What can we say about time that hasn’t been said a million times before? A quick Google search for “quotes about time” will bring up too many old favorites to list: quotes about the value of time, how we shouldn’t waste it, how short it is—you get the idea.
But I want to focus on a sentence we hear (and probably make) quite often as we navigate life’s daily demands: “I don’t have enough time.”
Before we get into this, let me say that the intent of this post is not to scold, belittle or talk down. I’ve used this worn-out phrase as much as anyone reading this, and as with everything I write, I’m writing it as much for myself as for anyone else. I have to be honest, though; “I don’t have enough time” has become one of those nails-on-the-chalkboard phrases for me. When I hear it, I experience a strong urge to reach out, grab the person by the throat and begin choking them—not to death, mind you, just enough to get their attention. OK, now that you know how strongly I feel about this topic, which I think is far too important to sugarcoat, let’s dive in.
“I don’t have enough time.” (Ugh.)
Is there a less abused, overused excuse? Think about it. It’s like the “king of kings” of excuses. It ranks right up there with the similarly bastardized excuse of “I can’t, I’m too busy” (I really hate that one). Both sound legitimate, important even. But these excuses are almost never accurate.
It’s true that sometimes we don’t have enough time. But more often, the way we use this exhausted phrase is as a catch-all to justify our lack of desire to do whatever task we “don’t have enough time” for.
There’s a quote I love by Daniel Decker: “If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.” To make it more relevant here, allow me to change just one word:
If it’s important to you, you’ll find the time. If not, you’ll find an excuse.
I’m going to make a bold statement that many of you may not like. Are you ready? Most of us have plenty of time. We just don’t use it wisely. We’ve become too comfortable tossing around “the excuse” to justify our inaction. It coddles us like a warm blanket, always there to protect us from being honest with our shortcomings and our inability to use our time more efficiently.
To prove it to you, let’s look at a week in the life of a working human.
There are 168 hours in a week.
You sleep about 8 hours a day—that’s 56 per week. (Yes, I know many of you don’t sleep 8 hours a day, but you should, so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.)
That leaves 112 waking hours.
Let’s assume you work a “normal” job but put in a bit more than the typical 40; heck, we’ll even give you 60 hours a week for work.
Now I know many of us these days are fortunate enough to work from home, saving time we used to flush down the proverbial toilet, but I’ll be generous and give you 2 hours for a daily commute. So that totals 10 hours a week.
With sleep, work and commute time out of the way, we’re at 42 hours remaining—almost 2 full days.
We can acknowledge the big time blocks have been laid, but I know there are other “important” (sarcastic undertones intended) things sucking away your time.
For this exercise, let’s assume everyone has a family and commits time each day to spend with them. This time could be spent around the dinner table, in front of the TV, or otherwise. We’ll allocate 20 hours a week. Do you spend 20 hours a week with your family?
We’re down to 22 hours.
I’ll give you 10 hours for miscellaneous tasks, whether grocery shopping, personal hygiene, yard work, housework, laundry, whatever. It’s yours, take it.
We still have 12 hours left…
Now convince me you “don’t have time” to…
- Meditate 10-15 minutes a day.
- Work out for 1 hour, 3 times a week.
- Read 30 minutes a day.
- Spend time nurturing your “side hustle.”
- Need I go on?
The hard reality is, the vast majority of us waste time every day on things we don’t give much credence to; things like watching too much TV, mindless scrolling through social media, procrastinating (I’m great at this one), not being intentional with your time and choosing the wrong priorities, to name a few. And while these challenges are normal, it’s not an acceptable reason to say no to the things that matter, that can make us better people.
STOP the next time you find “the phrase” about to pass through your lips.
If you’re alone (so there’s no fear of looking crazy or embarrassing yourself), go ahead and say the excuse out loud. “I don’t have time because…” How are you justifying your inability to find time to accomplish this task? Be honest with yourself, brutal even. Try to get at the heart of why this thing isn’t important enough to prioritize and fit into the hours you, in fact, do have plenty of.
If we go back to the quote above, turn this into a question. “Is this thing not important enough to dedicate my time to it?” Notice I’m not saying “find time” or “make time.” As we’ve already discussed, we have the time, but we’re often unwilling to be honest with ourselves about how we want to spend it.
Here’s an interesting trivia point:
The word “priority” entered the English language, via Old French, sometime in the 14th Century. Deriving from the mediaeval Latin word prioritas (“fact or condition of being prior”), the word meant “the most important thing”—the “prior” thing or the thing with precedence. When it was first coined, the word “priority” had no plural. You could only have one priority.
Sometime in the middle of the 20th Century, almost certainly related to the rise of corporate and office culture, the word “priorities” began to appear. Now people began to claim that they had more than one “most important thing.” They could have three or five or 14 priorities.
So after considering whether this task is important, if it’s genuinely unimportant, then maybe it isn’t worth your time. However, don’t confuse that with not having enough time to accomplish it. Instead, you’ve given it an honest evaluation in relation to your other obligations and available time. For things that aren’t important, you’ll become more honest about why you’re not doing them.
How you allocate time determines your real goals — not your fake goals that make you feel good but will never happen.– Tim Denning
If, on the other hand, you determine that the task is important (or at least should be), put some thought into why your gut reaction was to write it off with an excuse. Is it hard? Does it scare you? Are you afraid you’ll fail? I find it embarrassing to tell myself that these things aren’t important enough to do. However, I found that when I altered my approach of not having enough time, I also ended up changing my behavior.
Now that I’ve beaten that dead horse senseless, let’s move on.
In the interest of keeping at least one reader to the end of this post, I won’t expand on ways to maximize your time (and limit the time you waste). However, it’s an important topic that naturally falls hand in hand with this one, and I’ll likely expand on it another day.
“I don’t have enough time” is a lazy excuse. Unfortunately, we’ve used it so many times that it becomes second nature, escaping through our lips without even the slightest bit of conscience awareness. That’s scary and dangerous.
There’s a story I stumbled on of an unknown origin, but it paints a clear and powerful picture of the value we need to place on our time.
A rich man was retiring when an angel of death came to him. He had worked long and hard to acquire massive wealth and retire in luxury, and could not believe that his time was up. Being a very wealthy person, he decided to buy some more time from the angel of death at any cost. He bargained for a long time but the angel was unmoved. Desperate, the rich man made the last proposal to the angel… Give me just one hour of my life, so that I could admire the beauty of this earth for the last time and spend some time with my family and friends whom I haven’t seen for a long time and I will give you all of my wealth. But the angel refused again. Finally, the man asked if the angel could give him at least one minute so that he could write a goodbye note. His wish was granted and he wrote a note….
“Spend your time, which was given to you, in the right way. I couldn’t buy even an hour of life with all of my wealth. Listen to your heart and check if the things surrounding you have a true value. Cherish every minute of your life.”
For something we seem to never have enough of, how often do we value it so little?
You’re not going to wake up tomorrow morning and suddenly be better with time. What has worked for me is to identify the priorities; the tasks, projects, or goals I absolutely must accomplish. When I set myself up for success by taking this simple (not always easy) step, I know that barring something catastrophic, I will always make time.