Why “I don’t have time” is a big fat excuse.

When I was in my mid-20’s, I was very-busy. Said as one word, very quickly, because busy. And I mean that with sincerity. I was suffering from a severe bought of imposter syndrome and body shame, and in a desperate attempt to prove that I was ENOUGH, I engaged in my community. Big time. 

I was starting new organizations, organizing conferences, leading volunteer committees, volunteering left and right, and somehow still managed to be excelling in my career adn maintaining a highly satisfying social life. I was out of my house by 7:30am and didn’t see my lovely front door again until well after 8pm most nights – including weekends. 

But being very-busy also meant that some things had to cut get, because I just didn’t have time to spare. I didn’t have time to meal prep. I didn’t have time to go train for a 5k. I didn’t have time to call my long-lost aunt in Florida. I was VERY-BUSY, people. I didn’t have time for anything but working and volunteering and organizing. 

I guess I did have time to binge all 8 seasons of Psych on Netflix. And to go hang out by the pool every weekend in the summer. And to go out dancing with the girls. But I deserved those things, because I was SO-BUSY. (Said like very-busy.)

This thought pattern continued for well over a year. I continued to justify my lack of physical self-care, my over-consumption of restaurant food, my perpetual lateness, my failure to call my grandparents, and numerous other bad habbits and behaviors on being very-busy.

 And then my boss threw a wrench in it all by eavesdropping on a conversation I was having with a coworker. We were talking about our grandmothers, and I was lamenting that I needed to call mine back because I had missed a call, but that I was just SO-BUSY and didn’t know if I could do it before the weekend. The conversation fizzled out, and as I was typing, my boss stepped out of his office and asked me to come speak with him in private. 

Naturally, I thought I was being fired and immediately panicked, letting my imposter syndrome run amock. I sat down across from him and tucked my hands under my legs so he wouldn’t see them shaking. He steepled his fingers and looked across his desk at me, and with no lead in whatsoever, said:

“You need to stop saying you don’t have time for things.”

I’m pretty sure I just stared at him, probably with a slightly open mouth.

“I’m sorry?” I finally asked.

“Stop saying you don’t have time for things. You have the same amount of time as anyone else does. You choose what you spend your time on.

…When you say you don’t have time for things, what you’re really saying is I haven’t prioritized those things.”

my super smart boss

At this point, I stammered something about being sorry and that I wouldn’t do it again. 

“I’m not saying this as your boss. This is a life thing, not a work thing. When you say ‘I haven’t prioritized calling my grandmother’ instead of ‘I don’t have time to call my grandmother’ it completely changes how you feel about it.”

I flushed with embarassment as his words hit me, and as I realized that I had let my very-busy life become an excuse for not doing things. It was a convenient way to excuse myself from doing inconvenient things. I don’t remember how that conversation ended. But I do remember that as soon as I left work that evening, I called my grandmother.

As I have gotten older and moved forward in my career, I have taken this to heart. It has helped me to make more authentic choices about how I use my time. It is now a habit for me to frame my choices by saying “I haven’t prioritized that” and seeing how it feels. It’s one of the most useful pieces of advice I have ever been given.

You can also do this in reverse, by framing your current activities in a “I have prioritized this over that” statement. “I have prioritized watching Diva Brides for 3 hours over meal prepping” will make you get off your butt and start chopping vegetables almost immediately. (From experience.)

So here’s my challenge to you. Stop saying “I don’t have time.” Start saying, “I haven’t prioritized that,” and see what happens. And then tell me about it in the comments or over in the Sparkle Philosophy private Facebook group.

What’s a really useful piece of advice you’ve been given, Sparklers? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Until next time – don’t forget to Sparkle!

-Mikki

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