NoExNo: You’re Doing it Wrong/Right

successThis year, NoExNo got me good. And I don’t think I’m alone when I say that it’s been an uphill battle. But, I’m still learning, and I hope you are too.

This year, I’ve learned to count my blessings along with my failures. Sometimes, when I fail to succeed at something, that’s all I can think about. But I often forget/ don’t give myself credit for the things I’m doing right.

When I read my dear friend Ashley Simmons’ Pep Talk, I realized that sometimes we take our failures too seriously and our successes too lightly. For Ashley, that meant that while she was feeling like a failure for not managing to stick to her NoExNo goal, she failed to give herself credit for being a new mom, a wife, a friend, a full-time employee, et al. Finally, she gave herself some credit for the fact that even though she didn’t get to exercise as much as she had hoped, she never let excuses get in the way of caring for her beautiful daughter.

This week, I ask you to briefly acknowledge what you need to work on, but to focus on what you are doing right. Are you working hard at your job? Are you a good friend? Mother? Son? Great at drinking wine? There are so many things you are succeeding at that you might be taking for granted.

So, if you feel like a failure, you’re doing it wrong. The point of NoExNo is not to condemn those who don’t complete their goals (who would cast the first stone?), the point is to encourage each other to do something brave. Well, today I am encouraging you to remember what you are doing right.

Give yourself a mini pep talk today, and remember: you’re doing it right*.

*That’s what she said.


Allison Baker is a legal assistant, marketing director, writer, career procrastinator and the founder of No Excuses November. You can find more of her here, here, and here.

Guest Pep Talk (Ashley Simmons): How I’m succeeding and failing all at the same time.

I set very reasonable goals for myself this year.  Very reasonable.  Things were going well, but I didn’t want to set myself up for failure. In the back of my mind I was thinking, “I can so do this, and I will even go above and beyond. This is going to be awesome!”  Well, spoiler alert, it wasn’t awesome.

As many of you know I had the experience of carrying, birthing, and caring for a beautiful baby girl this year.   Everyone tells you how hard it is going to be. Some really lovely people tell you how amazing it is going to be. And in truth, it is both. However, somehow my Husband and I ended up with a really wonderful child. She was eating on a predictable schedule and sleeping at minimum of 7 hours a night at 7 weeks old.  There were a few bumps in the road, but really, it was great.

This little pumpkin is the adorable reason I don't sleep anymore.

This little pumpkin is the adorable reason I don’t sleep anymore.










Fast forward to end of October. I have a 4-month-old and I’m feeling pretty good. I’m thinking I have the hang of things as a full time working Mom. I was excited to getting back to being more regimented about my exercise routine and healthy eating habits (pregnancy had thrown me a bit off course). Then November rolls around and BLAMO! My daughter regresses. Now she is waking up every 3 hours at night, she refuses to take her naps, and she wants to eat, what feels like, all the time. To make matters worse, over the following weeks I got a terrible cold, followed by awful allergies, followed by my fifth and worst breast infection yet. If you have never had a breast infection (I have no clue if men or non-nursing women can even get them), think really bad flu/high fever/can’t get out of bed/want to die/lots of pain/but still have to feed and take care of a baby. I was distraught and exhausted. November was supposed to be my month. My month to get back on track. My month to have no excuses.

Now my goals were reasonable.  I wanted to exercise 1-2 times per week and just cut out processed/refined sugars.  I had cut out processed sugars before and it really wasn’t so bad. In fact, after a little while you completely stop craving them. Yet I found myself refusing to read certain labels because if I didn’t “know” that there was processed sugar in it, then I could somehow pretend that it was okay to eat.  Yes, I somehow pretended away the sugar in Ketchup and BBQ sauce this month. As far as the exercise goes, 1-2 time a week was what I was already doing prior to November so no big deal. Ha! All of the sudden I would realize that the end of the week was here and I hadn’t even gone for a walk. So I would park my car further out at the grocery store. This way I could say I got some “exercise” while walking to and fro. I was carrying my 15 lbs daughter in her 13 lbs car seat, so that makes it a little better, right? Obviously this wasn’t how I wanted my goals to go.

I knew I could do better. But all the things that were happening were real, and felt real. I tried so hard not to let them become excuses. But some days I was just too tired to care (that’s an excuse right there…) that I was failing.

Then it hit me. It hit me in an exhausted stupor. There is one area that of my life in which I make no excuses. No matter how tired, sick, or discouraged I am I will always hold, feed, care for, and love my daughter. No excuses. She wouldn’t understand them anyways.

My NoExNo goals, my goals, may not being going as planned, but at least I know that I am capable of pressing forward through all the obstacles without excuses. Now I just need to work on transferring that skill to other areas. I won’t stop trying. No excuses.


Ashley Simmons is a full-time employee, part-time photographer, and mother to a beautiful baby girl.

Ashley is tired.

Guest Pep Talk (Bryce McEfee): The Demons of Resistence



As I wade in my self-imposed pool of excuses on this beautiful fall afternoon, I wonder what it is that I am truly making excuses for.  Why do I keep myself from doing things that I really do want to do?  What am I hiding from?  If I take a deep look and shift through my guarded bullshit, I find a scared little boy.  A boy whom is afraid to take a significant leap in any direction for no apparent reason at all, other than a misguided complacent comfort.  It’s easy to do nothing. Its safe, its what we know and its completely controllable with minimal effort.

For example – I want to write.  I love writing.  It is a calming place for me to go, but it’s also a scary place for me to go. My mind wanders constantly with fantastical ideas of stories, poems, rantings, etc. that I want to write down and share, but when I put pen to paper, I hesitate.  The ideas I felt in my mind suddenly become self aware when faced with a penned actuality.  I get an overwhelming feeling that I will not be able to adequately translate what I saw in my head down on paper.  So, a lot of times I don’t.  My excuse…I’m not a good writer, so it just doesn’t matter anyway.  With each excuse fades away another idea, whether truly good or not, left to die with the unknown.

It’s funny how I allow an unknown dictate my decisions.  It’s an unknown.  The outcome could be either what I want, what I fear or a completely different outcome I did not think of and yet when I choose to not take that leap, I automatically end up with the outcome I feared…failure.   But it’s easy to disguise this failure.  After all, I didn’t attempt writing what I wanted to.  I didn’t have to go through the struggle of trying, there isn’t any physical evidence that I failed so in a sense – out of sight, out of mind.  It never happened.  Wrong.  The only thing I succeeded at was making up an excuse to mask my failure.  It was the easy way out.

Even as I sit here writing this, I want to delete it.  However, to my extreme mixed pleasure, I sometimes conquer my fear and actually get something out of my mind.  Some writings are better than others and other times they are complete shit, but regardless of the outcome, it feels fantastic.  It feels fantastic to break complacency and live in the world just outside my guarded box.  Yes there is a risk of failure, but our accomplishments would not feel as grand if their wasn’t that risk of failure.  Life without risk, is not a life at all.  One can never grow without reaching outside their comfort zone and chasing risk.  Even if that risk is as simple as writing down what’s on your mind.

I want to share a quote from one of my favorite authors and inspirations that helps remind me to keep reaching beyond my fear.

“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake.  Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio.  Tell stories.  Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem.  Do it as well as you possibly can.  You will get an enormous reward.  You will have created something.” – Kurt Vonnegut

I believe this quote goes beyond just the arts.  It transcends over everything we do and want to accomplish, but are too afraid of making the effort in fear of failing.  The majority of life is made up of decisions that are not a matter of life and death, so what is truly the worse that can happen?  I’ll tell you what the worse is that can happen…that you never try. So why make excuses?  Go out and accomplish what you truly want.  The fact that you are reading this is proof that I just did and it feels damn good.

Bryce McEfee is one of the founding members of Last Week’s Memoir.  He writes stories (like this and this) and serves as the chief business manager and all around rabble rouser for the Sacramento based art/story ultra lounge web upstart. Most days you can find him pretending to write a novel about his life long love for zombies, kicking around a soccer ball annoyingly wherever he goes, doing that thing he does to make real money and last, but certainly not least, spending time with his little hellion of a kitten and angelic wife.

How to Succeed at NoExNo Without Even Dying


We’re 5 days into November, which probably means you are thinking (panicking) about how you will conquer your goal(s) before month’s end. If you’re anything like me (severely lacking motivation without structure), you may be trying to figure out the best strategy to ensure that on November 30th, you can confidently give yourself a pat on the back for completing your goal.

To make sure we all cross the finish line together, here are some of my tips for fool-proofing your NoExNo success:

Refine your goal.

I encourage you to make your goal as specific as you can. For example, if your goal is to “eat healthier,” try modifying it to something easier to keep track of, like “I will only eat whole foods,” or “I will not eat refined sugars.” The more specific you are, the more confident you will be that you have reached your goal.

One of my NoExNo goals is to “finish the Warm + Fuzzy Project.” For me, this means that I will write and send warm + fuzzy notes to the 60+ people who signed up to receive them this year. When I send off the last warm + fuzzy note, I will know that I have completed my NoExNo goal.*

Make your goal quantifiable.

Along the same lines, make your goal quantifiable, if possible. Last year, it was easy to know if I had completed my goal because my goal was to write 1,000 words every day. If your goal is something along the lines of “work out more,” “sleep more,” or “read more,” consider modifying your goal to make it easier to keep track of. How many minutes of exercise will you complete per week? How many hours of sleep per night will you get? How many books will you read? It’s much easier to throw in the towel if you can’t be confident every day that you are doing something to meet your goal.

Give yourself a plan of attack.

Once you have a clear idea of what it means to complete your goal, you can create a plan to accomplish it. For me, this means setting a daily or weekly goal to accomplish. In order to meet my goal, I have decided to complete 15 warm + fuzzy notes on a weekly basis. This may look different for you. Unless your goal is to help me complete mine, in which case: I love you.

If you want to complete a project, how will you make progress toward its completion?

Don’t be afraid to refine and modify your goal. If I learned anything last year, it’s that our goals were dynamic. They took on lives of their own. While I originally set out last year to complete a screenplay, I ended up starting entirely new projects and contributing Pep Talks to NoExNo. I invite you to be flexible and forgiving with yourself when you don’t meet your goal just as you planned. You can change your goal if you need to.

Good luck, NoExNos!

 * you can make my goal even more challenging by signing up to receive a warm + fuzzy note.


Allison Baker is a content marketer, novice improviser, and expert bourbon connoisseur. She is the founder of No Excuses November and is a very skilled procrastinator.

Guest Pep Talk (Amie Lamontagne): Giving Up Coffee– the Groundhog Day of Bad Habits

quit you
“People underestimate their capacity for change. There is never a right time to do a difficult thing.” 

I’ve always been complimented on my positive attitude and cheerfulness, at times even called perky (which always makes me feel like Elle Woods). This character trait is 50% nature and 50% nurture, given that nurture actually means coffee. My mother loves to tell the story of how I was basically born to drink it. Apparently she spent a good chunk of my toddler years keeping me away from her morning mug, until she found Postum, a caffeine-free, coffee-flavored alternative. Thus, my addiction was born.

Coffee suits my Type-A, multi-tasking, ambitious personality quite well and allows me to access the kind of energy needed to deal with 22 small children daily. Life with coffee was grand, until the summer of 2008 when I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. (It’s a long story and the short version is: I have chronic ulcers on the walls of my colon.) Since the diagnosis, doctors have insisted it would be best to cut coffee out of my diet, and I’ve tried many times. Without fail, though, I end up back in line at Starbucks. Oh, Starbucks… Of all the forms of caffeine available there, the Pumpkin Spice Latte (now “PSL”) is absolutely, without a doubt, my hands-down favorite. It’s one of the reasons I adore Fall (along with the start of school, baseball’s postseason, and leggings with boots). I am certain that given the choice between an evening with Michael B. Jordan and a grande PSL, you would find me happily sipping the latte. Unclear as to why this should be a difficult decision? I submit this as evidence. There is a slight chance I would choose the coffee over the amazingly talented and beautiful actor because I imagine I would end up behaving like Emma Stone on a date and never be able to leave my house again.

I digress. Each time I’ve attempted to quit daily coffee consumption, I find — or create — an excuse to fall off the wagon. It is always the same: wake up one morning with the urge to stop drinking coffee every day because I know it really would be the most beneficial life choice, look at the calendar and choose a break from school I think I would be most likely to be spending at home curled up on the couch anyway, and then tell all of my friends that I am quitting coffee. Encouraged by rounds of “You’re so brave!” “I absolutely support you,” and “Good luck with that!” (Perhaps not so encouraged by the last one…) I stock up on green tea and Tylenol. After a week or so of getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night (did you know that going without coffee will make you realize how much you need 8 hours of sleep? I was surprised, too.) I wake up one morning — usually after a tough day or a night of less than 8 hours sleep — and say to myself: “Oh, I really need a coffee today. One won’t hurt me. I’ll go back to No Coffee again tomorrow!” Famous last words. Three months and goodness knows how many lattes later, I am looking at the calendar to find the next ideal break, during which I will definitely quit drinking coffee. The vicious caffeine-laden cycle is my own personal Groundhog Day. (Groundhog Life?)

If you have some version of this playing out in your own life, then you understand the frustration and confusion I feel: I know what I want, I know it’s the best thing, and yet… I’ve lost count of how many times I have tried and failed. There are so many other areas in which I can exert the kind of willpower needed to quit coffee: why is this so hard? Perfectly capable of saying “No” to people and situations, I find myself unable to turn down this hot liquid. What?! In the past few months, I have pushed myself to accomplish things I never thought possible. Every day with my students I repeat the phrase “We grow our minds, we push ourselves, we take the lead!” Suddenly (and inspired by this post), I feel more ready than ever before to push myself and come out on top: only drinking coffee when I want, instead of needing it. And, maybe, by sending this confession out into the vast sea of the Internet to be seen, read, and possibly chuckled at by anyone, I’ll find a new network of support and accountability to reach my goal.

This year, I am participating in No Excuses November, and I will stop drinking coffee. No More Excuses (NoMoEx): “There is never a right time to do a difficult thing.” 

Join me, won’t you?

A Thank You Note

My mother always taught me the importance of writing thank you notes. Though, admittedly, she had success with this because she told me that if I failed to write a thank you note for a gift, I would risk never getting one again. But her strategy worked, so I guess that’s the important thing.

I am writing to you today to tell you how thankful I am for each and every one of you who has joined me this month. I never would have thought No Excuses November would become what it has over the last 22 days, and I continue to be blown away by it on a daily basis.

Many of you know that the inspiration of No Excuses November came from a slightly overblown anti-procrastination strategy. I was having trouble motivating myself to work on my screenplay on my own, so I thought that by making the stakes higher (by telling people), I would be more motivated.

But this project stopped being about me almost the moment it started. The moment you decided you wanted to be a part of No Excuses November. And despite its rather selfish beginnings, I can honestly say that I am more inspired by you than you could ever be inspired by me.

Though many of you have encouraged me directly, the greatest encouragement I’ve experienced is from watching you encourage each other. Some of you know each other, but many of you don’t. Yet, everyday you cheer each other on because that’s the tone you set for the group. And I am thankful for that.

This project isn’t mine, it’s yours. You have inspired me in ways that I can’t even find words for. Which for me, as you know, is a pretty big deal.

I am thankful for you. ALL of you.

A NoExNo Community Update

I am excited to say that our numbers are continuing to grow and I appreciate the kind words and enthusiasm you have shared with me about this project. NoExNo is officially worldwide! We are joined by Laura and Hannah from England and Evalina from Canada– how cool is that?

You also may have noticed that I have added you to the NoExNo Facebook group. If I haven’t, please add yourself (if you want). My friend Devora suggested it as a way to encourage each other and post our goals publicly (gulp). If you have come up with a goal, I encourage you to post it there– it can be helpful to articulate it in writing. And everyone knows that once something is on the Internet, it’s pretty much set in stone;)

I know I told you that you didn’t have to tell me what your goals are, but I am interested to know what everyone is hoping to accomplish. Again, you don’t have to tell me (or the Internet), but knowing what your goals are will also help me know how to better motivate you. And because I’m pretty nosy.

This month is going to be full of ups and downs (and much less vertical directions), but I can’t think of a better group of people to share it with. In addition to the Facebook group, I have a few things up my sleeve for this month. Over the month, you will be getting a series of pep talks (modeled after NaNoWriMo‘s Pep Talks) to further motivate you. NaNoWriMo usually has pep talks written by famous writers, but since J.K Rowling and I aren’t exactly besties (she still won’t accept my friend request), I just asked some of my friends to do it. But believe me, my friends are pretty amazing. You should know.

If you are interested in writing a NoExNo Pep Talk, email me and I can give you some guidelines (it can also be a drawing, a photo, graphic, video, etc.). I say, the more motivation, the better. And even better if the motivation isn’t always coming from me. For your sake, anyway.

For those of you I’ve heard from, it sounds like things are going great! Keep it up!

P.S. Here’s a video for a little more “motivation.”

No Excuses November: An Introduction

Welcome to No Excuses November. Today is the day. You have committed to a goal, whether big or small, and you are excited and possibly scared as all heck that you won’t accomplish that goal. Just me? Cool. Remember this excitement and resolve you have today because it will most certainly not be with you this entire month. Just kidding. But seriously.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is No Excuses November?

No Excuses November is a month-long (30 days, to be exact) project wherein a group of ambitious and excellent individuals (that’s us) pick a goal for ourselves to accomplish during the month of November.

Why No Excuses November?

As many of you know, I did NaNoWriMo last year and wrote a novel in 30 days. Many people asked me why I was doing it. Why would I write a novel in 30 days? Did I expect it to be any good? But they were missing the point. I didn’t set out to write a novel in a month because I thought it would be the Great American Novel (though you can’t prove it isn’t). I did it because I had always wanted to write a novel, but I was afraid to start because I was afraid it would be bad, that I would never finish it, that I didn’t have any good ideas. Excuses, excuses.

But guess what? I DID IT. 50,000 words in 30 days. It wasn’t easy, but I did it.

I loved NaNoWriMo because it pushed me. But this year I had different things I wanted to work on. That’s how No Excuses November was born. I wanted to simulate the motivation and accountability NaNoWriMo provided without the novel-writing bit.

Another lesson I took away from NaNoWriMo was that it is incredibly motivating to know that thousands of people are doing the same thing as you, and are probably struggling just as much. Most importantly, it’s motivating to know that you’ve told people about your goal and you really really really don’t want to have to tell them you bailed on it. This is where you come in.

YOUR No Excuses November

I think YOU can achieve your goals too. That’s what No Excuses November is all about. I hope that you will take away from this the knowledge that you can do something that seems scary and impossible (like giving up television, for example).

No Excuses November is meant to be the flame under your a$$ that pushes you into action. Because fire on your bum hurts.

Now, not all of you are writers. That’s awesome. Each one of you has made (or will make) a goal for this month that you want to accomplish, whether it’s going to the gym, spending time volunteering, or being nicer to that one guy at work who picks his nose at his desk. No goal is too small for No Excuses November!

Since not all goals may be quantifiable (e.g. eat healthier), you will be responsible for knowing just what it means to have achieved your goal. I do encourage making a quantifiable goal though, just so you know when you’ve done it! I won’t police you, but know that the Monsters of Unaccomplished Goals will haunt you in your sleep.

As you set out to participate in No Excuses November, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to fail. Maybe you didn’t make it to the gym like you planned. Maybe Starbucks ran out of your favorite coffee and you failed to finish that last page. It’s okay. It’s easy to give up after slip-ups after you think to yourself, “I can’t do this after all.” I think the most important thing you can learn from this project is persistence. To carry on when you think you can’t. Or something deep like that.

OUR No Excuses November

This is the first year of No Excuses November, and who knows, maybe we’ll do it every year. Maybe never again. But just know that I am proud of each and every one of you for joining me this month. Believe me, I need you more than you need me.

My goal: I will write 4 pages every day in November.

If you want to, feel free to email me your goal(s). Or not. You can keep them to yourself if you want. I will be checking up on you every so often this month, but know that I will be counting these emails toward my writing goal. Also feel free to forward this to friends, enemies, lovers, anyone you think may want to suffer– I mean, *accomplish goals* with us!

You are spectacular and wonderful people who are capable of great things, and don’t you forget it!

To no excuses!