I Don’t Have Time


Whether it’s at work, church, or home, I’ve seen far too many times where the phrase “I don’t have time” has led to misunderstandings and/or arguments. Why? Because it means something different to each person.

Let me illustrate. Picture in your mind a man in his mid-thirties sitting on a couch watching the boob tube while licking his fingers clean of Cheeto residue. What if he said he didn’t have time? Would you agree? Seriously, go ahead and answer.

What if I then said the man had just finished working a sixteen hour shift? He hardly has the energy to cook so he opts for the convenience of Cheetos. While he eats his Cheetos he decided to turn on the T.V. for a few minutes to catch up on what’s going on around the world by watching the nightly news. Now does he “have time?”

Now take the VP of a Fortune 500 accounting firm in mid-April. Does he “have time?” His time is so valuable, he makes more as a Christmas bonus than his assistant makes in a decade. Surely he doesn’t have time. Oh, but wait. Just an hour ago his wife called to inform him his daughter had been kidnapped while walking home from school. How about now?

You get my point. I’m providing some fairly exaggerated examples, but even seemingly black-and-white examples can draw some very different opinions when it comes to “having time.” The truth is, the phrase “I don’t have time” can mean widely different things to different people in different circumstances. While some may simply use the phrase as a facade to a deeper meaning of “I don’t care” or “I don’t want to,” I’ve found it’s more often used as a means of saying, “It’s low enough on my priority list that I won’t get around to it.” And this is where the misunderstanding comes in.

To some, if the people who “don’t have time” are doing anything other than actively working, whether it be hammering nails, typing reports, or digging trenches, they have time. But just as our bodies cannot survive without sleep or food, some find they likewise cannot survive without taking a few deep breaths of fresh outside air, exercising, reading their children to sleep, or even working on some side projects. Their mental/spiritual/physical/emotional health can literally depend on it at times. At other times they’re merely personal preferences. And yet other times they can be influenced by pressure from third parties. These priorities are different for each person and each person ultimately sets his/her own. When priorities for two different people don’t match up, some can be offended, feel disillusioned, or find themselves having to justify their claim.

I’m not trying to declare any one perspective of the phrase “I don’t have time” as more accurate than the others. Au contraire. I simply believe the phrase “I don’t have time” is subjective and should be treated as such. In the end, having time = having priority and priority is individual.

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04.02.2009 / Andy Wheatley said:

I hated on my mission when people would say “I don’t have time . . .” they just didn’t care enough to make time.

We make time for those activities which are most important to us — if we don’t make time then we don’t care.

But I am sure you are know, as I am finding out, that between a house, career and new baby that life becomes pretty hectic!!

04.20.2009 / bryce said:

I decided the same thing a few years ago. I never use that phrase and I say “I didn’t get to it” or “I didn’t MAKE time for it.” Because it is almost always a matter of priority.

04.26.2009 / Bryan Elkins said:

I used to be a stickler about that; I learned through Franklin Covey (just Franklin at the time) that we have time for the things that are priorities for us, and we have the same amount of time as everyone else. I learned to soften my approach, though. Since it is a matter of priorities and everyone is used to hearing the phrase “I don’t have time,” as long as I know that it means that whatever I’ve mentioned to someone isn’t a priority to them, then I can address the fact that it’s not a priority to them, not the semantics. As Hyrum Smith (the modern one – the one that created the Franklin Company) said, it’s socially unacceptable to say “Sorry. That’s just not a priority for me.” I agree. I know what it means. They may not realize what they’re saying, but it really is about priorities.

07.02.2010 / Jonathan said:

I agree. It is all about priorities and personal desires. As Bryan said, we all have the same 24 hours each day. We have time for whatever we want to do. What we choose to spend that time on is up to us. Good message Aaron.

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