What “I don’t have time” really means

What I don't have time really means

In her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, Laura Vanderkam presents a perspective that can be both freeing and convicting:

“Instead of saying, ‘I don’t have time,’ say, ‘It’s not a priority.’”

Vanderkam firmly places the reins back in her readers’ hands. We may feel like someone else is driving this train off the tracks, but we do, in fact, choose how to spend our time.

Lacking boundaries and allowing an overbearing employer or family member to control our calendars is a choice. Feeling compelled to say yes to every social and volunteer opportunity is a choice.

Since I read 168 Hours this spring, I’ve mostly blotted “I don’t have time” from my vocabulary, admitting instead that where I spend my time is where my true priorities lie.

It has been challenging, but illuminating and worthwhile.

Time is finite, so I have to admit to myself that the things I don’t fit on my calendar simply aren’t my top priorities. I may want them to be, but they’re not, at least not today.

Sometimes I feel guilty for spending time writing, or I’m glued to my iPhone while Mike is telling me something, or I’m paying attention to work off the clock and ignoring loved ones in favor of work. These have all been opportunities to reassess my priorities:

  • Honing my writing craft and investing in this online space are higher priorities than maximizing my earning potential at this point in my life.
  • When I’m having an important conversation with Mike, Instagram is not a priority.
  • At 8:00 PM, work is not a priority, so I don’t check my work email.
  • On the other hand, if my sister calls at 8:00 PM, I’ll try to answer even if I’m in the middle of something.

There is freedom in being honest about priorities. Many choices come more easily.

But it can also be convicting. Most people probably wouldn’t list social media as a high priority, but the average American spends about two to three hours a day on social media. If we spend that kind of time, and then turn around and say we don’t have time to exercise or clean our houses (guilty), what does that say about our priorities?

The honest truth is that the things we want to be our priorities- our families, our health, our friendships and marriages- are a lot more work than the abundant distractions and urgent but less important time suckers.

How do you think differently about your calendar when you substitute, “It’s not a priority,” for “I don’t have time”?

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This post is part of a 31 day series on “doing less to build more.” To read the other posts in this series, click here.

Photo Credit: marcp_dmoz via Compfight cc

8 thoughts on “What “I don’t have time” really means

  1. Yes, I believe we make time to do what we want to do. Saying “I’m busy” has in reality become an excuse we use when we can’t fit all of it in our calendars. What we really mean is “I’m busy with what I want to be busy with.” Remembering this has helped me to better prioritize my time with friends letting them know that they are indeed special and important.

  2. I completely agree and came to a similar realization earlier this year. I was in a conversation with my mom and totally unfairly judging someone else. To end the conversation I said “Well if it was important they would make time for it” and I was immediately reproved by my own statement! There are so many things I know I do, like clean or work out, and I’ve definitely blamed time for those things not being done. But, as I thought then and as you wrote today, if it was a priority I would make it happen! Good things to consider.

  3. Have you read The 7 Experiment by Jen Hatmaker? It was really eye-opening to me- especially when she gave up social media for a month. YOu miss it, but then you really don’t miss it. I like a little fast from those things every now and again to reset.

    1. No, I haven’t. I will check it out! I’ve given up social media for a week before, but never a month. That’s a good idea. I like little fasts now and then, too. Getting ready to start my firs Whole 30, in fact. :)

  4. Truth!! And on that note, I’m stepping away from the laptop and the mindless interweb surfing I’ve been doing the last two hours… time for some arts & crafts projects that I’ve been complaining “I don’t have time” for ;) Thanks for the reminder, lady! xoxo

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