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How “I Didn’t Have Time” Is the Most Pervasive Excuse of All
Learn to tell the difference between a reason and an excuse
If it’s important to you, you will do it. Anyone who utters “I didn't have time” is owning up to having no time management skills and an inability to prioritise.
Sounds harsh, doesn’t it?
The truth is we make time for things we are passionate about. We find time for the people we care about.
And for everything else, we leave it at the bottom of our list, apathetic about whether we get around to it and ready to pull out the old excuse card of “I ran out of time” as if we have no control over how we live our lives.
I understand we all have different lifestyles and skill levels when it comes to time management. Life gets in the way sometimes. Sure, there will be times when we don’t tick off everything on our to-do list. But rather than using the passive excuse of “I didn’t have time,” which is wishy-washy victim speak. Let’s own it!
“It wasn’t a priority for me” is strong, assertive, and decisive. This is a reason, not an excuse. It’s honest and open and leaves no room for argument. We either make something a priority or we don’t.
Excuses are for passengers of life. Reasons are for those behind the steering wheel navigating their own destiny.
The dismissive edge of “I’ve been busy”
Here’s the thing, if you are important to someone, they will make you a priority.
It feels shitty being at the bottom of someone’s list. The whole “I’ve been busy” can sound self-important and as if the purveyor of such a statement expects to swan around and feed only crumbs from their table whenever they have the notion. And for the rest of the time, we are expected to sit and wait, even beg for attention.
Beware of being that person who relegates others with the cutting words of “I’ve been busy.”
Friendship is a two-way street
Many years ago, I was struggling with a friendship. I did all the running in the relationship, and she only contacted me if she wanted something. This pattern of imbalance occurs at times, and that’s normal, but when it becomes enduring over several years, it’s time to reassess.
While expressing my upset to someone close to me, they said, “Oh, but she’s busy, Ali.” These words stung. They stung because we were both busy at this time. My days started at 5 am, and I didn’t get to bed until just before midnight (not healthy). And yet I was made to feel as if my friend’s time was more important and worthy than mine.
My confidant’s words were an attempt to reassure me. But she only made me feel shittier. I was left with the message that I had no right to expect reciprocity. And that despite how busy I was, I should still be the one to give, give, give, and serve serve serve. Because “but you’re so good and staying in touch with people.”
It’s taken me years to change my ways and pull up my draw bridge. If someone is perpetually “too busy” for me, I no longer prioritise them. Initially, this felt like game playing, but ultimately it’s been a salvation for my well-being.
It’s very simple; I no longer go to the end of the world for people who wouldn’t go to the end of the street for me.
I differentiate my friendships as end-of-the-world friends and end-of-the-street friends, which helps me manage my expectations.
Learn to prioritise what matters
We are surrounded by people who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. They are full of dreams and aspirations but have no follow-through. They surrender themselves to excuses as soon as they are required to dance with discomfort.
There’s the person who says they will get fit and lose weight. And each time you meet up with them, their progress is zilch because they’ve been “too busy.”
There are two 5 o’clock of day!
Then there’s the person who has grand plans to write a book. They talk about this at the pub but never devote time to realising this dream. Because you know - they don’t have time.
It’s ironic how we seem to have the time to talk about our dreams, but our time evaporates when it comes to taking action.
If it’s important to us, we will find a way! If this means getting up early or missing out on pub night, then so be it.
Ask yourself what you are willing to sacrifice to accomplish your dreams. If you aren’t willing to sacrifice anything, then your dream becomes the sacrifice!
I’ll do it when I get around to it
If we wait until we have a gap in our hectic lives, we will never do it. If we carve out space in our day and make time for our passions and the people we care about, we set ourselves up for growth and happiness.
Heck, if your life is chaotic, you can even text a friend while sitting on the toilet!
“Sorry I’ve not got back to you yet; I’m thinking of you, will reply properly soon.” or “Just checking in, how was your weekend?”
Plenty of life hacks are out there to help you manage your time and make the most of the limited hours available. Beware of using time as an excuse for not accomplishing your dreams.
Yes, I’m busy, but I’m not too busy for you!
“Sorry I didn’t message you on [insert important date here]; I’ve been busy.”
This type of message is one of the shittiest to receive. I’ve missed significant dates in my friends’ lives and will miss plenty in the future. I am not perfect. But I own it. I don’t make excuses about being busy even when life is full throttle. Using busyness as an excuse only implies a hierarchy of importance and that your friend is at the bottom.
More often than not, our lapses aren’t because we are busy; they’re because we forgot. Yet, for some reason, we feel less shame saying we are busy.
But saying we are busy is an excuse; saying we forgot is a reason! Sure, it’s still not the best of reasons, as we can take action to ensure we don’t forget - create reminders for ourselves or enter details in our diary.
When I forget a significant event in a friend’s life, I try to be as honest as possible.
“I’m so sorry I forgot your business launch yesterday, I have no excuse, and I feel awful about it. It’s no reflection of how important you are to me. I love you lots.”
Own your priorities
We have a choice. We can either make time and prioritise the things and people that matter to us. Or we can own up to the fact that something or someone isn’t a priority.
Whatever we do, let’s cut out the “I didn’t have time” BS and replace it with “It wasn’t a priority to me.”
If it’s important to us, we will find a way. If we pretend it is important, our lack of authenticity shows up with excuses.
How do you manage your time to achieve your goals and meet your priorities? I’d love to hear your input in the comments.
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You can also find my writings and musings on Medium, where I write about kindness, psychology, social injustice, the nuances of living childfree, friendship, social justice, feminism, personal growth, and much more.