We all procrastinate—on heavy work, annoying chores, big projects. But, most times, we don’t like to admit that we’re procrastinating. It hurts our ego to admit we’re really being lazy or getting distracted. So, we tell ourselves lies or excuses to feel better about it, or justify that we “deserve” or “need” to.
Think you’re guilty of this? Here are some of the most common lies people tell themselves when avoiding tasks:
1. “This New Project Is More Important”
When a project gets tough, it’s much easier and more fun to start a new or different one. This is commonly known as “shiny object syndrome,” and it’s an ugly cycle that leads to never finishing your assignments.
2. “This [Inconsequential Detail] Needs Adjustment”
Three seconds ago, I moved my laptop about one centimeter to make sure it was centered on my desk. Before that, I moved a sculpture on the shelf. If there had been a cup of coffee next to me, I probably would have drunk it. When we face “the resistance,” or a hard endeavor, our attention diverts to silly details around us.
3. “[Inconsequential Critic] Won’t Like It”
We worry that someone won’t like what we create. Yet, we forget that it doesn’t really matter. Upsetting people isn’t illegal, and we should be so lucky that anyone notices our work at all.
4. “I’m Not Good at This”
We believe that we can’t improve—but, in order to get better, we have to do something poorly a few times. Instead of having a growth mindset, a lot of times we have a fixed mindset that it just can’t be done.
5. “Some Other Force Will Prevent My Success”
We look for a scapegoat on which to blame our future failure, then use that as an excuse for not trying. But, the truth is that “the obstacle is the way” and only by overcoming something can we achieve it.
6. “I’m Doing Research When I [Watch Netflix]”
Sometimes, value comes serendipitously from unexpected places. For example, in the Lord of the Rings trilogy we spent the whole day watching, we suddenly find a story to use in our speech. We use these uncommon coincidences to convince ourselves we don’t need to be actively working, or that there’s a benefit in checking Facebook or Twitter constantly (usually, there isn’t).
7. “This Other Thing Will Take ‘Just a Minute’”
We’ll straighten up that sculpture on the shelf, check our email, or do some other “quick” task that will take “just a minute.” In reality, we awaken three hours later from a social media-induced coma with 26,548 tabs open.
The bigger the field on which we give our minds to roam, the more wildly our minds will go off course. To tell yourself fewer lies—and get more done—put up a long, narrow, fenced-in area by building a habit, doing the right work at the right time, and designating unstructured time.
This article was originally published on Medium. It has been republished here with permission.