Reality Check: The Time Trap

There exists a near-universal excuse to get out of most any activity. It goes like this: “Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t have enough time to do that.”

Have you ever used this excuse? I have.

So many people feel time-stressed that they believe the “lack-of-time” excuse. They may have even used it themselves and will often accept it as a perfectly reasonable, understandable response from others.

There is a cynical way to perceive this excuse, however. In case this has never occurred to you, here it is: Pleading lack of time enables us to weasel out of an activity that we didn’t want to do anyway, without having to come right out and say, “I don’t want to do that.”

But really, what’s the difference between “I don’t have enough time to do that” and “I don’t want to do that”?

One benefit of the excuse is that it can help us choose not to feel those uncomfortable, guilty feelings that we might burden ourselves with if we bluntly stated what we do or do not want to do.

Now, I offer no judgments about whether using such an excuse is a good, bad, or indifferent behaviour. Each of us behaves as we see fit.

However, here’s the question that I think is worth some consideration: Does this behaviour of offering the “no time” excuse lead us toward what we want, or does it actually lead us away from what we want?

Self-excusing behaviour has its purpose, whether we are aware of that purpose or not. If you use a “no time” excuse that helps you to keep your relationships smooth and your mental state more or less where you want it to be, then that behaviour may be working for you.

For example, you may choose to say, “Honey, I don’t have time to visit your parents with you because I’m too busy with work” when what you really mean is, “I’d rather bang my head against the wall than visit my in-laws.”

So, if what you want is an ongoing good relationship with your spouse, is using the “no-time” excuse more effective than telling the blunt truth? It is your life; you evaluate and make your choice!

However, I do have a cautionary comment related to the “time trap.” You see, it’s possible to make our no-time excuses so convincing that we even mislead ourselves!

In the 24 hours that every one of us is blessed with each day, we make choices about what to do with our time.

How do we choose? Whether we are aware of it or not, we act according to our wants—our priorities.

We can’t really “manage time.” What we can do, however, is manage priorities.

When I choose to play Spider Solitaire instead of preparing my classes (that never actually happens, of course) then my actions are demonstrating the truth about my priorities at that moment. It may be an embarrassing truth, but there’s no argument about it. My actions demonstrate clearly what my priorities are.

If I often choose to fall back on the “no time” excuse (whether I’m making it to others or to myself), I run the risk of actually believing it. In other words, I may convince myself that I truly don’t have enough time, when the reality is that I haven’t sorted out my priorities.

How do you keep focused on your priorities?

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