Sigh. It’s an obnoxious phrase. It really is.
So ever since I started college, I’ve noticed this phrase start to pop up more and more. It wasn’t really so bad at first, but as I started getting older it began sounding less like a reason for why people didn’t do things and more like an excuse.
And before I go on, yes, I get that “I don’t have the time” can be one of those things people say to blow something off without hurting anyone’s feelings, or a quick way to deter a conversation, or to just have something to say when you don’t want to go into greater detail on why you can’t or don’t do something. I get it’s not something you should always take literally. It’s kind of like when you walk into work and a coworker says, “Hey, how are you?” They’re probably not wanting to hear a detailed explanation of how you’re doing, it’s just part of the greeting.
But man… “I don’t have the time” isn’t something you should rely on saying. It makes you look like an asshole when you say it too much. It’s something you should say as sparingly as possible.
I know a number of people that keep on telling me, “I want to read more,” or “I want to start running again,” or “I really want to start watching [insert TV show].” And I don’t really want to respond, because I know what’s coming next, and I don’t want to deal with it, but I end up saying “So do it.” And then comes the highly defensive, “I don’t have the time to do it.”
And I realize I don’t have a full-time job, and I don’t have kids, and that I have more time than other people probably do. Even I’m guilty of using this phrase when dealing with someone I don’t want to deal with. But I’ve heard this so often that I’ve gotten to a point where I can’t help but think, “Oh really?” Like… you can’t put aside a half hour every night to read something? You can’t put on a pair of sneakers and jog around the block for 15 minutes? And honestly, with all the ways people can watch television and movies, and the frequency of which they do, you honestly don’t have the time to start watching something?
It just… it reeks of the scent excuses often have. And I think most people, including the people that claim they don’t have any time, can smell it. People gossip about it all the time, too. “Oh, he says he doesn’t have the time to do x, but he certainly has the time to do y.” “For someone that’s so busy, she sure has the time to get her nails done every week.” “He always says he doesn’t have the time to do anything with me, but he’s perfectly capable of making the time to hang out with his friends.” Saying you don’t have time is such a ridiculously short-term solution that you may as well not bother with it in the first place. If you need to make an excuse, do yourself a favor and actually make an excuse. Say you’ve been really busy with the kids lately. Say you’re not feeling up to it. Say work’s been tiring you out. Say something. But don’t say you don’t have the time. Because the very second someone sees you relaxing, they’re going to think you have more time than you say you do. They may not call you out on it, but if you’ve been dropping that line a lot, they’ll be thinking it. Oh, they’ll be thinking it.
You know the sad thing? There are some people that genuinely have no time to do the things they want to, and they can’t be taken seriously when they say they don’t have time. Other people that can make more time but won’t, in some sick way to appear busier than they actually are, ruin it for people that truly are too busy for other things. It’s like when depressed people can’t be taken seriously because other people abuse the word “depressed.”
If you’re truly busy, people will know. The reasons you give them should be enough. And you know what else helps? Offer to make some time at a later date. “I can’t see you this week, but how about next week?” “Thanks for offering to lend me this book I want to read, but now’s not a good time. Would you mind lending it to me in a few weeks, when I can focus on it?” You get the idea.