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Wednesday, March 21, 2020

What do you have time for?

What you make room for in your schedule reflects your true values


There’s a joke that goes like this: “Which three statements are never true?” The answer is:
  • “My check is in the post.”
  • “Of course I’m not just interested in persuading you to have sex with me.”
  • “I’m from Head Office and I’m here to help you.”
I want to add a fourth: “I really meant to do it, but I didn’t have the time.”

What this statement actually means is either “I didn’t want to,“ or “I didn’t know how to,“ or “I spent the time doing something else more important to me.

Lack of time is an attractive excuse, because it implies that you’re blameless—a helpless victim of stress, overwork, and external circumstances. Of course, you may object that you truly do have far too much to do and something had to be left out. But who decided what you did in the time available? Either you set those priorities yourself, or you’re the helpless slave of some all-consuming power that decides how you spend every moment of your time.

I’m much less interested in what people don’t have time for than what they do.

Lack of time is an attractive excuse, because it implies that you’re blameless.

When someone says they don’t have time for family, or friends, or hobbies, or recreation, because they have so much work, what I hear is someone telling me that work is the most important aspect of their life. It comes first. Let’s be honest, it must do, or they wouldn’t accept living the way they do. If they choose to be at their desk by 5:00 a.m. and stay until 9:00 p.m., they are making success at work the only true goal of their life.

Just about everyone goes to great lengths to make time for whatever they believe is most important. We all have the same amount of time available to us, so how we use it nearly always shows what we value most. Of course we face decisions about what to do first. Of course we have to choose between competing claims on our time. Of course we probably have more demands on us than we have time to meet them. Nevertheless, we can nearly always manage to find time for what we cannot imagine doing without.

I imagine cavemen were little different. They had to choose whether to hunt, or make pots, or paint pictures on the cave walls, or help with the children and tidy up the cave. And I expect some of them grumbled that they fully intended to make a new carrying board for the baby, but the hunting took so long, and the clan chief was such a bastard about demanding help to make a new headdress, and the dog needed more training before the next hunt. and so on and so on.

When you find yourself saying that you didn’t have time for something, take a moment to remember what you did find time for. Whatever you say to the contrary, that’s where your priorities lie at present.

When you find yourself saying that you didn’t have time for something, take a moment to remember what you did find time for.

So if you’re continually telling people that you’d like to relax more, achieve a better work/life balance, improve your education, plan to set up your own business, spend more time with your family, or generally sort out your life, but you don’t have time, you’re not telling the truth. Those things are lower down your list of priorities than whatever it is that you’re spending all that time on. So be honest with yourself. Admit who’s choosing to spend his or her time that way. And if you still want to do what you claim you want, push something else out of the way and make the time.

If you don’t have time for building the life that you say you want to live, what do you have time for?



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8 Comments:

Stephen H. Lahey said...

Adrian,

Like your excellent book 'Slow Leadership' - each post on this blog seems aimed at helping people to detect and deal with the real issues - instead of tilting at windmills.

Always interesting and refreshing - thanks!

6:19 AM  
marti said...

This post definitely rings true where I work. There are many of my colleagues who insist that they have no time for development, no time for training, no time for working out, no time for anything but fixing immediate problems. Yet there is time for surfing the web to look at new motorcycles, there is time to have long lunch breaks...the list goes on. I know I don't always have enough time for getting others' "priority" tasks complete. This is because my priorities are more important to me :-) And that's how it should be IMHO.

10:18 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks for your kind comment, Stephen. I'm glad that you find what I write useful.

Keep reading, my friend.

4:12 PM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks to you too, Marti.

Sounds to me like you have a very sensible attitude to life.

Keep reading, my friend.

4:14 PM  
Craig said...

That is so true. How much balance do you have in your life if all of your focus is on work (or anything else for that matter).

Everybody has enough time, it is just a matter of understanding what is important to you, and to focus your energy on those things.

For example, I have friends who wish that they could play the guitar, but they "don't have the time". Yes they do, it is just not enough of a prioroty for them.

Craig

4:32 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks, Craig.

I'm glad you liked the post.

Keep reading, my friend.

7:58 AM  
Church of Jacin said...

After reading Think And Grow Rich, I realized that everyone gets exactly what they want (just like the Law of Attraction claims.) Sure, someone may claim that they want to build an online business but, if that person quits after their first few attempts don't produce results, they didn't really want it. It's the person who is absolutely committed to their desire, the person who does not let failure into their mindset, that achieves their desires. In the same way, the person who says family is important but spends every hour of the day at work -- they are getting exactly what they desire. They're using excuses to try to appease others or they are lying to themselves.

8:39 PM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks for your comment, Church of Jacin.

Do people get exactly what they want? I think I prefer this statement (I forget exactly where I read it):

"80 percent of the problems in your life come from wanting what you don't have. The other 20 percent come from getting it."

Keep reading, my friend.

9:55 PM  

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