Don’t Tell Me You Don’t Have Time

Time-Management-effective-leadership-Brendan-HoweI am declaring war on the phrase “I don’t have time”. It’s a very common sentence I hear way too often from leaders, managers and employees.

If you EVER use this phrase or a variation of it, I will suggest two things about you:

  1. You are not as accountable as you should be; and,
  2. You are bad at time management.

Tough medicine? Well, let me explain why I think this way and why it is so important that leaders never to use this phrase.

Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, whether you’re Bill Gates or the garbage man. It comes down to how you use that time and being accountable for that.

Effective time management is constantly making effective decisions to direct your time toward the activities that are most important in hitting your goals.

If you say “I didn’t have time to do that,” you are essentially blaming something else – some other force of time – for not being able to do something. In reality, you chose to do something else instead and you need to be aware of that and accountable for that decision.

If that decision was spending more time with your family or watching the football game, there’s nothing wrong with that, just be aware and accountable for the decision you made.

I’ve gotten frustrated with staff before and told them if you don’t hit your goals for the week I’d like you to say the following to me:

“I decided that everything else I spent working 40 hours on last week was more important than what you asked me to do.”

Harsh? Well, it’s to make a point. I’m sick and tired of people pretending they don’t have control of their day or week. We all have tons of interruptions and distractions. You need to understand that if you don’t get something done, you’ve assigned a higher priority to whatever else you did.

One of the most important things any successful person can master is time management but you will never do it unless you accept that you are the one ultimately responsible for how you spend your time.

The other part of this is making sure you have clear goals and a purpose. You need to know what your goals are for the quarter, month, week and day in order to make those effective decisions about how to spend your time.

If you have clear goals, then when someone comes to your office door and asks you to do something, you will measure doing that task against what you need to get done for your goals that day, plus the list of other things you need to do.

If you don’t have clear goals, you might just go off and do whatever someone asks you to do that’s urgent to them. Or you might spend your day responding to emails and putting out fires.  Then you get to the end of your day and realize you haven’t gotten anything done.

I’ve found the more I focus on managing my time to hit my goals, the more it forces me to figure out how to do more in the limited amount of time I have every day.

It all starts with never saying “I didn’t have time for that.” I’ve told members of my team to call me on it if I ever say that.

So here’s a challenge for you. The next time someone asks you if you’ve done something, keep yourself from saying “no, I didn’t have time to do that.” It may be a little difficult but I’m confident you can do it.

Instead, say something like “I haven’t done that yet” or “I wanted to finish that sales proposal yesterday first before doing that.” I can guarantee you will feel much better about yourself and more in control.

By eliminating “I don’t have time” from your vocabulary you are becoming more accountable and you’re forcing yourself to be better at time management. You’ll be much more successful as a result!

How do you feel when someone tells you “I don’t have time?” Post a reply and I will take the time to reply.

One of the most important things any successful person can master is time management. ~Brendan Howe Tweet this

About Brendan Howe

"Brendan Howe is the President and CEO of TDCNet. In that role he advises TDCNet’s more than 100 business clients on how to effectively use technology to increase their company’s efficiency, profitability and security. Since joining TDCNet in 2008, he has focused the company on providing managed IT services, leading to service revenue growth of over 2000%.

Brendan frequently conducts seminars and training sessions for business owners, many of whom find technology frustrating and don’t have time to keep track of the latest developments. Brendan sees his role as someone who can explain technology solutions in plain English that business owners can easily understand.

Brendan writes TDCNet’s monthly technology strategy brief “Managing Uptime” and frequently posts advice for business owners on the TDCNet Blog. His new TDCNet Tech Tip videos have also become quite popular.

Brendan is a member of the Advisory Board of the George Brown Institute for Entrepreneurship. He is also active in politics, having previously worked at the Ontario Legislature for the Leader of the Official Opposition. Brendan’s other private sector experience includes working as a communications consultant at GPC Communications (now part of Fleishman-Hillard) and in Sofia, Bulgaria as the Editor-in-Chief and Operations Manager of The Sofia Echo, that country’s English-language newspaper for the expatriate community.

Brendan has a BA in Politics from Western and also attended England’s Lancaster University.

Connect with Brendan Howe

Comments

  1. Amen to that! It really is about identifying what is important in life and making time for it. Usually if you dont, there are other reasons at play. Fear is a big one, that if they try and fail, the dream is over… So when someone tells me they dont have time, I know its either 1. They dont care enough to make time or 2. They are scared of making a change/failing. Sucking at time management is such an overused and cliche excuse, like you said everyone has the same 24 hours in a day!

  2. I don’t know how many times I have said this to friends. It’s great to read an article on it for the first time. It is a huge pet peeve. It’s as if when they say those words they think their time is more valuable then everyone else’s. We are ALL busy. Great article! I will definitely use this at work and at school.

  3. Ulrike Suwwan says:

    Very true. And what it is more: Using this sentence is not only kind of embarrassing one self because of what you said but also it leaves a feel of helplessness. Why people do not easily answer: “I didn’t want to do it!” Because they haven’t learnt how to properly determin what in fact they really want, what to spend their time for. In my coaching courses I meet daily people who have only learnt to react, from when they were children they only reacted on other people’s reqests. From parents to teachers, to peers, bosses, colleagues, spouses only pure reacting. Now reacting makes you giving up control not only over your time but also about anything else. And what is worse it always puts you at least one step behind anyone else.

  4. eva borgstrom says:

    The comment: “I don’t have the time” is the most common from the desk beside mine. It bugs me tremendously and I haven’t been able to find the words to “kill” it. THANKS, now I can breathe. There is a solution to her timetrouble…:-).

  5. Hi Brendan,

    great article, I agree with everything you say. I always say that Time management effectively boils down to doing things:

    - for the right reason. (Because it is lined to a goal or objective)
    - in the right order (because it is prioritised)
    - in the right way (by being organised)

  6. Hi Brendan!

    It is lovely to see someone else telling the facts! There is no doubt in my mind that we not only have the choice, but also the responsibility to prioritize our commitments. I have had to take some time to learn how – and I must admit I sometimes still take upon myself more than I am able to deliver.
    However, if that happen, I will do what I can to make new priorities and inform the stakeholders so that they can manage their own schedule and deliverables too.
    Thank you for bringing up this topic!

  7. Well said Brendan. How we spend our time is always a choice. If we’re not spending it on something, we are effectively saying that the thing we’re not doing is less important than the things we are doing.

    That said, I must admit it’s an easier trait to spot in others than to recognise in yourself, particularly for people pleasers like me. The best way I can handle it in myself is to recognise that one of the biggest impacts on trust is whether you do what you say you will do. And since trust is incredibly important to me, more so than time management, I have got better over the years at not committing to things that would just be about getting other people off my back in the short term.

    Your tough love, though is really a great call to review what’s important and I will take the time today to do just that! Thanks for the wake up call.

    David

  8. Tough but accurate medicine I would say! Thank you for being bold and sharing this. Everyone thinks they are too busy! The reality is, that we make time for the things that are a priority in our lives.

  9. Great article and I think it is necessary to totally kick butt on this one.
    I cringed at first and then laughed when I read: “I decided that everything else I spent working 40 hours on last week was more important than what you asked me to do.”

    Ouch but such truth – workplaces would improve significantly if people had courageous conversations.

    Given time is a finite resource we should all be carefully saying yes or no to the things that will move us forward ad continue to assign priority to those things that do it best – as Brian Tracy would say “Eat the frog” and do it daily!

  10. Hi Brendan,

    Thanks for your pithy post. It would certainly be much more courageous and honest to say ” I haven’t made xxx a priority.” Not only does it call us to be more conscious about our goal setting and delegation, it also calls us to have the ‘courageous conversation’ when we are asked to commit to something which we know is not a priority, rather than just saying yes to blow someone off.

    cheers
    Grace

  11. A great timely reminder to an issue we all face everyday.

  12. Bettina Bailey says:

    When someone tells me “I don’t have time” for whatever it is, I feel that they are stressed and behind in whatever they are trying to accomplish. I agree that prioritization of demands on our time is the key to taking control of our lives and making conscious, responsible decisions. Thanks!

  13. Love this piece! As a trainer of “Time Management” I resonated with what was said. There is of course the old adage that says:…” if you want something done….ask a busy person”; this is because truly busy people are generally more organised!

    Trisha Proud – Author of “Soulmate”
    Managing Partner
    Partners in Solutions Ltd

  14. Speaking as someone who used to be a ‘wandering generality’, I really enjoyed the post Brendan because it was only when I realised that I needed to be more accountable that I stopped being a WG! Managing time is about personal choice … and the consequences for making the decisions we take! Being assertive is a key behaviour ~ with yourself and with others! So, I never cease to be amazed at the number of professionals I encounter who are unable to say ‘NO’!

    Your punchy style also appealed to me as I tend towards the ‘direct approach’! I was brought up with the mantra, ‘Say what you mean … and mean what you say! As you rightly asserted this can seem harsh … but then real accountability can have that consequence! Thank you for sharing! :)

  15. Great advice Brendan. “I don’t have time” has become one of the socially acceptable and often mindless responses to requests for our time and an excuse too easy to give. It’s like “the dog ate my homework” excuse of the modern workplace. I love how you took a stand with your team. Accepting this response from others is one way we unwittingly collude for mediocrity and reinforce the status quo.

  16. Hi Brendan,
    Very good post. I am with you about 90%.

    I think there are far better ways to express what priorities are important. I also know that there are times we have a strong interest in being involved and truly don’t have time given other obligations.

    In those cases, I generally say “I truly wish I could be involved in this. Other priorities obligate me and so I must say ‘not now’.”

    You have generated a great discussion stream here. I will be stopping back to read more as they come in — as time permits ;)

    Thank you for this post!
    Kate

  17. Excellent post! The message is a reminder of the hidden meaning we send when we say we don’t have time. We are telling someone they aren’t important enough to be worth our attention.

  18. Wow! Let me begin practicing what I have learned here today. “I could not comment on this post earlier as I was out voting for our new president, senators, governors, etc.” Today was Kenya’s big election day and I am now watching the national poll results trickle in on national TV.

    Brendan, thank you for sharing such a gem. Leadership is all about taking responsibility of our choices and owning the consequences of those choices, good and bad.

  19. Great post Brendan. To add to this, I love Zig Ziglar’s quote of not becoming a “Wandering Generality.” By not taking accountability for our time and going whichever way the wind blows, we become this wandering generality, but successful people want to become a “Meaningful Specific.” Managing ones time and being accountable for it, and having goals to focus our time are the first steps in my opinion to becoming a “meaningful specific.” I appreciate the well-thought out post.

    Thanks,
    Todd

  20. Brendan – Thank you so much for putting my thoughts into words. I agree with you about the “I don’t have time” statement. It is truly a reflection of priorities – and we all need to face that fact! Congratulations on a great post!

  21. Oh so true – stopping the blame game and accepting responsibility for your actions and your use of time is critical to success. I work with many clients assisting them in realizing what they love to do and where they should be spending their time – leading them to the art of effective delegation – and learning to say NO. You are right – ‘don’t tell me you don’t have time!’

    • Thanks Lora. It’s amazing to me how many things saying you don’t have time relates to… forcing people to say no, being accountable, delegating and many more. Great comment!

  22. I cringe when I hear leaders say that. “I don’t have time” simply translates to “It’s not a priority for me.” When a leader is not in line to make the organizational goals a priority there has been either a miscommunication on the organizations part in making those goals clear, or a lack of accountability on the employees part in making room for those goals a priority. While it may not be a leaders job to complete all of the work, it is their job to figure out how to get it accomplished! Thank you for this.

    • That’s bang on Susan. Whether leaders know it or not, they are definitely saying “it’s not important” when they say they don’t have time for something. That’s completely demoralizing for members of their team. Thanks for the comment.

  23. So true Brendan. A very good example of what accountability means in practise;

    Thank you to remeber us also about the importance how things are said.

    Kind regards,

    Joan

  24. Brendan,

    Words matter and I totally see your point that the phrase “I didn’t have time for that” is pushing accountability out the door. We all need to realize that when we say “yes” to something (urgent or not) we’re saying “no” to something else on the filp side. It’s up to us to be conscious about our choices.

    Tough but honest post, Brendan! Lots to learn from here. Thanks!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Effective time management is constantly making effective decisions to direct your time toward the activities that are most important in hitting your goals, never say you don't have time.  […]

  2. [...] Effective time management is constantly making effective decisions to direct your time toward the activities that are most important in hitting your goals. Never say you don't have time!  [...]

  3. [...] Effective time management is constantly making effective decisions to direct your time toward the activities that are most important in hitting your goals, never say you don't have time.  [...]

  4. [...] har jeg jobbet litt med blogginnlegget ”Don’t Tell Me You Don’t Have Time ” skrevet av Bredan Howe – fordi jeg opplever at litt for mange rundt meg påstår de ikke har tid. [...]

  5. [...] Effective time management is constantly making effective decisions to direct your time toward the activities that are most important in hitting your goals, never say you don't have time.  [...]

  6. [...] Effective time management is constantly making effective decisions to direct your time toward the activities that are most important in hitting your goals, never say you don't have time.  [...]

  7. [...] Don’t Tell Me You Don’t Have Time [...]

  8. [...] Effective time management is constantly making effective decisions to direct your time toward the activities that are most important in hitting your goals, never say you don't have time.  [...]

  9. [...] Effective time management is constantly making effective decisions to direct your time toward the activities that are most important in hitting your goals, never say you don't have time.  [...]

  10. [...] Effective time management is constantly making effective decisions to direct your time toward the activities that are most important in hitting your goals. Never say you don't have time!  [...]

  11. [...] Effective time management is constantly making effective decisions to direct your time toward the activities that are most important in hitting your goals. Never say you don't have time!  [...]

  12. [...] Effective time management is constantly making effective decisions to direct your time toward the activities that are most important in hitting your goals. Never say you don't have time!  [...]

Speak Your Mind

*