By September 23, 2007 Read More →

How To Use the But-Rebuttal Method to Defeat Procrastination and Take Action

But-Rebuttal Method

"Every vice has its excuse ready." — Publilius Syrus

Is your “but” getting in the way of results? Are there a lot of things you should or could be doing, but there’s always some excuse?  The good news is that there is a prescriptive method to counter your but arguments and take action. It’s the But-Rebuttal Method by Dr. David Burns.

In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, Dr. David Burns writes that “but” may be our greatest obstacle to effective action.

Example of “But” Limiting Action
“I could go out and jog today, BUT” …

  1. I’m too tired
  2. I’m just too lazy.
  3. I’m not particularly in the mood, etc.

Summary of Steps
According to Burns, the key steps to the But-Rebuttal Method are as follows:

  • Step 1. Create the But-Rebuttal table.
  • Step 2. Write down your but statement.
  • Step 3. Write down your but rebuttal.
  • Step 4. Continue this process until you’ve run out of excuses.

Step 1. Create the But-Rebuttal table.
According to Burns, to create your But-Rebuttal table:

  1. Draw a line down a sheet of paper to create two columns.
  2. Label the columns: "But Column", "But Rebuttal"

Step 2. Write down your but statement.
According to Burns, write down your but statement for a task you need to do, but are find yourself coming up with objections.

Step 2. Write down your but rebuttal.
According to Burns, write down a but rebuttal. For example, “I’ll feel more like it once I get started. “ or “When I’m done, I’ll feel terrific.”

Step 3. Continue this process until you’ve run out of excuses.
According to Burns, after your but rebuttal, you will likely think of another objection. Write that objection down, then fight back with a new rebuttal.

Example But-Rebuttal Method
Burns includes an example of using the But-Rebuttal Method:

But Column But Rebuttal
I really should mow the lawn, but I’m just not in the mood. I’ll feel more like it once I get started. When I’m done, I’ll feel terrific.
But now it’s so long, it would take forever. It won’t take that much extra time with the power mower. I can always do a part of it now.
But I’m too tired. So just do some of it and rest.
I’d rather rest now or watch TV. I can, but I won’t feel very good about it knowing this chore is hanging over my head.
But I’m just too lazy to do it today. That can’t be true — I’ve done it on numerous occasions in the past.

In this scenario, it’s Saturday, and you’ve scheduled mowing the lawn. You’ve procrastinated for three weeks, and it looks like a jungle. You tell yourself, "I really should, BUT I’m just on in the mood." Record this in the But column. Next you fight back by writing a rebuttal. You continue to write each next but statement and rebuttal until you run out of but statements.

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1 Comment on "How To Use the But-Rebuttal Method to Defeat Procrastination and Take Action"

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  1. Rob Olsen says:

    Great tips and encouragement/reinforcement for me at a time when I’m feeling burnt out and demotivated after a particularly frenetic first quarter. Thanks.