I don’t have time… It’s a pretty easy excuse to use when someone asks us to do something that we do not want to do. It also comes in handy, when we are asked about something that we were supposed to do. “I didn’t have time.” If I am honest, I have used this excuse more times than I care to confess.
I remember trying to hide behind this convenient truth once as a college student. When I was asked why I had not completed the assigned reading for the week, I responded that I did not have time to complete it. On this occasion I definitely used the line as a weak justification for being lazy. Inwardly I thought that this was a bulletproof excuse. “Surely no one can know how busy my schedule really is.” “Right?” Not that time. I used the wrong words with the wrong person on that day. I was greeted with a long lecture that included a white board, pie charts, and a short statistical analysis of the time which college students have at their disposal. You see, I was not talking to a professor, but rather my pastor, or perhaps more adequately described that particular summer as my internship supervisor. I told the guy who literally made my schedule for each week that I did not have time to do something that he required me to do. A slight oversight in judgment on my part.
I would like to say that I learned a valuable lesson about time management that day, but I didn’t. Or at least I didn’t learn the more important lesson that I could have learned I learned that, as a college student you have more free time than during any other time of your life. I also learned that I shouldn’t make as many excuses. However, there was a lesson that I could have (and probably should have) learned then that I have just been learning recently. The lesson I should have learned that day is this:
I should tell people that I don’t have time, but it should not have to be an excuse or a justification.
Not having time to complete a task or perform a favor that is asked of you is not sin. In fact, it’s a completely legitimate reason to not do something. After all, humans are finite beings that operate within time. We actually physically cannot do all things, we can only accomplish a limited number of tasks within a certain period of time. This is not a wise insight, but it is a fundamental fact in the lesson about not having time. When you acknowledge that you do not have time for every task, favor, assignment, or activity you then (often implicitly) begin to prioritize the activities on which you want to spend your time. How we prioritize the things we spend our time on is probably one of the most under appreciated activities in which we partake.
Many times we make decisions about how we spend our time based on what is most convenient at the moment, or what needs to be completed next or it will not get completed, or simply what we will enjoy the most. I cannot say that there is anything inherently wrong with making decisions in any of these ways, but I can say there are drawbacks and disadvantages to doing so. One problem with making decisions this way is that often it is inconsistent. We don’t always choose the most enjoyable of options when faced with a choice of how to spend time. If so, the dishes in the sink would never get washed. Another problem is that this decision making process is completely self-focused. The list could go on, but the idea remains the same. There must be a better way.
In order for us to avoid using time as an excuse or justification for a short coming, we should decide what it is that we want to spend our time on. It might seem simple, but it requires a little more work than you might think. What I am suggesting is that we decide what we want to spend our time on, on a grand scale. We need to decide what we want our life to be about at the end our lives. If we have an idea of what we want to do in life, then we can begin to make decisions to get us there. Consider this like having a mission statement for your life. Mission statements define what the goal and purpose of an organization is. If you have a mission statement for your life, you will put into words what you goal and purpose is for your life.
When you have understand that goal and purpose then you can begin to have clarity and consistency in your decision making process. When confronted with a choice about how to spend your time, you simply ask whether or not it will help you accomplish your goal and purpose for your life. If the activity in question does help you accomplish your goal then you should say “yes”, but if it does not help you accomplish that goal then you should say “no”.
If I would have understood the importance of prioritizing my time around completing goals back when I was a college student perhaps I would have been able to learn more, or at least make fewer excuses. I now realize that not having time for something does not have to be an excuse or a justification, but rather an affirmative statement that helps you make informed and wise decisions. I would have been better off to learn this lesson years ago when I was confronted with it, but better late than never.