“I Don’t Have Time” is Not an Excuse

In a TED talk she gave, time management expert Laura Vanderkam says that we should all get rid of the idea that we ‘don’t have time’ for something. Instead, she says that we’re better off admitting the reality of the situation is that something is not a priority. And she’s absolutely right.
At the end of her talk, she goes into some depth about the number of hours in a day. Numbers aside, our lives are simply a series of activities that get prioritized over other ones. For example, when we watch TV, we are prioritizing rest over all other things. And its important that we recognize how we are prioritizing things.

We live in busy times. Our phones often keep us connected with work even after we’re not in the office any more. In that way, we aren’t even prioritizing things properly! Here’s why:

When we eat, we’re often watching TV or reading the news. When we should be relaxing, we’re checking our phones. The present moment is constantly lost in a flurry of other things that captivate and capture our attentions. We are prioritizing other tasks over the tasks we should be doing, constantly, all the time!

But Vanderkam is absolutely right. We need to recognize that time is completely in our hands. We control what we prioritize and what we don’t.

Want to write that novel you’ve been talking about (cough, cough, MYSELF)? It’s time to admit that it hasn’t been a priority and find the time to do it. Surely there’s 10 minutes in a day to do this? I could squeeze 10 minutes out of my day if I re-prioritized my time on Facebook for example.

Need to find a half hour to exercise? Think about where you can find new time. Can you cut down on TV watching? Can you cut down on emails? Can you cut down on social media? If you can cut down 10 minutes from each of those, boom, you just found yourself a half hour.

Inspired from Vanderkam’s talk, here are some tips I’m thinking of trying:

  1. Determine what it is you want more time for (set goals/objectives to give you something to aim for)
  2. Keep track of all the ways you don’t use your time optimally (and yes, trying to multitask when you should be doing deep work likely slows you down!)
  3. See what you can shave off to find some extra time (ex: cut 10 minutes down from Facebook)
  4. Just do it! (and this is the most difficult stage…just doing it! So you may need the most motivational energy at this stage to get going).
  5. Keep doing it (this is the second most difficult stage, simply sustaining what it is you want to sustain. Once you’ve established a habit, it’s easy, but to turn it into a habit, you’ll need to stay vigilant).
Don’t worry if something takes multiple attempts. Starting and stopping and restarting is better than not having started at all. Even those moments of inspiration at first help you move forward and progress in some way.
So don’t give yourself any excuses. If you’re going to admit something isn’t a priority, then admit it, accept it, and move on. Feeling guilty about something and then not taking action will not help. The “I don’t have time” excuse no longer applies. Don’t let it hold you back from achieving the goals you want to achieve.

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