be worth looking into.

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Sean October 25, 2012 at 9:36 am

I’ve used the Pomodoro method at times, and generally it works really well. I sometimes need to play with the amount of time I set it to, but overall I think it’s a really useful productivity strategy.

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Nathan Richer October 25, 2012 at 11:20 am

This is a great post, Sean (granted, I may have been procrastinating while I was reading it).

I was wondering if you had any other posts about creating To Do Lists the right way. I always have the problem of overloading my list (essentially, I put every single thing I need to get done on the list).

Sometimes this method will make it look like such a daunting task that I don’t want to get started or when/if I start, I have absolutely no work/life balance. I am still learning how to create a lifestyle business and I think this To Do list is the way to do it (I love the idea of knowing once I finish my list, I can do what I want without any guilt).

I would be incredibly appreciative if you or anyone else has some resources for creating useful To Do Lists.

Thanks!

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Liz | Two Weeks to Travel October 25, 2012 at 11:50 am

Nathan I have seen a lot of people (and done it myself) use the method where you take the 3 most important tasks for the day and only write those down to accomplish. Once they are done, move to the next 3 the next day. If you finish 2 out of 3 then that third unfinished task goes to the top of the next list. Otherwise a very long list for me means I’m overwhelmed and end up doing tiny bits of 10 random things instead of 100% of 2 or 3.

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Nathan Richer October 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Thanks Liz!

I like this idea of writing out 3 main priority tasks and ensuring that they get finished in the day.

This is a lot better than writing out my whole list and being overwhelmed and not getting anything accomplished.

Thanks again for the advice. It is much appreciated!

Sean October 25, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Nathan,

I know I do, as I wanted to link to it in this post! However after realizing I have 344 posts, I couldn’t remember which one talked about it. That said, I’ll try a little harder to see if I can dig it up.

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Chad October 25, 2012 at 11:44 am

Awesome post Sean! I found myself saying “guilty” a lot haha – definitely love the idea of looking at something inspirational when you’re feeling unproductive. I have a folder of photos of things I’d like to have or do someday – I think I’ll start using that to foster productivity.

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Sean October 25, 2012 at 1:06 pm

It’s good to have a mix of photos of places you’d like to live or things you’d like to see. But also remember the smaller things that you could go pick up, say tomorrow if you get everything you should be getting done today.

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Liz | Two Weeks to Travel October 25, 2012 at 11:48 am

I was listening to a talk Ramit Sethi gave the other day and it sort of veered into the psychology of excuses. He said something fascinating (and true) that falls in line with some of the above: that people would rather do nothing than 25%.

Example, he had a friend who said she wanted to run 3x a week, but hadn’t run at all. He said well why not run 1x a week? And she thought 1x a week was pointless, when in reality, yea 1x a week isn’t as good as 3x a week but it’s still a hell of a lot better than 0 runs a week.

Thought it applied to #1 and #3 especially, for some reason many of us don’t get behind the concept that something is better than nothing. Eat low carb the rest of the day and then have a cheeseburger, and the damage isn’t as bad, otherwise the day is totally wasted. Or if you don’t have the time/desire to write 5 posts about xyz, then write 1 it’s better than nothing.

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Sean October 25, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Such a good point Liz. It’s important to keep that in mind, a little is better than nothing. I think of the idea of habit building. Run for 5 minutes a day, and build that habit. Then slowly bump it up. A little can turn into a lot later on if you’re consistent with it.

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André Fohlin October 25, 2012 at 11:54 am

Hey Sean that was spot on and just in time. I have been feeling unproductive for the last 2 weeks, jumping between several projects and not making as much progress as I would have hoped. My problem is to focus on one project until it’s finished and then release it and move on to the next. And your excuse #2 is one I find myself using more and more often during the day.
But from now on (not monday) I will stop making excuses and start to behave like the entrepreneur I want to be.
Great post!

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Sean October 25, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Glad you got some value out of it Andre! Check out Monday’s post as well, sounds like that could be a good one for you to read as well:

http://www.seanogle.com/entrepreneurship/business-killer

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Maurice Lindsay October 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Incredible post Sean…As solopreneurs, we definitely have to constantly keep ourselves in check. In order to reap the benefits of a solopreneur, we have to buss our ass and use the same work ethics as we did in the workforce.

There is always work to do and we are responsible whether it gets done or not. Love this article man, reading stuff like this keeps me on track!

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Sean October 25, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I’ll do everything I can to keep it coming!

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Adrijus Guscia (@AdrijusG) October 25, 2012 at 5:23 pm

I’m stuck at #2 and #5… justification is I’m watching seminar video about marketing or business blog etc so I’m studying! Haven done maybe 20 percent of work that needs to be done in last few weeks.

I’ll beat it by doing one thing that is useful – creating something for my portfolio. Hope that will start it all up and weekend will be very productive.

That, was a nice kick in the ass, thank you! :D

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Bob Buskirk October 25, 2012 at 10:25 pm

“Get used to it because as an entrepreneur, the work will never be done. ” – this is such a true statement that many of my friends who have normal jobs don’t understand. Great post Sean!

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Michael Ten October 25, 2012 at 11:42 pm

So what you are sort of stating is to consistently take massive action? I’ll buy that.

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Thomas Hilmersen October 26, 2012 at 8:57 am

Great post, Sean. I used to work as an i-banker and made the same kind of change that you did. Personally, I have found it helpful to do all my work “first minute,” instead of “last minute.” It’s a habit one has to develop, as I mention in my book “The Minimalist Way: Stress Less, Live More.” Once you start doing things “first minute,” you become both more productive and less stressed out. You don’t have that feeling of undone work hanging over your head, and can get on with new projects or simply enjoy the “spare time.”

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Jeet October 26, 2012 at 10:32 am

@Sean: Awesome post. I have never been a solopreneur but I have done my share of startups with partners. The TODO list ‘used’ to be very useful earlier. My list usually had 70+ activities and I ensured that it’s a FIFO arrangement (with a few exceptions here and there). As your business grows, you may find that you don’t need a TODO list to keep yourself busy ;-)

I like the goal and reward point. I think it can really work for many.

A big mistake one can make is feeling that they are ahead of schedule on their plan and can slow down. One can use the lead to keep ahead of plan instead of wasting time to ‘fall back’ on the schedule.

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Carlos Samaniego October 26, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Great article Sean. I am starting to realize how many of these mistake I have done and have vowed to get my time back. I installed rescue time and have blocked facebook from my personl computer. Keep up great work!

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Darlene October 26, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I tend to make a few, the same ones, like you said.

I “deserve” the time off but I haven’t done anything yet is a common one for me.

I have been good on emails though and I read them at night, answer what needs to be answered and make note of anything that might need attention tomorrow. Then in the morning I don’t open it, at all.

Thomas Hawk photo – nice!

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Shayna October 30, 2012 at 4:57 am

Great analysis of the excuses. What I do to get around #2 is…
– I make my minimum working time before break time 90 minutes
– My “break” consists of getting up from the computer and physically doing something around the house – washing the dishes, folding the laundry, running to the corner store to pick up some groceries. It feels good to get moving, and it means that the break time has a pretty definite end point – I mean, once the dishes are washed, they’re washed, and there’s nothing to do but get back to work.

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Carlo Cretaro November 1, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Wicked info here Sean.

I find myself putting blog posts off for days on end for no other reason other than not wanting to have to churn out something.

I’m working on fixing those negative thoughts and this post will be a great benefit to me. ;)

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Jarek November 4, 2012 at 5:39 am

I can totally relate to some of those. Sometimes I feel like I can call myself an excuse-man… I am doing progress though, because I am getting much more real work done than few months ago. Still I am not “there” yet – it is a process, but it is worth going this road. Anyway, great post, it’s good to enforce some good habits and establish new ones even if one is on the right track.

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