A New York Times columnist recently came across this article from the Wall Street Journal, “Are You As Busy As You Think?” Here are her thoughts:
After explaining in some detail studies that were conducted to show that Americans grossly underestimate the amount of free time they have, the author made a suggestion that immediately flipped a switch for me.
Instead of saying ‘I don’t have time’ try saying ‘it’s not a priority,’ and see how that feels.
Try it: ‘I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.’ ‘I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.’
If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.
Stating that I didn’t exercise because I didn’t have time sounded entirely reasonable to me. But when I changed it to say, “I don’t exercise because taking care of my body is not a priority,” I suddenly felt completely out of alignment with that excuse. I knew that it didn’t sit well with me because it’s not who I am or who I want to be.
So I went for a walk, taking slow deliberate steps, acknowledging the fact that my body was responding positively to being outside and the movement was helping to clear my mind.
The next day I did a yoga video in my living room, using my TV to help me–instead of hinder me–in my attempt to be kind to my body.
That weekend I committed to twice weekly work out sessions with three of my girlfriends, knowing that giving my word to others would help me stay accountable to myself.
When I decided to take the excuse of time off the table, I began to take notice of the underlying reasons — the real reasons — why I did or didn’t do certain things in my life:
- I avoided calling my ailing grandma because I didn’t want to be witness to her deterioration, I’d rather remember her as she was when I was young.
- I gave up drawing because it brought to the surface feelings of inadequacy I struggled with when I attended art school.
- I abandoned the idea of taking photography classes because I didn’t feel like I would ever have the eye for it.
- I ate processed foods and take-out because I didn’t trust that I could ever really learn how to cook and I was embarrassed at any attempts I made to try.
Each of these things had been grouped in the same category — “the things I should do but simply don’t have time for.” Creating this broad umbrella in which to place them under was the easiest way to curtail the real issues, the real insecurities, the real hurts I was consciously or unconsciously trying to cover.
While I’m more aware of the things I’ve worked to avoid now than I’ve been in the past, I haven’t corrected every single one of them just yet. However I do notice that taking the comfortable, fall-back excuse of “time” out of the equation makes keeping certain things the same seem counter-intuitive.
When you expose the truth of why you do things, it prompts you to make decisions that fall more into alignment with who you are and the direction you wish to move in. To me, this seems incredibly empowering.
Is time an excuse you’ve used in the past to get out of doing something that’s in your best interest or in the best interest of those around you?
Here are a few questions I asked myself when I started exploring this in my own life:
- What are all of the things I haven’t done because I “didn’t have the time?”
Not everything you put on the back burner is something you should pursue, but making a list of everything you’ve avoided with this excuse can be incredibly eye opening.
How do you feel when you pair each of the things on your list with the statement, “It is not a priority?” If it doesn’t feel like something you’d want to repeat out loud, then it’s likely something you should look into further.
- What is it that I’m really trying to avoid?
Sometimes we are trying to avoid failure, other times we’re trying to avoid hurt — either way we are simply hindering our growth by avoiding tasks or situations that could get us out of our routine and teach us something great.
- Where is my time going?
Do a time audit. If you spend ten minutes a day checking Facebook, that is over an hour a week that could go towards taking a class or catching up with a friend.
The time is there, it’s simply a matter of spending it more deliberately.
Each day I now set my intention to give my physical body the same amount of attention I give my mind. I know that it’s possible and time is no longer an obstacle I can fall back on.
What will you pursue now that you have the time?
By Tiffany Reed of the Spokane Regional Health District.