Sometimes “I Don’t Have Time” Is a Good Excuse

I have a lot of demands on my time right now. Between working full-time, singing and helping out with my choir, keeping up healthy relationships with friends, family, and Travis, trying (and sort of failing) to maintain my blog, and growing a new little person that will take up even more time later, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed.

So when one more thing (or ten more things) ask for my attention, I have no problem saying, “Sorry, I don’t have time for that.”

The hard part is that we’ve been conditioned to think that we can’t say that. That if we aren’t using every spare moment toward something “productive,” then obviously we have enough time to fit it in. “Oh, you say you don’t have time, but you’re reading a book? Couldn’t you be using that time to volunteer at the homeless shelter?” or “You told me that you weren’t available to be the Chair of this committee, but here you are just chatting over lunch with your friends?” And then we feel endless guilt. Like if we aren’t running ourselves ragged doing something every moment of the day, then we are wasting our time.

But that isn’t really how life is. Our minds may be tuned in to the clock all day, but our bodies are tuned in to how well they are being taken care of. Your mind may tell you that it is an hour to lunchtime, but if you haven’t eaten yet, your body doesn’t care what time it is; it wants to be fed. Your mind may tell you that it’s only 11 p.m., that isn’t that late, but your sleep deprived body stopped functioning at full capacity hours ago. Your mind may tell you that you can plan 5 appointments in the same day as long as none of them overlap, but your body will quickly become exhausted and worn out at that pace.

Many of us try to override our bodies in the hopes that we can trick them into going a bit further than they should. Some people, sadly, turn to prescriptions or stimulants to keep their body in motion. Others just push and push until they reach a breaking point and everything falls apart. Most of us just keep overextending a little at a time, until we are exhausted, unfulfilled, and anxious, and we have no idea why.

The healthier option is to just say “no” when something would be too much. There are so many good things in the world, but there is no one person that can do them all. We each pick our few things and try to do those as best as we can. Here’s my best advice:

1. Prioritize what is important to you. If you don’t know what truly makes you happy and fulfilled, then you can’t make the proper room for it in your life. Once you start to piece it together—it probably won’t come all at once—then you can start to build your life around it.

2. Don’t, don’t, don’t compare! You know that perfect woman down the street that does everything. Want to know her secret? She doesn’t do everything. I promise! All of us are human, and in order to do what she does, she is sacrificing things that you find time to do. Her house may be spotless, but maybe she hasn’t read a book in years. Her family may seem perfect, but she’s probably fraying at the edges trying to keep it that way. She may look at you with envy, and you wouldn’t even know it.

3. Listen to your body. I can’t stress this enough. I have never listened to my body as closely as I have the last few weeks. My body lets me know exactly when I need to eat, when I need to stop eating, when I’m tired, when I’m past tired and into exhausted (usually manifesting through grumpiness), and when I’m pushing myself too hard. But most of my life, my body has let me continually push it past its breaking point. If I had been listening closer, I wouldn’t have gotten that far.

4. “No” is your friend. It really is okay to say that you don’t have time for something. It is an honest answer because what you are really saying is, “I have prioritized my time, and this isn’t quite important enough for me to reprioritize the important things I’m already doing.”

5. But “yes” is also your friend. That said, there are great opportunities that are important enough to reprioritize our time for. These things are entirely up to you. Don’t let anyone pressure you into accepting or declining these things to fit their agenda. Your time is your own; it doesn’t belong to your spouse, or your mother, or the pushy PTA President from down the street.

Your time should be controlled and decided by you alone. If you feel like what you do with your time aligns with the goals you have for yourself, then be proud of yourself, and don’t feel the least bit guilty when you say, “Sorry, I don’t have time for that.”

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