Why “I Don’t Have Time” is a Big Fat Lie

“I just don’t have enough time.”

We’ve all said it before.

We say “I don’t have time” when life gets busy or when we don’t want to feel guilty about skipping something:

  • If we don’t have enough time to work out, it’s easier for us to be okay with wheezing after a flight of stairs.
  • If we don’t have enough time to prepare healthy meals, it’s easier to accept our next unhealthy meal through a drive-thru window.
  • If we don’t have enough time to clean the house, it’s easier to accept living in filth.
  • If we don’t have time to apply for new jobs and make new connections, it’s easier to accept staying in a dead-end job.

By the end of today, “I don’t have time” will be erased from your vocabulary, Schwarzenegger-style!

It’s not a priority…

Lego Staying Up Late to Watch TV, wasting time and productivity

If you asked this Lego guy, he’d tell you that he’s so busy that he doesn’t have time to shave.  Liar!

Starting today, you are no longer allowed to utter the words: “I don’t have time.”

Instead, you will say, “It’s not a priority.”

I learned this tactic from this Wall-Street Journal article, and it has been monumental in changing my frame of mind.

Watch how quickly your perspective shifts when looking at life’s challenges this way:

  • “I’d love to work out, I just don’t have time” becomes “exercising isn’t a priority.”
  • “I’d love to eat healthier, but I don’t have time to cook” becomes “eating healthy isn’t a priority.”
  • “I don’t have time to travel” becomes “traveling isn’t a priority.

Suddenly, the excuse of time becomes an incredibly weak argumentCrap.

Stings a bit, huh?

The real truth

changed priorities sign

I can see you begging and pleading right now.

“Steve, these things ARE a priority, but there aren’t just enough hours in the day.”

As J.D. Roth, founder of Get Rich Slowly, simply stated during his talk at the World Domination Summit:

  “It’s not what we say is a priority, but what we actually DO that’s a priority.”

J.D. shared how he used to tell his friend, “oh I LOVE reading, I just don’t have time for it.” In reality, JD was just putting everything else in front of reading: watching TV, staying up late surfing the internet, and so on.  Once he realized how he was prioritizing his life, he started analyzing where his precious time was going.

How you choose to spend your time defines your priorities.  I spent all of 2011 telling myself that I wanted to learn a new language, but I never seem to find the time.  It wasn’t because I didn’t have enough time, it’s because I never made learning a new language a priority!  After lying to myself for a year, I just ordered a Portuguese phrase book from Amazon.com.

No seriously, I bought it just now, halfway through writing this article.

What are your priorities?

"Very important" sign on bench

We have 168 hours in a week.

Time is our most precious resource.

Your priorities, whether you say so or not, are where you choose to spend those hours.  Make the most of them!  It’s amazing how much time you can find when you minimize the things that aren’t important to make room for the things that are.

Where do you spend your time?  Just like keeping a food journal can be eye-opening, try tracking your time over the next few days in 30-minute blocks. How much time do you spend on the computer, watching TV, etc?  I bet you’ll be surprised.

Suddenly…wild productivity appears!  

  • The 10 hours of TV each week become less important.
  • The late nights on Facebook and WoW become more apparent.
  • The unproductive hours spent sitting at your desk, “working” without actually WORKING become clear.

It’s not what you say that’s important to you, it’s what you DO that’s important to you.  

I know you can get a great workout in 20 minutes, so I refuse to accept ANYBODY telling me that they don’t have time to work out.

I challenge you, starting today, to erase the phrase “I don’t have time” from your vocabulary.  Instead, say “it’s not a priority.”

And then decide what you actually want your priorities to be.  

Leave a comment with ONE thing you’ve been saying is a priority but hasn’t really been, and ONE step you’re going to take today to make that thing a real priority.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Portuguese to learn.




photo: changed priorities sign, old clock on building, scruffy lego dude, very important bench

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  • Jen

    I’m way behind on documenting my students’ work. I’ve been putting it off because falling behind means it takes even more time and, well, you see the cycle. So! I’m going to dedicate 30 minutes (one block) of every morning to the project until it’s finished. Thank you for the kick in the pants. 🙂

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Excellent job Steve! 🙂

  • sojournsblog

    Oh god, so true. I started hating this phrase after living in Thailand. My Thai friends thought something was wrong if I said I was too busy/didn’t have time/stressed. It made me realize how easily I said those things. PS. Portland Brew Fest is awesome! I wish I were there this year.

  • Jonz

    Great post, gives a kick in the butt to everyone. We’ve all been guilty of this before.

    This may be a lil irrelevant but I know where that picture for this post came from. It’s definitely from Prague’s Old Town Square

  • Cantsayit

    My priority this weekend is to finish my uni assignment. Not to catch up on facebook, nor read my novel, nor lounge in front of the Olympic Games on TV.

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  • http://www.justadashofgeek.com/ Natasha Dythia

    So true – and something I have done tons of times before.

  • Carlos

    Bom português apenas pequenos erros. Stich = ponto de costura, or only “ponto” 😉

  • Carlos

    Nice post. Also nice see many portuguese speakers here. Fico muito feliz com isso. Hope you can enjoy learn portuguese, go to tune.in and listem to Brazilian radios stations this help you get the sound of language. 
    best regards from Brazil. 

  • http://www.proservicesks.com Frank Woodman Jr

    It’s very true that we have the time to do what it is that we WANT to do or as you say we make a priority. Once you learn that and understand that you use the 168 hours a day you are given as YOU chose to use them. It’s not being too busy that keeps us from being more health, successful, or productive it’s poor use of our time by having poor priorities. So if you remember to set your priorities to things you want to accomplish you can accomplish them but if you chose to let priorities just set themselves you will never accomplish all you could in life.

  • jess frazer

    I just came across your blog – and I love it! What an interesting post. I have just decided that I want to get my life in check and lose this weight. I keep thinking I don’t have time to workout. And yet I DO sit in front of the box for hours at a time, or on facebook/pinterest for the whole evening… Those aren’t priorities – exercising is though. And on THAT note..I’m off 😀

  • http://twitter.com/Strangekitty_ca Strangekitty

    I found the best way to learn a new language (and i’m already trilingual) is either be immersed in the culture/country, or that Rosetta Stone software.
    I’m working on my fourth language with that currently. The first three were from my home country (English, Maori) and school (French), respectively.

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  • http://www.AlphaBodyBlog.com/ Justin

    Great article Steve.

    Time is definately no excuse, as I tell my fitness clients all the time.

    One thing I’d really wanted but kept putting off was joining up to a fitness mastermind.

    I kept saying I’d do it next month, and believe the reason for my own procrastination was probably down to fear. Fear of it not paying off, fear of not being on the same level as the other guys in the group, and other irrational, illogical bullsh!t excuses like that.

    But now I’ve just jumped into it, and got it down. And it feels so GOOD to finally make a priority into a priority.

    Thanks for the article (and swift arse-kicking) Steve


  • http://www.TheInfoPreneur.TV/ TheInfoPreneur

    Starting today, you are no longer allowed to utter the words: “I don’t have time.”

    Instead, you will say, “It’s not a priority.”……..Dude…you have just created a quote I think I’m going to use in every book I ever write.  Preach on brutha…preach on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gabriel.pezzini Gabriel Pezzini

    So Steve, how are you going with Portuguese? Is it easy-going or having some hard times?

    And is it the European or Brazilian variety?

    I hope you enjoy when you come to Brazil. Interestingly enough, you’ll find a country where young people, or a large fraction of them, become obsessed with physical fitness (as a consequence with an enduring obsession with appearance).

  • http://www.healthfitnessfanatics.com/ Hassan

    Fantastic post! “I don’t have time” is nothing but an excuse, which I used many time until I read Dr. Wayne Dyers book Excuses Begone! This booked changed my life and go the excuses out of life for good. Prioritization is key because if something is a priority, you find a way to get it done. For me fitness is a priority and there are no excuses that will come in my way. 

  • Dhaiane

    Hey Hey Hey… learning a new language.. I am going to chose Spanish now!! My native language is Portuguese, learning Spanish on English LOL.. well, i can do it! Let me know if you need any help with that hard language called portuguese 🙂 

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.labo.3 Matthew Labo

    mattlabo.com says, “I have time now.”  Great post.  

  • http://www.fastestwaytoloseweightt.com/ Mary Osborne

    I always say i dont have time to update my CV and start applying for new jobs. I think i do have the time but i just don’t make it a priority indeed. Instead of going out for dinners and just relaxing over the weekend, i will make it a priority to update my CV then start applying for new opportunities 🙂

  • Chris_982

    Iv been saying this to myself everytime i work out. 

    What would i be doing instead? Id be sat on my ass playing xbox games and feeling tired.

    After nearly 2 weeks of making working out and eating healthy a priority i feel more confident and more energetic! 

  • Rachel

    Thank you so much for this post! I just made myself a little sign for my fridge on it. I’m always telling myself I don’t have the time to do strength training, but really I haven’t made it a priority. The same goes for practicing meditation.
    Thank you!!

  • http://www.the-brazilian-body.com/ Psychologically Fit

    Very good article.  I’ve always felt that people were in the wrong mindset when saying they don’t have time for certain things, especially when they “have time” to watch a couple seasons of a show every couple days.

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  • Alex_D

    Well I happened to start going to the gym recently and so I was browsing through some blogs and this is dead on point. I have frankly been playing too many games all my life, and I never prioritized exercise. But now I am. On another rather unrelated note, I havent prioritized my school work. So today i plan to work on finishing half of Brave New World. The faster I finish, the faster I can go workout and get into shape.

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  • http://waegook-tom.com/ Waegook Tom

    Man, I just came across your site here today and I’m fully loving it. Starting the gym again next month (working out in this crazy Korean heat literally makes me vomit…ice cold AC + outside hot air = confused body, so vomiting) and I’ll be using these posts to keep me motivated. I’ve never heard anybody put, “I don’t have time” as, “it isn’t a priority” before and you’re right, it does sting.

    Thanks for the motivation. Guess I don’t have an excuse not to eat healthily while I wait for the scorching heat to subside so I can hit the gym again. Damn. You’ve got me.

    Although I shall use this weekend’s birthday celebrations as an excuse to drink until I can drink no more. It’s a priority.

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  • Darlene Hildebrandt

    I just found your site today, I think Sean Ogle linked to it from somewhere on his site.  I’ve made no bones about exercise NOT being a priority for me right now.  NOT being fat any more is but I’m just not into getting off my butt.  I’ve been doing zumba class once a week but it’s not enough.  Any tips for getting myself out of the mind set of “it’s not a priority”?  I want to get back in shape (want to lose about 25lbs and get toned and cardio back) but in all honesty I’m not into putting in the work right now.  How does one get outta that head space? 


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  • CeCe

    I like this a lot. Having always run into the “if you *tell* I *have* to do something, it becomes onerous. If you *ask* me, I’ll bend over backwards to get it done. I *want* to work out is so much more inspiring than I *have to.*

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  • Just a person

    I just found this article and it’s a month old, so I don’t know if anyone will ever see this, but I felt the need to say something. I don’t want to be rude, but I feel like there’s a lot of hostility here towards people who are less fit, and I think this article shows either ignorance of what some people’s lives are like, or just a lack of care. Some people truly -do- just not have time. This is not an excuse. They’re not sitting on their butts watching TV all day, like the stereotype you seem to buy into. What about people who are full-time students working whenever they’re not studying because they have to pay for everything themselves? What about single parents who have to take every shift they can to make ends meet? Yes, these people can (usually – don’t forget that not everyone even has access to healthy food) eat better, and most of them can probably work some activity that doesn’t fit the typical model of ‘exercise’ (working out in a gym, etc.) into their lives, but for many people, “I don’t have time” is an accurate statement, not a “big fat lie.” It’s not that it’s not a priority. It’s that they’re having to make a choice between working out or working enough to be able to survive, or taking care of their kids, or succeeding in their education, or whatever their case might be. If you’re facing the choice between exercising and having enough money to not be homeless, well… there’s an obvious choice there. I’d encourage *you* to change *your* thinking and realize that not everyone who isn’t or can’t currently exercise is being a lazy bum.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/cob.stone Cob L Stone

    why haven’t I read this article! this is exactly the kick in the pants i needed!

  • anonamys

    I completely agree, i used to get home after work at 11pm and go out running. there’s always time.

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  • Andy

    If you honestly feel like you don’t have enough time, try reading “The power of full engagement.” They tell you to approach life like a sprinter rather than a distance runner, endless hours of anything will grind down. It gets a little ‘self-helpy,’ but you see how managing the energy you put into you’re priorities rather than just time will leave you feeling more accomplished.

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  • Lauren

    “Meditating is not a priority.” Tonight when I get home from work, I will meditate!

  • http://www.facebook.com/thomasgeorgecarterjr Tom Carter


  • Michael

    This article significantly turned my life around. Just thought you should know. Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeffersonfaudan Jefferson Faudan

    this is totally applicable if you’re working on a 9-5 shift… but if you do work 14-16 hours daily on your own business, time is something you are deprived of… of course you can “allocate” certain hours but not as often as you wanted to… i work online and having to juggle clients every hour, dealing with people i outsource other areas of work and with that, time flies by fast… as early as 4 i am up, rushing my coffee, rushing to cook the food for the dogs, rushing to clean the house and taking my meals while working by my pc (it’s not as easy as it is when you don’t have a maid and you live alone), paying bills etc…multitasking is not as easy as it sounds… the travel thing has been part of my “plans” but as soon as it’s there, i have to postpone it… why? because a business opportunity came in… what would i be prioritizing? my travel which is an expense or a project that suddenly comes in that means money? but maybe i’d consider travelling soon if there’s a business opportunity in that area i’d be going… some may say “it’s not about the money but the time for yourself” and i can say “i still can perfectly have a good night sleep in the same area of my bedroom daily…what difference does it make in a different country anyway? it’s still the same bed”. So, it really depends on how you perceive things…

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  • http://twitter.com/CSquaredM Carolyn C. McClimon

    Have you seen this WSJ article? Seems a little too reminiscent of yours…http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203358704577237603853394654.html

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