Why “I Don’t Have Time” Is A Lie

Time is a finite resource. As much as we’d love to be in a position where we had the luxury of time all day, every day, the reality is that we often don’t. Between working, spending time with family, running errands, working out, and pursuing our passion, it often feels like time whizzes past without us noticing. 

We might start the week with a hundred and one things we want to get accomplished by Sunday, but by the time Sunday night rolls around, we’ve barely gotten through the list. 

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So we start getting used to saying, “I don’t have time.” It’s almost a reflex response now; as long as a particular activity doesn’t fit into your usual schedules and routines, you drop the phrase. 

The truth is, it isn’t really about not having time for that activity, it’s that you don’t see it as a priority. In other words, you’ve got the wrong perspective on time, and you probably don’t even realise it. Here’s why. 

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1. You have at least 72 free hours a week

Here’s the first and most important thing for you to realise: outside of work and sleep, you have at least 56 free hours a week to play around with (assuming you have a typical 8-hour-daily, 5-day workweek, and that you sleep 8 hours a day.) Considering the fact that most people don’t actually sleep 8 hours a day, you can even add a couple more hours to that figure.

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That’s at least three full days of free time you can decide how to use. According to bestselling author Cal Newport, though, we often feel like we don’t have enough time for three big reasons:

  • We spend too many of our days on “autopilot” mode 
  • We see the 9-to-5 as “the day”, and the hours before and after that as the “prologue” and “epilogue” respectively

In a nutshell, it’s not that we don’t have time. It’s that we’re not intentional enough about how we spend those 72 free hours a week. 

 

2. Running on autopilot

Routines and rituals provide a much-needed sense of safety, familiarity, and comfort. At the same time, they can become crippling if you’re not careful. You’ve probably already got set routines for how you commute, what you do when you reach home after work, and how you spend your evenings. 

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Most people think nothing of scrolling through social media or switching on the TV once they get home. But that’s precisely it–doing all of this on autopilot mode often adds up to a lot of lost time. 

15-minute Instagram liking sprees, for example, add up to an hour if you do it four times a day. Likewise, a 20-minute episode of Friends on Netflix to wind down for a bit turns into a 2-hour binge because, let’s face it, it’s just so addictive. 

 

3. 9-to-5 = The Day

Work only actually takes up a third of the day. The remaining two-thirds of it are for us to allocate strategically according to what our respective priorities are. 

Often, though, we tend to see working hours as the “main event” of each day, which leads us to be less conscientious about how we use the 16 remaining hours. Ideally, we should use these 16 hours to engage in beneficial self-improvement that value-adds both to our careers and to our lives. 

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