In my opinion, the phrase “I don’t have the time” is one of the most toxic phrases there is. I have thrown this phrase around A LOT over the years but am trying to scrub it from my vocabulary this year. Why? Because saying “I don’t have the time” is like a get out of jail free card. An easy way to avoid tasks and problems. You see, when we say “I don’t have time”, what we actually mean is “this is not important enough to me” or “this is not a priority”. Time has nothing to do with it.
Let’s play a hypothetical, let’s say that you always struggle to go to the gym because you “don’t have the time”. Now, let’s say that I will give you $1 million if you go to the gym every day for the next 6 months. I bet you would find a way to go to the gym every day. Because suddenly going to the gym becomes a priority, a priority drive by the desire to have $1 million.
Have you ever been in a situation where you have a full week or weekend ahead of you, no commitments, no responsibilities. Nothing. “Great”, you think, this is the perfect time to get started on my side project be it writing a book, sewing a dress, or learning a language. You go into that free block of time eager and motivated to be productive. But, you aren’t. Instead of working on the project you are distracted by Netflix or Reddit or a book. But it is okay because you have the time this afternoon or tomorrow to work on the project.
So. Much. Time.
But then tomorrow comes and the same thing happens. Suddenly, without even realising what happened you are almost at the end of your free weekend with nothing or every little to show for it. In this instance you did have time, lots of it. But your project wasn’t a priority. I have personally been in this situation many a time when I end up kicking myself for not being more productive. And then fall into the bad habit of justifying my lack of progress as a “time issue” rather than a “priority issue”. Now, it is perfectly fine to spend a few days chilling out and doing nothing, but we need to acknowledge that in that moment, watching Netflix is our priority, not our project. When we acknowledge this and start using the phrase “it is not a priority” vs “I don’t have time” it forces us to acknowledge what is important in our lives, and in most cases, Netflix isn’t.
Whenever I find myself procrastinating on Netflix or Reddit and falling into saying the wrong phrase “I don’t have time to do X, Y, and Z”. I instead reframe it as priority: “right now, re-watching Brooklyn 99 for the 5th time is my priority, not studying for the GAMSAT”. When I do that it makes me realise just how silly and counterproductive that priority is and sure enough I get up, turn off Netflix and study for the GAMSAT.
So instead of justifying inaction by time, justify it by priority and see what happens.