We all say it. Most of us even believe it when we say it. But every single one of us is flat out wrong.
The reality is, you’ll never get around to that when you have more time.
Not when work slows down. Not when school is out. Not even when the kids move out or you retire from your full time job.
You will never, ever have more time than you do right now.
Unless you - or someone smarter than you - invents a machine that stretches time, you will always have 60 seconds to a minute, 60 minutes to an hour, 24 hours to a day, and 7 days in a week. That’s it. No more, no less, no matter how young or old you are. You have exactly as much time to do that now as you will in the future, and you have exactly as much time as I have.
You have exactly as much time in your week as the President of the United States. And Oprah. And your retired uncle. But more importantly - the President of the United States! How crazy is that when you stop and think about it? I have weeks when I can’t even keep my toilet clean, and in the exact same amount of time a guy runs an entire country!
How is it that Mr. President and Oprah and The Lady Who Runs Everything At Your Child’s School seem to get so much more done with their week than you do? Why is it that you don’t have time to get that done - whatever your that is?
The truth is, doing or accomplishing more is not about time but about priorities. To be clear, when I say priorities, I’m talking about “something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives.”
Hearing that my make you mad or make you think that I simply don’t understand or appreciate how much you have to do. However, I say that fully assuming that you, like me, have a very long list of things that have to be done each day. On some days, that list may even require more than your allotted 24 hours. I get that, truly.
But I also know that many of us forget all the little things we choose to do with our time, like:
- watch TV
- read blogs and other favorite websites
- talk on the phone with friends
- check our email - again
- download music - and then organize it, of course
- watch movies
- read books
Are these things bad? Not necessarily. In fact, some of the things on this list have been things that I’ve wanted to “do when I have more time”! But they are examples of ways we can mindlessly spend our time, forgetting that we are actually choosing to make this more important than that.
Of course, the President and Oprah and maybe even The Lady Who Runs Everything At Your Child’s School aren’t getting more done than we are simply because they’ve switched off the TV. They also have a lot of help taking care of items that are on most of our “Must Do” lists - like doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring children, paying bills, mowing the lawn and grocery shopping. That help, as we all know, isn’t free. So maybe we could argue that how much you get done in your week is limited by your income.
Except… instead of choosing to spend time on a housecleaner or other form of help, you may be choosing to spend money on:
- fancy coffee drinks
- manicures and pedicures
- gym memberships
- cable TV
- meals out
- books or movies
Again, there isn’t anything wrong with spending money on any of these items. But it’s important to remember that when you do so, you are choosing to purchase those items instead of competing alternatives - like someone who could help you free up more of your limited amount of time.
What’s my point? Am I trying to encourage you to quit Starbucks, hire a lawn care company, and finally get that done?
Not necessarily. There are some things, for instance, that I’d like to do when my kids grow up. I will not have more hours in my day then, but at this point in my life it’s more important to me to spend certain hours helping my kids with homework than, say, learning how to not kill plants. I’m OK with that, and I’ll probably be OK if I never learn how to make something grow.
But what about the things we aren’t OK with putting off? What about the things we’d really, really like to make sure we get to before our time here is over?
Stop and think about the things you’re putting off and why you’re putting them off. Ask yourself how important it is to you that you do or accomplish that. Is it more important than some of the things you’re currently making a priority? I know when I ask these questions, I have to admit that the priorities I have in my head don’t exactly match up to the choices I’m making in real life.
I’m determined to do something about that.