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

old clock

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

  1. Hmm… Probably eating right. I eat “healthy” but I don’t eat paleo like I want. My excuse is my husband and kids don’t do it so I have it in my house. It’s easier to eat WAPF than it is paleo, so that is what I have been doing. That will change this year, but I am going to have to take baby steps to make it happen.

  2. I love this article!! We always use the words ” I don’t have time to do …” But is not true we just use it as an excuse because is not a priority or not something we really want.

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  4. I always say that getting enough sleep is a priority for me. Then I stay up until midnight surfing the web or reading. From now on, I’m going to leave distracting stuff (my phone, my current read) in a different room, so I can’t get to them without other people seeing.

  5. My priority is to read more and to learn how t mind map – from today I will start reading and applying the mind mapping skills book I bought

  6. hey Jefferson!

    What i hear you saying is “exercising is not as big of a priority as adding more clients to my business.” Which is totally fine, but the point i’m making is that you are CHOOSING to make work a priority over everything else.

    And maybe that’s what you need to do right now, which is great. It’s just a shift in mentality to what you actually want out of life and what’s important to you right now. Cheers.

    You’re absolutely right, it’s all in how you perceive things 🙂


  7. Hey Just a Person!

    I would argue that the statement remains. For those people, they are choosing to prioritize other things over their own health. In some instances that might be a job they need, or a class they are taking, or their kids. Clearly in some of these situations, they have made the decision to prioritize certain things over others.

    Even then, I know plenty of single moms who work multiple jobs that still find a way to prioritize healthy living, so it could go both ways.

    We make a vote every day with our time and energy with what our priorities are. For many people, they choose not to prioritize health as they feel like their other priorities are more important. I have nothing against those people and i’m sure many of them are making the priorities based on what they feel is most important to them. It’s simply a subtle shift in our mindset to encourage us to think about how we spend our time. Cheers!


  8. This is such an eye opener. I’m a full time, 3rd year engineering student who maintains a fulltime job, but my workouts have fallen by the wayside. Thank you so much for “it’s not a priority” because in my mind i do consider it important! lets hope i can get back!

  9. Irony: instead of getting ahead on paperwork during lunch so I can get out of here quicker tonight, I am… sitting here reading an article about priorities.

  10. I think the point was that the concept of time management needs to be reframed for most of us. For example: the above schedule has a huge 3.5-hour window of time in between getting home from work and going to bed. As a husband/father who works 50+ hrs/wk, that sounds to me like a golden opportunity to do whatever the hell you want. Apparently your top priorities are: 1, load/unload dishwasher (<20 min); 2, feed cat and self (1 hr or less, depending on prep); 3, window shopping in town (30 min of walking – really, that's what you want to do w/your evening?). Add all that up and you've got nearly 2 hours of your night unaccounted for – what's stopping you? You have no domestic responsibilities other than a cat and nothing better to do than stroll into town…no more excuses, get up a sweat!

  11. I made that comment like a year ago, but okay, I’ll bite.
    For one I was just picking a random day as an example.
    Secondly 30 min of walking was my fitness level at the time, so I don’t really understand why you have to make such demeaning comments about that. Also you make it “window shopping” while it was a walk into town. I didn’t window shop, I walked with a firm pace through town, while just looking around.
    So I don’t take kindly to your “no more excuses, get up a sweat!”. I wasn’t making excuses, I was just putting down my day, which has priorities of housekeeping, food and exercise.
    I was simply trying to illustrate that you can’t make everything a priority and that then “I don’t have the time” is actually true. Or put differently: “I don’t have room for more priorities”.

  12. I’m sorry that came across as demeaning, I didn’t intend to put you down as a person. Perhaps the fact that you have the luxury of going to bed at 9:15pm and setting your own schedule, and that you don’t have other human beings depending on you, made that day-in-the-life sound more pretentious in the reading than you would have thought in writing it down. Maybe to you, that seems like a lot of responsibility, I don’t know. In perspective, the whole thrust of the article (which I just ran across yesterday) is that saying “I don’t have the time” is generally disingenuous: the truth isn’t that the time isn’t available to you, it really is. Truth is, taking care of the cat, internet time and seeing what shops are around are higher priorities than fitting in a workout. That’s not a judgment, just a fact – what Steve was saying above is, own your priorities for what they are.

  13. “window shopping in town (30 min of walking – really, that’s what you want to do w/your evening?)”
    “no more excuses, get up a sweat!”

    “Truth is, taking care of the cat, internet time and seeing what shops are around are higher priorities than fitting in a workout.”


    “I’m sorry that came across as demeaning, I didn’t intend to put you down as a person.”

    If you don’t intend that, why do you feel the need to do it again????????

    Apparently you’re not a very good reader as I stated in my previous comment:
    “30 min of walking was my fitness level at the time”
    In other words, that walk happened to be my workout.

    Which makes…
    “That’s not a judgment, just a fact”
    Extremely hurtful.

    No it’s not a fact. The fact is that I did do my workout! The fact is that you don’t know anything about me to make the kind of judgements that you’re making.

    And finally, my point of my original post wasn’t to claim I didn’t have time!!
    As I already stated in my original post: “What I’m trying to say is, not everything can be a priority”.

  14. I have said that I don’t have time to rehab my knee after tearing my ACL last year. Well, truth is it has not been a priority for me. Nerd Fitness has helped me to start exercising again, so I will make sure not neglect leg strengthening exercises, making my knee a priority. I want to dunk a basketball again!

  15. Awesome! Exercise has always been a priority. Eating healthy? Not so much. That changes today. By the way, I have two jobs, five kids and volunteer in the community. There’s always time for exercise.

  16. This article is like an eye opener for me. I always dragged myself lazily in every step of my life. I never prioritized even a single thing that I wanted to do all along. Obesity was my first and foremost concern and now also. Last year I went gym for 7 days, ran in the morning for 6 days, tried push-ups and sit-ups for 3 days but I never continued at least one of them. I feel ashamed to narrate my story before you. Whoever looks at me he/she ends saying “tumse na ho payega(hindi)” –“It can’t be done by you/ It’s impossible for you”. After I read this article I’ve found a new ray of hope in this utter darkness of obese and shameful life. In short I never prioritized my fitness to my studies. So I’d like to ask you one simple question that how could it be possible to do proper workouts during exam days, because I feel sleepy after I do workout? Could it affect my studies? And finally how could I maintain a balanced diet with Indian food system where spices and curries play the lead role? Could you suggest me some best answers for the above mentioned questions?

  17. I work part time from home. Have plenty to do with my free time but couldnt seem to squeeze in exercise. Absurd! So I got a $120 exercise bike and a $125 rowing machine, both light weight so not in the way when company arrives. Put them in front of the tv and Wa-Lahh! Can still sit on my arse and watch tv while rowing or cycling. I keep them in view between me and the tv so I am shamed into exercising at least thru one of my favorite shows. So so easy! I match exercise with my favorite nightly news hour so my exercise is consistant and daily.

  18. Helloooo, I’m from Brazil 🙂

    While you are learning Portuguese I’m learning english. It’s more difficult begin to study than learn. I know it. I found this text just because I resolved to improve what I know about English and reading something. Therefore I want to say thanks. I loved to read what you wrote. Our time is very important and we’re always spending it with useless things… and than we saying “we don’t have time” haha.

    Boa sorte com o português. É uma língua muito bonita e rica, mas muito mais difícil de aprender do que o inglês. Há muitas regras gramaticais que a maioria de nós, nativos, sabemos apenas “intuitivamente” ou seja, na prática.

    É muito bom aprender um novo idioma e mesmo assim eu enrolo com os meus estudos enquanto gasto tempo com coisas inúteis ou, pior, pensando em começar a estudar. Às vezes nos humanos nos esquecemos do quanto nossa vida e curta e do quanto o nosso modo de pensar a respeito das coisas influenciam as nossas atitudes.

    Bye… Good luck to us!

  19. I’ve been saying that learning computer programming, designing robotics, or even trying to teach myself chemistry were “priorities”. But then, after reading this article I realized that they were pseudo-priorities at best, and more or less nice imaginary phantasms to divert myself from the shame of underachievement.
    Well, damn dude! Way to put things into perspective for me. After reading this, strangely enough, all I could think of was those age-old words of Yoda, the famous “do or do not, there is no try” line; indeed, in this very moment, the wisdom of his words has now become ever apparent.
    This is amazing. Keep it up.

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