“I Don’t Have Time”

by Jennifer Cross

Jennifer Cross recently completed Seth Godin’s altMBA program and had a profound realization about the role perfection has played in her life. If you are one of the thousands that struggle with the ideal of perfection, then this is for you.

I’ve been involved in several conversations in the last few weeks where someone has said, “I don’t have time for that.”

One was a friend who began the new year with a goal of exercising regularly. Three weeks into the new year, she has already determined that she can’t fit it into her schedule.

Another was a client who hired me to facilitate a project. During our planning meeting when I outlined what their company would need to do and in what time frame for the project to successfully meet their deadline, she snapped, “I don’t have time for any of that!”

And finally, a colleague who has been lamenting a lack of professional development opportunities. Yet when recently presented with a low-cost, convenient opportunity that doesn’t even require him to leave his office, he still doesn’t have 90 minutes to invest in himself because he, “has too much work to do.”

Although the topics have been varied, the responses are consistent. “I’m too busy.” “There are already more demands than I can accommodate.” “I can’t add one more thing to my packed schedule.”

I get it — life is busy. And it’s busy for everyone — not just you. Heck, even my retired parents are hard to track down at times because they are so on-the-go!

But at the end of the day, we create time and space for the things we value.

So if you don’t work out today because you are spending an extra hour at the office, then today, you value work more than your health. If you skip that last meeting of the day so you can get to you child’s soccer game after school, then in that moment you value your family more than your job.

I’m not passing judgement on how people spend their time, rather trying to build awareness that we have choices every day about committing our most valuable resource — our time and attention — to things that matter (or don’t) to us.

I was recently invited to attend the Women’s March in Washington, DC. While I would love to attend, to do so I would have to miss my son’s basketball game this weekend. I could make the time to travel — I am choosing not to for reasons that are personal, that I’ve thought about, and that I own. And my response to the person who invited me was just that — not “I don’t have time to go.” “Lack of time” is often used as an excuse for “that’s not my priority” or “I don’t really want to do that.” It’s a convenient and inaccurate out.

Another area that has our organizations suffering greatly is a lack of taking time for personal connections. What are you missing out on by not making the time for deeper conversations? By default, you are saying no to things like:

  • more meaningful relationships
  • group problem solving
  • team work and genuine collaboration
  • strategic planning and prioritizing
  • intentional decision-making
  • and even the introspection and personal reflection that comes from having spent time with another person, or a different set of ideas/worldviews

I’ll close with a another of my favorite quotes — so much so I have it printed on my business cards:

Image courtesy of thetaleoftwotings.com

“Yesterday” isn’t a day of the week either. You are making decisions today that will affect all of your tomorrows. Are you taking control of your time or is it controlling you? And if it’s the latter, aren’t you tired of living on a hamster wheel?

Here’s the thing: You will never be “done” at work. The email will never be empty. The inbox will never be completely cleaned out. The to-do list will never be totally checked off. That is just a reality of our current world of work. The volume will ALWAYS be more than the hours you have to deal with it.

But the only person who can draw the line is you.

When was the last time you took time to do something for yourself personally? Professionally? Something that would allow you to think, plan, stretch and grow? Something that provided connections to other amazing people? When was your last investment in…YOU?

Living with intention and purpose can start today, but only if you are willing to take the time to outline what that looks like for you.

And if you think you are “too busy” to set aside an hour this week to consider this, then you will keep getting exactly what you currently have.

How do you feel about that? I hope you’ll take the time to think about it.

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