One of my favorite insights is that when someone says they don’t have time, what he really means is, “I choose to spend my time on something besides that.”
Because we all have the same 24 hours, and we all choose how to spend those hours, even if we don’t always choose wisely.
A great Wall Street Journal piece headlined Are You As Busy As You Think? suggested not rushing ever harder to get more done, but to be smarter about where our time goes.
Author Laura Vanderkam suggests:
- Keeping a time log. Like tracking meals, tracking time keeps us from spending it mindlessly or lying to ourselves about what we do with it. Checking Facebook five times a day at six minutes a pop adds up to two-and-a-half hours in a workweek — curiously, the exact amount of time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends we exercise .
- Being honest. One study tracking people’s estimated and actual workweeks found that those claiming to work 70, 80, or more hours were logging less than 60.
- Asking yourself what you’d like to do with your time. Claiming to be busy relieves us of the burden of choice. But if you’re working 50 hours a week, and sleeping eight hours a night (56 per week) that leaves 62 hours for other things.
- Changing your language. Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. 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.
We value being busy as a culture — if you ask someone how she’s doing, the answer is often “crazy busy” or some other such statement of how booked and important we are.
I’ve been consciously pruning activities from my life that seemed like time sucks, preferring to relax at home with my hubby or practice piano over many other busy-making obligations. But I’ve still been neglectful of regularly scheduling doctor’s appointments and haircuts, and need to face that it’s not time that prevents me from doing it but my own failure to make self-maintenance a priority.
Saying it that way makes me face that it’s not consistent with my values, and surely in my 24 hours a day, I can squeeze in taking better care of myself.
Making lists helps me — both the basic to-do items I want to bang out today and the high-priority goals I want to keep in focus. I like the idea of tracking my time, like a calorie log for the clock, and seeing how it lines up with the priorities on my lists.
What do you spend time on that you don’t value? What do you value that you need to fit into your regular schedule?