Why “I don’t have time” is a lie

Everyone has the same amount of time in a day, except for the day they are born and the day that they die. Those days are started late and ended early, respectively. Every other day is the same, 24 hours.

Most of what happens within our days are the results of choices, concious or otherwise. I may choose to sleep 8 hours while someone else chooses only to sleep 5. I am sure you have often heard people respond to something that they say they want to do with “I don’t have time”. “I know I should work out but I don’t have time … I wish I spent more time with my kids but I don’t have time … I love to read but I just don’t have time anymore.” These people are either lying to you, or more likely, they are lying to themselves.

Most of us feel we do not have time for things but in reality we do not have the relative desire for them. We may want them, but we do not want them as much as the other things we are doing with our time. If we did, we would do them instead. Importantly, I am not referring to a spoken want but an actual one. I can say I want six pack abs but if I am not willing to put in the physical work to get there I don’t really want that more than the other things I spend my time doing during my days.

Most of the time, most people don’t truly want hardly anything as much as they want to check Instagram or Twitter or email. Of course, these are not the things they want directly but a means towards getting them. A dopamine hit from an Instagram like, a bite size piece of information or entertainment from a Tweet, or a sense of purpose through a feeling that one is needed, good at their job, and therefore good at something because they are known to respond to their emails in less than 10 minutes no matter the hour or the day. I know these things from experience.

The fact is that when one truly wants something and wants it more than everything else competing for the time in their day, one will absolutely make the time for that thing. Time does not come out of thin air. It comes from the other things we occupy ourselves doing. Everything is a trade-off. We operate based on a descending list of the things we care about whether we know them are not.

To understand what a real want feels like, it is helpful to think about and experience the fundamentals. Years ago, I watched an awesome motivational speech by a guy named Eric Thomas where he tells his students they will be successful when they want it as badly as a person who is drowning wants to breathe (if you want to watch the first 3 minutes you will get the gist). Occasionally, I run several miles without a water bottle and I am reminded in the last couple of miles what it feels like to be truly thirsty, to want nothing but water. When you are sick, you usually want nothing but to feel better. When you are starving, all you want to do is eat. You will make time for what you want most. We can only do so much at a time and more distractions than ever are competing for our attention. This is why so many people feel there is not enough time in the day.

Next time you think about something you want to do or know you should do but “don’t have time” for, think again. You have the time, you just don’t care enough. In many cases, you will be content with that realization. In others, you will want to change it. Fortunately, you can. It is not about time. It is about you.