“Day, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent.” – Ambrose Bierce

October 9, 2012

A friend of mine was recently ruminating on the concept of making time.

How do you ‘make time’? What does that mean anyway? How does one make time?

Find time. Also peculiar.

Time is time, it’s just there, all the time.
I don’t have time, but I don’t not have time.

There is always time.

It resonated, because minutes earlier I had irritably told someone that I didn’t have time. It seemed justified then, because I’ve been running from A to B to C like a headless chicken, trying to fit in the mundane life tasks (i.e. claiming BA points from old flights) alongside creating new habits (read: going for a run daily), alongside work and family and friends. I thought I might keel over from exhaustion, but then I got used to it, like I knew I would, and now I feel great.

photo credit: Βethan via photopin cc

But I still don’t have time. The reason I was saying this was because someone had left me a clue. Apparently it was now my turn to become an internet sleuth and deduce where I’d be having dinner tonight. But I didn’t have time for this.

Of course, time, or lack thereof, is a complete excuse. “I don’t have time,” just means: this is not a priority for me. I am making a choice not to do this thing. I don’t have time changes the emphasis of the statement, implying there’s an outside influence to blame. That’s not true. It’s a conscious action that each and every one of us have taken.

We all have time. The question is what we want to do with it.

Sometimes, it’s simply kinder to say, “I don’t have time.” It’s a phrase used to fob people off. Sorry I didn’t do that thing that you really want me to do. The truth is, I really don’t want to do it. I don’t have time. We say this to our friends, our family, people we generally don’t want to annoy but it’s an activity that you just can’t be bothered with.

Sometimes, people use it as a power play. I see this in the workplace a lot. Men are very good at saying: I don’t have time. Sometimes, they’re just trying to fob you off, because it’s something they don’t want to do. Sometimes they’re saying it to build an impression of the size and scope of their job. These people try to imply that they are too important to do these things, that their priorities are well above anything you could possibly conceive of.

I don’t have time can change from a kind way to let someone down to a very powerful way to put someone down. I can’t believe that you’re doing these things, it whispers subtlely. I don’t have time for such unimportant things.

Women are less likely to say they don’t have time. Women, particularly ones in male-dominated sectors, tend to want to prove that they are superwomen, that they can do anything. Instead of pushing back when too much is going on – instead of saying, I don’t have time – they let the world overload them. A lot of the time, these women burn out because they can see that they’re doing much more work and getting paid less.

It’s good to prioritise. Prioritisation is a key skill to master to perform efficiently and effectively. It doesn’t mean that you’re less competent because you can’t handle another item on your overstacked plate, it means that you’re more competent because you won’t make false promises and produce shoddy deliverables. Producing consistently high quality material will win you far more accolades in the long run than doing many things poorly.

It’s never about time. We all have 24 hours in the day. The question is, what are you choosing to do with yours?

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