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

  1. Great perspective. The freedom and the power to say “no, that isn’t a priority for me” is useful and helpful. It’s too easy to get stuck in thinking we have to want to do everything and then do nothing because we “don’t have time.”

  2. GREAT article. starting tonight I’m first going to make a list of my “priorities” and act on them instead of using having no time as an excuse.
    will keep you guys posted with my list and the progress I’ve made.

  3. Organize my child’s photographs on my computer and get them printed!! I will go to Walgreens today after work and get a batch printed 🙂

  4. Planning meals, I say that it is a priority but I always find a way to make it more difficult than it should be. I will pay more attention to the amount of time I sit and waste “thinking” and make blocked times to allow for weekly menu planning.

  5. I’m new to paleo (6 weeks in) and just started getting your emails. I followed this link today and am so glad I did. I have made cooking properly a priority, but keep letting other “priorities” get in the way of my physical activity. I immediately found a timer to set to keep myself off the computer for hours at a time. Thanks for this kick in the butt.

  6. ONE thing: Creating YouTube content. ONE step: Film.

    I can’t eliminate all the problemsobstacles BEFORE I begin. I need to begin NOW, push through, and fixsurmount them as I discover them.

  7. Not everyone has the time for an EFFECTIVE workout… I’m a mother of 5— ages 8,7,3,2,and 1… My 2 year old is autistic with horrible sleep patterns that we haven’t been able to break yet… my husband works 14 hr days, 6 days a week… I’m a sahm, and I’m busy… i cook, clean, run errands, drop kids off and pick kids up, help with homework, and cook and clean some more… my husband is exhausted by the time he gets home, so him staying up until 2-3 am is not an option… i get 4 hours asleep if I’m lucky… i workout on Sundays, and try to move around during the day whether it’s going for walks, playing with my kids outside, or dancing around the house with my little ones, but i know that these activities won’t help me lose weight… Not everyone is lazy… yes, going to the gym takes a backseat to my family’s well being— even as i type this, I’m holding my 1 yr old, trtrying to break a 102 fever… don’t assume to know someone’s story….

  8. Losing weight has been a priority, but not really because I’ve been watching TV shows on my computer when I could’ve been exercising. But, wheezing after one short flight of stairs is not something to be proud of and I’m scared I might develop flat feet because I already have a low arch. Yesterday, I really exercised for at least 12 minutes before sleeping. I’m not sure if it was more that 12 minutes, but I’d rather say less than think I did more than I actually did.

  9. Sorry about this, it turned into a rant and got away from me.

    So what about “I don’t have the energy”? I know that a proper diet can go a long way, and that you get energy from using energy, but that doesn’t help me when I’m sitting in a hole. Especially not if that hole is as much emotional as it is energetic. It’s dark and cold and wet outside, the day has been long and required much human interaction and learning, I should be studying and – SHUT UP! I don’t care, I want to forget and have a laugh in my little den now! Nevermind that “now” often last an hour or three and frequently lapses into sleeping.
    You’re right, the issue isn’t time, it’s priority. Priority and money and will. I have to take money into account, of course I do, and I’ve already made two monetary priorities called “Savings” and “I want to go to Australia” neither of which leave a lot of room for some form of sport or exercise, and both of which most can probably recognize as priorities. Well, the first one, anyway, maybe not the second but I assure you it is.
    All right, but there are plenty of forms of exercise you can do for free! All of which I hate. No, not quite, but I hate doing exercises. If they’re within reach they’re boring and I want to punch myself in the face for doing them, if they’re out of reach then I can’t do them and I’ve failed. I hate running, it makes everything hurt (how does it manage to hurt my ears?). Biking is a form of transport, a cheap, efficient way of getting from A to B, and I don’t think that’s much fun either.
    I think you in one article said that if you’re not having fun exercising, then you’re doing the wrong form of exercise. You’ve certainly said something to that general effect. So… what are you supposed to do when what you /want/ to do is a two hours of transport away? Who is willing to put up with an extra four hours of commute regularly to get a bit of exercise in? Oh, occasionally, sure, if you’re in a sport and there’s a competition of some sort or there’s this really great place you’ve wanted to see/experience pretty much ever since you got into it. But regularly? Every weekend? Every few afternoons after work? No, I don’t think that’s a lot of people.

  10. Somebody once told me: “A day has 24 hours: 8 hours to sleep, 8 hours to work and 8 hours to do whatever you want”. Since that day I stopped saying “I don’t have time”

  11. I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks that I have no less time in my day, am no less tired, am no less organized for working out. I started going to the gym after work and the only thing I notice that actually changed was that I sleep way better and I am not QUITE as out of breath at the top of the stairs when I get to work. My family is still fed, the dog is still fed, the laundry is still done. Everything really still pretty much clicks along just like always, except that I sleep better and feel a bit better. I spent YEARS saying ” I am already so stretched out. There is no way I can work going to the gym into my schedule.”
    I am going to try the “its not a priority” talk and see how it goes!
    Good advice!

  12. I agree with what you wrote and find some people’s attitude about this really annoying. My boyfriend, for example, could use being a little more physically active and losing a little weight (nothing dramatic yet, but he’s been gaining weight over the years), but he’s just lazy about it and prefers to do other things. It’s not even a time issue for him, it’s all about wanting to do it or not. However, because I workout regularly, have been doing so for years and am an advocate of being physically active, which clearly makes him feel bad about his unwillingness to workout, he frequently brings out the argument that I only do it because I have time to do it. Nevermind that I kept on working out regularly when I had much less time available, he replies to that by saying that I wouldn’t workout if I had even less time available (as is the case with a lot of people). People like him choose to focus on the many cases of people who don’t workout because they supposedly don’t have time, whereas I choose to focus on the fewer cases of people that make exercise a priority. In both cases, people don’t have a lot of free time, the difference is that some choose to make exercise a priority while others choose not to. In the end, I think the “oh, you can do it because you have time” argument undermines my efforts and that really annoys me.

  13. Great post Steve! The most important is, we don’t do to forget our priorities. Like eating healthy meals on time, sleep & cleaning our house. Actually we have a lot of time. If we manage it we can do all of our task a day no mater how busy we are.

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  14. Great post Steve! The most important is, we don’t do to forget our priorities. Like eating healthy meals on time, sleep & cleaning our house. Actually we have a lot of time. If we manage it we can do all of our task a day no mater how busy we are.

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  15. For me, cleaning my apartment has not been a priority. That stops here. I might be busy, but its like you said, we all have time it’s up to us to choose what we do with that time. Thank you, Im going to get to it now, because there never was a better time than now. #MP

  16. There’s a great saying I heard from Marie Forleo that has helped me make this process a bit less painful: Realize you can do anything, but you can’t do everything. Makes me feel less guilty about ie. cleaning less often and focusing on top priorities instead 😉

  17. I think the main point of Bubby’s argument is you still have 2 hours of “unaccounted time”. I support you though, until Bubby has the balls to post every 30 mins of his typical day here, then he can sit down.

  18. This article was brilliant!! The hard reality revealed, I know so many people who should read this! Also I’m am a bit guilty myself, even though it is the other way around for me – compared to most of population – I usually say I don’t “have time” to go out and socialize, because of my exercise and meal preps and early nights. I am aware of it not being a priority though and I am completely fine with that 😀 life choices I guess…

  19. Writing has always been a priority for me however I have not been devoting the time to it to make it so. Thus today I shall reevaluate my current schedule to fit in more writing and reading time!

  20. I can here from the search term “don’t ****ing tell me to prioritise”… which might kind give you and impression of my attitude to prioritising.

    That said I also track every single hour I work, and have solutions to balance the amount of time I spend on things.

    This is very motivational and all. But I think we should be careful with advice that just exhorts people to do simply do better. Which I feel this comes close to.

    I certainly agree that time can used more consistently with a little shuffling. My comment would be that it’s slightly harmful to say this without actually telling people *how* to do this.

    Some thoughts:

    i. One should bear in mind limited willpower resources
    ii. Hence one must appreciate the importance of habits as a willpower saving mechanism, as well as scheduling to increase willpower.
    iii. One must be careful to appreciate that prioritising means *deprioritising*, if only in terms of “I’m not going to think about this at the moment”, one must be careful of activities that are quite happy to overtake your life.

    To avoid hypocrisy here I’ll include a link to your nice post on the topic:

    * https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/new-habits/

    As well as referring to books “the power of habits” (a book that is actually more of a journalistic literature review than it sounds)

    As well as referring to lyle macdonalds posts of flexible dieting
    (http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat-loss/flexible-versus-rigid-dieting.html/), although this would be better described as a method of increasing adherence than providing flexibility.

  21. Considering the drive-thru at the fast food joint I work at gets a seemingly never-ending parade of cars from open to close, it seems many people don’t think eating healthy is a priority for them, or their kids. I don’t eat the crap on my breaks – I bring home-made.

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  24. you made me stay at gym when i have college too. i always told myself that gym is not my priority, study is . but now i have made a decision that i am staying and dont give up . thanks to you
    and sorry if my english wasnt so good .

  25. Yes, exercising is not a priority. My priorities are working double shifts to try to keep my family afloat, driving home, trying to cram in 5 hours of sleep so I don’t collapse the next day and then driving back to work.

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