Whenever I ask someone what is stopping them from doing or going after something that is important to them — pursuing a big dream, starting a new business, writing a book, getting fit, traveling abroad — I usually get the same response: “I don’t have enough time.” This is often followed by the second most common response, “I don’t have enough money.” A valid reason for sure, but for now, let’s focus on this so-called lack of time.
First, let’s agree that time is a fixed, finite resource. No one I know of is a mystical, traveling master of space and time. As cool as Doctor Who’s TARDIS is, time machines don’t exist (yet). We can’t create new minutes in the day or add years where there were once none. Time just is. And when it is passed, it is gone forever, never to be reclaimed, reprocessed, or redistributed.
To quote the wizard Gandalf, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Our time — or our perceived lack of it — comes down to making decisions and setting priorities.
“The great dividing line between success and failure can be stated in five words: I did not have time.” -Henry Davenport
Once at a writers workshop, an attendee asked the author Lawrence Block for some tips about time management. His stern reply was that if you’re not writing it is because you really don’t want to write, because if you did, you’d already be writing and there would be no need to manage your time.
The sad truth is that much of what we claim to want is nothing more than vague fantasy and wishful thinking — things that would be nice to have, but that we have no real, heartfelt intention of making a reality. In the case of the writers workshop attendee, it is likely that this would-be writer was more in love with the idea of being a famous author than they were with the daily practice of putting pen to paper.
The happy truth is we always have enough time for what (we think) is important to us. Our whole day, and even our whole lives, are evidence of our priorities. I don’t have to decide to shower or brush my teeth everyday. I enjoy being clean, so I allot time for it. I enjoy the things I can buy with my paycheck, so I allot time for working and commuting. It is never hard to find time for the things that are important to me. And when I have competing desires, I prioritize and choose the one I want more.
If you take an honest look at your life, it is apparent what you’ve decided your priorities are. On the whole, your current results are proof of your prior decisions, or lack thereof — which, ironically, is also a decision.
Where in your life are misusing your time? Are you binge-watching seasons of television shows when you could be developing your business plan? Are you scrolling through Facebook and Instagram (guilty as charged) when you could be writing your novel? Are you idly texting when you could be out for a jog? Are you over-scheduling your family life with every PTA meeting, soccer game, piano lessons, and volunteer committee? This is not to say that engaging in entertainment, social media, or other activities are bad or wrong, but they do tend to suck up a lot of time.
Author and speaker James Clear said, “Our behavior is perhaps the strongest indicator of what we believe and what we value.”
Want is important to you, really? If there is anything out there that you want to do, go after it. Go get it, chase it down. Quit stalling and quit making excuses. Instead, set your priorities and make some decisions.
But whatever you do, quit saying you don’t have enough time.