I don’t have time to . . . .

by teresalaynebennett

desk calendar with blank day page

An extraordinarily large segment of our population operates under the misconception that this is the card/excuse that trumps all other cards/excuses for not doing things.

While there are people who can legitimately play this card, I’ll bet they’re not ten percent of our population. When they play it, they do what the wannabes would like to do: they trump every other card and take the hand. Our President springs to mind. State governors, corporate CEOs, metro city mayors – the movers and shakers of our world – fit into that ten percent.

I don’t travel in those stratospheric circles. But I have been paying attention to the not-so-famous movers and shakers down in my humble part of the world, and I’ve noticed even they seldom play this card. While trying to determine why I never hear “I don’t have time” come from their mouths, I’ve noticed they:

If they seldom play the don’t-have-time card, neither should I and neither should you. Why? Because it tips your hand. While it may sound important, saying “I don’t have time” tips off the more astute and thoughtful around the table. Those people – the ones who can offer jobs, contacts, and opportunities – will know we hold the can’t-delegate card, the no-priorities card, and the muddled-responsibilities card.

The hiring-and-firing people know that when these three cards are combined with the I-don’t-have-time-card, the person holding them does not have a winning hand. That person will be unable to function well at high levels of responsibility.

Would you like to join me in a self-promise to stop making the lame excuse, “I don’t have time”? Then let’s look again at my down-home movers-and-shakers list.


Find a good book aimed at managers and leaders. The ideas in it don’t resonate? Find another. Too many words? Then think about the bosses/managers you’ve admired firsthand. Pay attention to delegators you know until you find a style and method of delegating that sounds and feels like you. Then practice it diligently.

Setting Priorities

If you’re not in the habit of setting priorities for yourself, check out one of the bazillion trillion books on goal setting. Too much work? Simply sit yourself down and make a list of your priorities. Tweak it until you really buy into what you say you intend to do with your life. Once you’ve made a list of priorities that are of vital importance to you, it’ll be easier to give them the respect – and time – they’re due.

Knowing Your Responsibilities

If you’ve never given much thought to ALL your responsibilities, go somewhere quiet. Ditch ALL the electronic gear. THINK. Think long and hard about those responsibilities. Now get your favorite electronic tool and key in the obvious segments of your life and list your responsibilities in each segment.

Even if you’re single, just out of school (or still in school), and living on your own, you have a lot of responsibilities you didn’t have just a few years ago. If you’re married, a parent, and/or working in the beginning levels of your profession, you have a TON of responsibilities. Wouldn’t it be nice to see them in black and white and have a very clear mental list of what you’ve signed on for?

Wow. It’s a ton of stuff, isn’t it? And you have only 24 hours a day to accomplish it – just like every other person on the planet. So saying you don’t have time isn’t very accurate, is it? But then, it isn’t about time.

It’s NEVER been about time; it’s about priorities and responsibilities. It’s about consciously and carefully choosing to use our 24 hours in such a way that we accomplish the tasks we’ve set before ourselves or the tasks we’ve thoughtfully and cautiously signed on to help others accomplish.

Deflecting Other People’s Priorities
For Our Time

Now we’re down to the last of my lesser-known movers-and-shakers’ traits – trying to avoid spending time on other people’s priorities by whining “I don’t have time.” If we’re to follow their suit, we need to make a new trump card – a simple, short, and forever recyclable phrase that’s unlikely to offend but is still honest and patently clear.

I use, “Sorry, that’s not on my list” and try to smile disarmingly as I say it. I don’t want to beat them over the head with my “no.” I just want to make it crystal clear that no amount of wheedling will change my mind. My whole persona says Buddy, you’re wasting your time.

You’re clever. Think of a new trump card that’ll stop those people who’ve decided what your priorities should be. Pull that puppy out and play it whenever the situation calls for it. But whatever you do, do not play the I-don’t-have-time card: it trumps nothing.

red box with with white text of H. Jackson Brown's quote about time

As you can see, I’m not the only one who lives by this credo. H. Jackson Brown is the author of Life’s Little Instruction Book. Great little book.

And I’ll bet you, dear reader, are devising some great little tricks for avoiding nonsensical, I-don’t-have-time whining. Why not share them with the rest of us?

© 2013 Teresa Layne Bennett