When was the last time you said “I don’t have time” following a request by someone at work or at home? I don’t have time to exercise, I don’t have time for that project, I don’t have time to volunteer, I don’t have time to cook, I don’t have time to….fill in the blank.
Since everyone has the same 24 hours in the day, how is it that some people have time to do a lot while others don’t have time to do much of anything other than eat, sleep, shower, go to work, and maybe watch the News or some TV?
For those of you who have figured out how to get more done in those 24 hours I congratulate you. For everyone else I say that’s okay because you have been told there is such a thing as time management, but there isn’t. Time cannot be managed, but your priorities and your focus can be managed. So I am going to briefly let you off the hook since Time Management is a myth, but I am also going to say that if you don’t plan to look at this differently from now on, it’s on you.
Let’s start looking at those 24 hours that you have as a math problem. Don’t worry, it won’t be complicated; math is not my strong suit. Let’s start by assuming you are getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night. If you are not, that is one area to think about making a priority. If you look at studies on success you will find that the most successful people don’t compromise in this department.
OK so that is 24 hours minus 7 (we are going with 7), which equals 17 hours. Let’s assume a 1-hour commute round trip each day. Now we are down to 16 hours and we are going to assume a 10-hour workday (adjust the hours worked and your commute accordingly.) After those basics you have a whole 6 hours left.
You need to eat and shower, you need to groom and do other sorts of activities just to be able to sustain life. So let’s take another 2 hours off the clock for those activities. Down to 4 hours a day to do with as you wish. Oh wait, that may not be true, that would only be true if you have no extracurricular activities and no other responsibilities. So if you are lucky you have 4 hours, for everyone else let’s take it down to 2 hours. That’s 2 hours of what I will call “free” time. Even if you only have 2 hours left you can do a lot with that time if you focus on your priorities.
What you choose to do with that time is going to directly correlate to your overall success in life. Your health and your wealth will be improved or diminished in the choices you make around these “free” hours. You can choose to exercise for 30 minutes to an hour, you can choose to read or educate yourself, take an online class or go to a classroom, you can choose to write, meditate, visit with friends, join a social group, you can volunteer. Or you can sit on the couch and watch TV, surf the web, check out what everyone else is doing on Facebook and say I don’t have time when someone asks you to do something.
It’s not about having time; it’s about having priorities. I have learned and truly believe that if you have more than three priorities you have none. This makes sense since a priority by definition is a thing that is regarded as more important than something else. You can’t have a whole bunch of things that are the most important or of the same importance because, when that happens, nothing is really important at all, it all has the same value, meaning that none of it is a priority. This is the same for work priorities, you should only have three and the rest can be delegated or outsourced.
So this is where we remove time management and look at priority management. It’s time to pick your priorities (no more than three). Then when someone asks you to do something, it isn’t about not having time; it is about “that’s not my priority right now.”
When you say “I don’t have time” you are really saying that is not your priority right now. “I don’t have time to work out” translates to “it is not my priority to work out.” “I don’t have time to read or go back to school” really means, “reading and learning is not my priority right now.” If you are using those “free” hours a day on what you determine are your priorities, it’s perfectly fine to say “no” to other things that don’t fall into those categories. If they become priorities, then you will find time for them by removing other less important activities and reprioritizing what you are working on.
Now it’s time for a gut check – Think about the last time you said “I don’t have time”, what is the current priority taking the lead in that moment? Or the next time you say “I don’t have time,” what is the current priority taking the lead in the moment.
Did watching TV become the priority? Do you know that on average Americans watch 5 hours of TV per day: an hour using the Internet on a computer, an hour and seven minutes on a smartphone and two hours, 46 minutes listening to the radio? I assume the radio bit is in the car, but think about what would be possible if instead of listening to the radio (or satellite or iPod) in the car you listened to an audiobook or a personal development podcast? That is one heck of a way to use that dead time commuting to do something positive, and you still have those remaining “free” hours a day doing other important stuff while getting in your education and personal development.
All I’m asking you to do is challenge yourself next time you realize you’re about to say those four little words “I Don’t Have Time.” Challenge yourself to instead say, “That is not my priority right now. My priority is, (fill in the blank).” Then really think about the answer; is that really your priority? Is it a priority that will add value to your life, the lives of others, or add wealth and prosperity to your life? Is it a priority you can be proud of? One that you would gladly tell everyone you are working on? Or is it less of a priority and more of a bad habit that you have formed over a period of time?
Don’t let the “I don’t have time” excuse become a natural response. Use it to evaluate what it is you are doing and how those activities are serving you or not serving you.
Will you be better one year, three years, and five years down the road based on your current priorities? If not, what are you waiting for? It’s time to make a change and reevaluate those priorities.