Marketing guru Seth Godin offers an unpleasant truth. What makes it unpleasant is that it blows one of the most common excuses out of the water.
“I didn’t have time”
This actually means, “it wasn’t important enough.” It wasn’t a high priority, fun, distracting, profitable or urgent enough to make it to the top of the list.
One of the questions/assumptions posed or imposed here is how it’s possible to write this blawg without it being all-consuming. Having been over this ground too many times already, I won’t bore you with the details, but the relevant piece is that I choose to make the time to write. Sure, I could use the time to post kitteh pics to instagram instead, but I don’t. I wake up every morning, look at a screen, and my fingers just start twitching. It’s what I do.
Every few days, Twitter and Facebook soak up a billion hours of ‘spare’ time. Where did that time come from? What did we do before social media was here? Weren’t we busy five years ago?
There is an old adage, “if you want something done, ask a busy person.” Some people just keep working until they’ve accomplished what they need to accomplish. They don’t dawdle. They don’t malinger. They just get stuff done. If you have to ask “how,” then you aren’t one of us. There isn’t a “how” involved. It’s just what we do.
Running out of time is mostly a euphemism, and the smart analyst realizes that it’s a message about something else. Time is finite, but, unlike money, time is also replenished every second.
Life is a constant series of priority lists, changing at a moment’s notice. We have long term projects, that require us to deliberately set aside time to do, and fires that need to be put out immediately. And then we have things we “like” to do, even if they suck up time from things we know we really should be doing. Priorities aren’t set by some grand scheme of ethereal importance, but how we feel about the use of our attention at any moment.
The excuse of not having time is facile. It costs nothing to raise, and is impossible to challenge, even if you know that someone has absolutely nothing you think is important to do otherwise. The message, as Godin correctly notes, is that they have all the time in the world, and choose to spend it elsewhere. Not on you. Not on your work. Not on whatever it is you think (or hope) they should be doing with their time.
People tell me they would like to have a blog, but they don’t have the time. Baloney. People say they would like to do the work they were retained to do, but they haven’t gotten to it yet because they were busy. Baloney. Lawyers tell clients they would have timely returned their phone calls but they were tied up. Baloney.
These are lies we tell ourselves. Yes, lies. We have the time to do whatever we want to do. If we don’t do it, it’s because we have chosen to spend our time on something else. The truth is that we would have done something but there was something else that was more important to us. That something else may have been, objectively, more important. That something else may have been nothing important at all, but just our watching Keyboard Cat for the 107th time. Whatever we did with our time, it was a choice.
When we have real constraints on our time, such as being on trial and having to be in court at a certain time and remain there all day, we tend to be forthright about it. I couldn’t return your 11 o’clock phone call because I was in court on trial. But then, when court is over for the day, I can choose to call back or head out for Miller Time.
People will often seek our time for purposes that hold no interest whatsoever. Think of the marketeer who calls, asking for just ten minutes of your time to discuss why you should pay him money to trash your reputation. You tell him you’re not interested, but he won’t take no for an answer. You then have two choices, either hang up the phone or give in. His persistence preys upon your courtesy, that you won’t tell him to get lost and hang up because you’re too polite to do so. You regret having agreed to meet, and now think this is an unfortunate use of your time.
You’re wrong. You made another choice, this time trading off the time you could spend doing something else with your inability to say “no.” Your fear of appearing rude was a choice. Even though you don’t know this guy from a hole in the wall, have no reason in the world to give him your time, can’t begin to justify why his feeling you’ve been impolite matters, you have allowed your fear of being perceived as rude to take up your time.
Time is all about choices. If you don’t have any time, it’s because you’ve chosen not to have any. If you’re unhappy about it, then change it. But don’t be surprised if you can’t, if your time always seems to fall into a big black hole where it’s lost forever. This happens because you’re poor at managing your time. But don’t lie to yourself about it. Your time is squandered because that’s how you’ve chosen to live your life.
You have just as much time as I do. If you don’t use it well, you have no one to blame but yourself.