I’ll call him Larry.
I met Larry at a business networking mixer a few years ago. When he found out I was a wellness coach and chiropractor, he had all kinds of health-related questions for me.
That’s not unusual. People are stressed out about health and they want someone to help them make sense of their all the information bombarding them every day. I try to be helpful, but most of the time, I need them to make an appointment so we can really see what’s going on with them.
Anyway, while Larry was peppering me with questions about a backache (an old football injury – my favorite), I noticed that he had a few obvious health issues that he didn’t even mention. For instance, he was clearly overweight and appeared to have some swelling in his joints. Based on those clues, I suspected there were other related issues that would require an exam to see. So I invited him to call my office for an appointment.
He shut me down right away. “Oh no,” he said, “I don’t have time for that kind of thing.”
The Time Excuse
Last week, we started looking at how successful people think differently from everyone else. I want to continue with that theme by looking at one of the biggest excuses people make all the time.
Some people call them “reasons” or “justifications.” I call them excuses. They are a subtle way to shift responsibility away from self and put it onto someone or something else.
In this case, the issue is time management.
More accurately stated, the issue here is priorities.
“I don’t have time” is one of those statements that just grinds at my nerves, because it’s a lie.
Let me say it again: it is a lie.
“I didn’t have time to do that thing you asked.”
“I couldn’t get to it.”
“I ran out of time.”
“I just haven’t had time to do anything about it.”
How can I be so sure?
Let’s take a look at the facts.
How Much Time Do You Have?
What exactly DID Larry have time for, if not to deal with his health issues?
Was he working all the time to make ends meet? Was he caring for a sick family member? Was he watching TV? Was he staying busy to hide from other responsibilities?
Every human being living on planet earth has 24 hours in a day. Some of them are used for sleeping, others for eating, some for repetitive tasks, some for relationships, some for entertainment, and so on.
You have never been given a day with 23 hours and 59 minutes or less.
Bill Gates does not get 25 hours in his day, although it sometimes seems like he does.
He achieved the things he has done with the same 24 hours you have.
The difference is how he spent his 24 hours. My guess is that he limited his exposure to time-wasting activities like television, drinking, gossip, and shopping, so he could spend his time on building a powerful company around his amazing software.
When he is working, he is focused on his priority task at that moment. It’s not that he doesn’t have time to do something else, it’s that he CHOSE to spend his time on that one priority task.
Does he relax at times? I’m sure he does, and he is probably very focused on it when he does. He is CHOOSING to focus on relaxing at that moment because there are times when relaxing is just as important as work. During the time of relaxing, he is choosing not to focus on work.
It’s a matter of choice. It’s a matter of prioritizing.
That’s why “I don’t have time” is a lie.
You have time. You have the same amount of time as everyone else, but you are choosing one task over another.
“I don’t have time” is a passive, victim statement. It suggests that someone has taken time away from you or has taken away your freedom to choose.
Maybe that’s how you think. Maybe your life is completely surrendered to the whims of another person. That’s unfortunate if it is true.
But it probably isn’t true.
It’s Really About…
More likely, you don’t “have time” because you have given priority to another activity.
I don’t have time to do help with the laundry, but I have time to watch TV. That’s kind of messed up, but it represents a priority set or value system. It shows that watching TV is a higher priority than helping or doing laundry.
Every second of the day, you are engaged in an activity, whether it’s working, sleeping, eating, helping, watching TV, driving, playing a game, or a million other things.
The difference between what you ARE doing and what you COULD BE doing is called priorities. The thing you ARE doing right now holds a higher place of priority in your mind than any of the things you COULD BE doing right now.
No matter what you tell me your priorities are – in fact, no matter what you believe your priorities are – what you do demonstrates what your priorities actually are.
If you never pray, then it is not a priority to you, even if you think it is.
If you never fix the broken lightbulb in your house, then it was never as important to you as the other things you’ve been doing.
What you spend your time and money on is what is most important to you, no matter what you want to think your priorities are.
This Sounds Like Nit-Picking About Words
This may sound like semantics, but it’s going to set someone free today.
If you don’t spend time with your kids, then your kids are not a priority to you, not matter what.
“But I’m so busy, I don’t have time.”
That’s a lie.
The truth is, “I have chosen to make something else a higher priority than spending time with my kids.”
That puts the responsibility of the choice on you.
“I didn’t have time,” makes you the victim of your tasks and shifts responsibility to someone or something else.
I said, “victim.”
“I didn’t have time” is a victim mentality.
Successful people take responsibility for their choices, priorities, and actions. They control what they choose, and they accept the consequences of their choices.
Saying “I chose to do something else” puts you in the position of power, because it accepts the responsibility of your actions. It also gives you the right to decide your actions, whether people like it or not.
As long as you believe that you are a victim of other people’s demands, you are helpless.
Instead of saying, “I don’t have time,” when presented with an opportunity, say, “I choose to do something else because it is a higher priority to me.”
That’s truth, and people can respect it, even if they don’t like it. You’re not a victim when you say that – you’re taking control of your time and your choices.
The Big Caveat
Now, if you’re at work and your boss tells you to drop what you’re doing and work on something else, that changes things slightly. But you can still take a position of power. Take a moment to ask your boss, “I am working on this project, which was a priority. Would you rather I focus my attention on your new project or what I was doing?” That allows them to make the decision about priorities, and the responsibility for that decision falls on them, but it keeps you in a position where you are not a victim. Most people just grumble and complain at that moment, and it ruins morale. Take the high road and let the boss evaluate the priority. After all, you are there to serve them.
Move Into A Winner’s Mindset
Take “I don’t have time,” and “I can’t do that” out of your vocabulary today.
You have 24 hours today. You can do that thing someone is asking you to do if you want to. If you don’t, then tell them the truth that you don’t want to.
“But then they won’t like me.”
If you’re not willing to help someone, then why do you care if they like you?
And if you choose not to help them because you have a higher priority at that moment, they should respect that.
“But I feel guilty when I say no to someone.”
Feelings of guilt come from inside you when you violate your sense of right and wrong. If someone tries to put guilt on you, then go away from them. You don’t need their negativity in your life. If you are organizing your time allocations based on your priorities, and choosing to do something else, then guilt has nothing to do with it. It’s just that you held something else in a higher priority at that moment.
You don’t have to be a jerk about saying no. There may be other ways to accommodate them, like setting another time, but you never have to apologize or make excuses for allocating your time according to your priorities.
That’s what successful people do: they take responsibility for the use of their time.
No excuses. Own your life.
“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas