Advisory note: The excuses enumerated below work best when used sparingly. Excessive use may result in raised eyebrows or demotions.

The age-old “my dog ate my homework” excuse may not fly in this paperless startup age, but there are plenty of other excuses you can use when didn’t finish all your work. Especially if you’ve earned your MBA.

There’s an endless number of to-dos at a startup, but I am a big proponent of that elusive work-life balance, AKA sometimes skipping out of the office before 8PM to go get an acupuncture or meet friends for a Grouper.

The key to getting away with not getting everything done is to talk like a businessperson. MBA degrees are optional, but helpful. Pull out those banal MBA one-liners and you can circumnavigate your way through any missed deadline or incomplete spreadsheet. Whether you’re too busy or just a little lazy, here are ten surefire lines that will cover your butt and earn you some corporate cred to boot:

  1. I didn’t have the bandwidth this week
  2. We were trying to boil the ocean
  3. I had to prioritize other deliverables
  4. It wasn’t the right high-level strategy
  5. It fell below the line this week
  6. It’s really a time and distance problem
  7. There were other low-hanging fruit to attend to
  8. It’s just not quite in my wheelhouse
  9. It didn’t make sense to reinvent the wheel
  10. The problem was that we were working in silos
  11. It’s an issue of scalability

OK, that’s eleven. Bonus!

As my startup has grown from a team of five to one of 30, we’ve introduced a bit of a corporate structure and the corresponding vocabulary.

And while I’m still learning how to function in this bizarre managerial environment, I’ve already nailed the lingo. It seems talking the talk is most of the battle. A B-school grad even told me that a lot of what you learn in business school is how to speak with people across sectors. Sometimes a little hot air goes a long way.

Julia Plevin is a writer and blogger who recently returned to the United States after managing a magazine in Hanoi, Vietnam. She now works at a startup in San Francisco.

photo credit: robives via photopin cc