How many times have you said those words up there in the title, knowing full well that you’re full of shit?
Bet you weren’t expecting that intro, were you?
Okay, maybe you’ve been around here for a while, and you know I can be blunt. “I don’t have time” is my go-to phrase to excuse the fact that I’m not doing what I should be doing. I’m not doing what I know I need to be doing. Instead, I’m probably scrolling social media or playing a game on my phone.
Now, before you get all up in arms and come at me with pitchforks, I’m not saying we should be productive 25x7x365… (extra hour added for effect)… (okay, it was a typo, but I’m just gonna roll with it). What I’m saying is, when you say, “I don’t have time,” do you mean you don’t have time (because sometimes you legitimately don’t), or do you mean you’re not willing to make whatever it is you’re avoiding a priority?
Ever since I came across an article a while back pointing out the fallacy of “I don’t have time,” I’ve realized just how much I avoid with the simple statement of “I don’t have time.” But when you turn it around and admit that what you’re really doing is deprioritizing things in your life, it changes your whole perception.
I mean sure, I lead a very full life of work + kids + home + social life + personal projects. However… when I examine those things I “don’t have time” for, I realize that many of them fall into one of the aforementioned categories, and the end result is me cheating myself out of opportunities. When I say, “I don’t have time,” sometimes I inadvertently deprioritize some of the most important parts of my own life.
I don’t have time to go swimming/play a game/watch a movie with my family. My family is not a priority.
I don’t have time to work on my novel. My writing is not a priority.
I don’t have time to sit and pet the cat. My pets are not a priority.
I don’t have time to meet with a friend for coffee. My friends are not a priority.
I don’t have time to break out a canvas and paint. My art is not a priority.
I don’t have time to write a blog post. My readers are not a priority.
I don’t have time to walk on the treadmill or use my home gym system or do some yoga. I am not a priority.
The only category of life I seem to always have time for is work. That’s probably because they’ll stop paying me if I tell them I don’t have time for them. They’re funny that way.
When it comes down to it, sometimes I really don’t have time… I’m making dinner or it’s time for bed or I have to go to work. But most of the time when I say “I don’t have time,” the end result is scrolling on Facebook or playing some stupid game on my phone until the day is gone. When I look at the tradeoff from the “I don’t have time” standpoint, it’s almost easy to dismiss the fact that I’ve foregone something important for something trivial. However, “Mindless web surfing is a higher priority than my kids/writing/pets/friends/art/readers/self…” Wow. That’s a stark bit of reality right there.
Over the last couple months, I’ve been much more mindful of what I say I don’t have time for. And now, I use the simple self-check: Do I not really have time, or am I deprioritizing something that should not be deprioritized?
With this simple trick of mindful decision making, I’ve managed to:
- Spend more time with my family
- Talk to distant family on the phone
- Create more art
- Take a spontaneous road trip
- Work on personal writing projects
- Exercise almost daily
- Relax on the couch with my cats and kids
- Read more
And guess what? I’m still active on social media. I still get time to play stupid games on my phone. I take time to plant my ass in front of the screen and waste an entire Sunday morning playing World of Warcraft.
But as the days go on, and I make conscious decisions on how to spend my time, I feel more fulfilled, I see my own accomplishments happening in real time, I’m more connected to the people who matter in my life, and I don’t feel quite so much like life is a freight train barreling past (or over) me.
Is it perfect? Hell no. I still lose it from time to time. I still have entire nights where I forget, I deprioritize, and I wonder where the hours went.
But it’s better. A little bit more each day. And really, self-improvement is the best use of time I can think of.