One of the most common complaints I hear from people who are trying to improve their lives and do meaningful and important things is that they don’t have enough time. Life is too hectic. The thing is, in most cases this is just an excuse. Most people have plenty of time. What many people mean when they say “I have no time” is, “This isn’t as important to me as something else I want to do.”
People often talk about how, between work and household duties, there’s no free time left to do things like get their finances in order, organize/DIY their house, pursue their hobbies, go back to school, or work on other important goals. To some extent, I understand and even sympathize. Our employers demand more and more of our time. We have other obligations and a certain amount of cleaning has to be done to keep us from living in filth. We want to keep a little time free to do some fun stuff and relax. By the time all of that is done, extra time is limited. But not non-existent.
Generally speaking, a hectic, cram-jammed life is our own fault. We refuse to say no, either to others or to our “bad,” lazy natures. And it piles up and up until we’re drowning in to-do’s. Suddenly:
We’re bringing three hundred cupcakes to the bake sale.
The kids are enrolled in six activities a week, and we’re driving them to every one.
We work until ten at night every single night because we’re afraid to say no.
We end up going to the movies every weekend instead of staying home because we can’t disappoint our friends.
The house is in disrepair because it’s easier to say yes to that little demon that says, “Shop!”
We’ve wasted a day trawling the Internet and looking up old friends on Facebook. Again, easier than the hard stuff.
Another day is gone to too much TV or too many video games because we give in to the lazy demon that says, “One more episode!”
While there’s nothing wrong with any of this in moderation, when it piles up to the point that you have no time to work on things that are important to you, it becomes a problem.
If you want to create more time in your life to focus on your relationships, your finances, learning new skills, or whatever else you want to improve, the first thing you have to do is learn how to say no. Sure, it’s great to help everyone, go out with your friends, and enroll your kids in lots of activities. But when you’re constantly on the go, it’s not only exhausting, it deprives you of the time you need to accomplish other things. Say no to one or two things a week and use the time to work on your other goals.
The second thing you need to do is to figure out where the rest of your time is going. We all have time sucks in our lives. It may be the TV, the computer, the phone, the gaming system, Target, or the shopping mall. These are the things we often do mindlessly and then we look up and wonder how it got to be so late. Try keeping a log of how you spend your hours for a week. If you find that you’re spending too much time in a time suck, become conscious of it and work to minimize it. Use the time you free up for better things.
In most cases, the fact that you are overly busy is correctable. You just have to understand where your time is going and decide to use that time differently. Sure, your kids might complain when you drop them down from six activities to two. The school might complain when you don’t volunteer to (yet again) make all the costumes for the school play. Your friends might be disappointed when you limit yourself to two monthly outings instead of weekly. But you know what? They’ll all get over it.
You might miss a few TV shows or a few tweets or status updates, but which is more important? Updating your Facebook status or working on that business you want to start, finishing that novel you want to write, or spending quality time with your family? For the most part, you choose how to spend your time. If you want to accomplish big things, other things have to go.