Why 'I Don't Have Time' Is No Excuse For Skipping Out On The Important Things In Life

by Alexia LaFata

We're all just so busy, aren't we?

Maybe. The United States is the most overworked developed nation in the entire world, so as far as quantitative numbers of hours we work, we are busy.

Being busy, as Tim Kreider says in the famous New York Times article, "The Busy Trap," is less about the actual number of hours we work and more about making ourselves feel important.

It's a defense mechanism; our lives cannot possibly be trivial or meaningless we are crazy packed, ridiculously stuffed with things to do and terribly in-demand every day.

Being busy means being sought-after and needed, which means we just don't ever have time for anything that doesn't fall into the realm of "busy."

We don't have time to work out and eat healthily. We don't have time to have lunch with old friends. We don't have time to make our beds and clean our kitchen. We don't have time to read our friend's paper and give her feedback. We're just so busy. We don't have time. So busy.

I had a friend once who used to tell me she could schedule lunch with me "from 12:10 to 12:55." Really? You're squeezing our friendship into that teeny tiny of a window? No, I understand. You're busy. You don't have time.

Well, we always have time. Everyone on earth has 168 hours to divvy up throughout the week.

Each week, the average person who works on a typical 9-to-5 schedule will put in 40 hours of work. I'll even say you work 50 hours because you're just that busy. Let's say you sleep eight hours -- and that's a lot -- per night, every night. That's 56 hours of your week spent sleeping.

Now, what about the other 62 hours of your week spent not working and not sleeping? That's a lot of time. That you have.

Time is less of something you have or don't have and more of an abstract commodity that is bought and sold simultaneously. When we cash time in for things that we want to do, we are selling that same amount of time that could have been spent doing something else.

You have time to clean your room, but you just don't want to buy the time for it and you'd rather browse the Internet. It's an even exchange: Spending your time online means concurrently selling the time that could have been spent tidying up.

None of this is about having time. This is about prioritizing time. In that case, you prioritized Reddit over fresh bed sheets.

If, during your free 62 hours per week, you check Facebook every day, five times a day and spend five minutes each time you check, that's almost three hours per week spent engaging in absolute nonsense.

Let's say you spent ten more of those free 62 hours playing video games. Let's say you spent five more going shopping, getting a pedicure and binge-watching television.

Well, if your partner gets angry with you for missing a Skype date, you gain weight because you haven't been eating healthy, or your mom gets mad at you because you haven't called her back in a week, don't say, "I didn't have time for that." You'd be lying.

The time was there; you had and always have the time. Rather, say, "I didn't prioritize that." You subconsciously prioritized checking Facebook or playing Skyrim over engaging in the important things in your life.

There is a stark difference between having time and prioritizing time. The former isn't a real concept, and the latter is the most important thing we'll ever learn.

I've read countless pieces on the Internet offering advice about how to manage your time, but time management skills are of no value if you don't know what things to manage.

What do you prioritize? Learn those things and stick to them. If it's social media, video games, or watching television that you prioritize, own up to it.

But don't leave your health, your parents, your friends, your relationship, or whatever other things you deem important in the dust because you don't "have time" for them. Rather, do it because you don't "prioritize them" -- and see how differently it feels putting it that way.

Photo Courtesy: Tumblr