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#67 You do have time: the shift from 'no time' to purposeful choices

Something I hear over and over again is

"I don't have the time to..."

It is not that you don’t have the time, because we all have the exact same amount of time available to on any given day — 24 hours, 1440 minutes, 86 400 seconds.

You do have the time. You decided not to prioritise it.

The difference between “I don’t have time” and “I prioritised something else” may seem semantic, but a few critical things that start happening when you start using the latter.

You give yourself agency

Saying “I don’t have time” is a way of outsourcing responsibility for your decisions. Whether you’re blaming your work, your family demands or time itself, you are at the whim of whoever or whatever else is responsible for you being in the position you’re in now.

When you switch to “I prioritised something else”, you immediately take ownership and responsibility for your situation. And by taking ownership, you also acknowledge your agency to change your situation.

If you really wanted to, you could lie down right now and sleep (yes, even in your busy office) or drive to the nearest casino or buy a new TV online, or anything else you can imagine. But you’re not doing so because you’re prioritising something different.

The same principle applies everywhere. Whatever your reason for what you’re doing — whether it’s an intentional thing like going for a run because you want to stay fit or a habitual thing like going to work because you want to earn money to pay the bills — it is something you chose over something else.

In most cases, there is nothing stopping you from doing something different beyond your decision not to.

You affirm your boundaries

Part of having agency is being able to say no. You might be feeling guilty for putting something off or saying no to people because “you don’t have the time”, but when you shift to “I’m not prioritising this”, you might realise that what you’re saying no to is exactly the kind of thing you should be saying no to.

Instead of leaning on a guilt-ridden excuse, you get to clarify your boundaries and practice mindfully and intentionally disappointing people.

You’re not putting off not going to that company event because “you don’t have time”, you’re intentionally not going because you can do much better things with those two hours.

You’re not saying no to tidying the house today because you don’t have time, you’re choosing to use that time to watch your child’s ballet concert.

You’re not avoiding dinner with your parents because you don’t have time, you’re choosing to reject the emotional stress that comes with their racism and belittlement of your partner every time you’re there.

You afford yourself grace

Sometimes we feel like we don’t have time despite making the best decisions available to us.

Maybe you spend your morning working and whole afternoon in the car driving your kids around, or you have to work 12-hour shifts and take are extra courses in the evenings to increase your chances of getting a better job, or have very little freedom because you’re looking after a loved one who can’t take care of themselves. Life can be relentless like that, even when we’re trying to make the best decisions possible.

Moving from “I don’t have time” to “I prioritised this” allows you to identify why you’re doing what you’re doing, and take action because you’re the only one with the agency to change it.

Sometimes, that action is simply accepting that you made the best decisions you could, and to stop beating yourself up over the things you're not getting to.

You discover new options

Other times, asking yourself why you made the decisions you made opens up a world of new opportunities. For example:

“I spend every afternoon running around after the kids"

  • What about lift clubs (after school or between activities)?

  • What about shuttle services?

  • What about your partner? Can they take even just one day a week?

  • If you must wait, what can you do during that time to take action on something that matters to you?

“I never get to exercise because I work 12 hour shifts most days.”

  • Is this a seasonal thing or your daily reality?

  • If it is your daily reality, is it sustainable for you?

  • If not, can you do anything to not work 12-hour shifts?

  • If not, what steps can you take about finding other employment, even if it makes life harder for a short period of time"?

  • If you’re happy there, can you negotiate a longer lunch break to take a walk or a run in?

And so on.

Saying “I don’t have time” doesn’t help you in any way, so get rid of it. Quit now and quit completely!


Where do you find yourself saying, “I don’t have time” most often?

Where could saying, “I’m prioritising this”, give you more grace or help you see new options?

What boundaries will saying “I’m prioritising this” help you affirm? What new boundaries could you put in place to make your life better?

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