I Don't Have Time

In my resistance workshops, I ask participants for examples of the resistance they are experiencing. The example people report most often is, "We don't have time."

I also ask participants, "Think of a time when someone asked you to change, and you chose not to. What was your reason for not changing?" The answer people give most often is, "I didn't have time."

Whether we're being asked to change, or asking others to change, the most popular reason people give for not changing is lack of time.

When you hear the phrase "I don't have time," whether it's coming from your lips or someone else's, I encourage you to take a closer look at what's happening. In nearly every case, I don't have time isn't literally true. It might be true if, for example, someone has asked you to do a two-week job and the universe is scheduled to implode tomorrow at noon. But unless the time-space continuum itself is in jeopardy, I don't have time is probably not literally true.

That is, it isn't literally true all by itself. The statement "I don't have time" isn't incorrect, it's merely incomplete. It expresses only part of what we're thinking. The full thought goes something like this: "Given the other things I will be doing with my time, I will not have enough time left over to do what you are asking."

Read that preamble again: "Given the other things I will be doing with my time..." The preamble presupposes that the person will choose to do other things with the available time—other things that the person values more highly than what you are asking. The phrase "I don't have time" isn't about time. It's about priorities. It's about values.

When people tell you that they don't have time to do what you ask, they are telling you something about their values. "I don't have time," does not tell you what those values are, but it does tell you that people are giving something priority over your request. Find out what that something is. Ask. The answers will tell you what is important to each person. And if you're trying to make change happen, you will need to know what people care about.

What are people valuing more highly than the things you are asking?

comments powered by Disqus