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How to stop saying “I didn’t have time”

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When someone asks you if you had a chance to do something and you respond, “I didn’t have time,” that’s a lie.

Yes, that’s controversial, and I’ve framed it this way to make a point. We all have plenty of time to do things; we just decided to do something else.

In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by endless tasks and responsibilities vying for our attention.

The phrase “I didn’t have time” has become a convenient excuse, masking a more profound truth about how we prioritise our activities.

It also communicates to others that you may be disorganised when the reality is probably quite different.

Let’s unpack this idea and explore why recognising the real reasons behind our choices can lead to better time management and increased productivity.

The Reality of Time Allocation

Time is the one resource we all share equally—24 hours a day, seven days a week. The difference lies in how each of us chooses to allocate these hours.

When you say you didn’t have time, you’re really saying that you prioritised something else over the task in question.

Perhaps it was higher value work, family, relaxation, or even procrastination. The key is to acknowledge this choice and understand why you made it.

Understanding Priorities

Effective time management begins with understanding your priorities. What are the most important things you need to accomplish? What tasks will bring you closer to your goals?

By clearly defining your priorities, you can make more intentional choices about how you spend your time.

For instance, if you’re focusing on a significant project at work, other tasks may naturally take a backseat.

This isn’t about not having time; it’s about dedicating your time to what matters most.

What to say instead

The next time you hear yourself say, “I didn’t have time,” take a moment to reflect on what you really mean. Acknowledge your choices and be open to communicating them with others.

Try replacing it with, “I’m sorry, but I had other higher-value work to do”, or “The time I had available had to be spent on more important priorities.”

By being honest with ourselves and others about our capacity and how we prioritise, we can make more deliberate choices that will lead to greater productivity and increase trust with others.

This is fundamental to our success in our busy lives and is why I named my productivity workshops “Do Less, Deliver More”: Do less of what doesn’t matter and more of what does.

How I can help you

Team workshops

Learn how to lead delivery of more value and impact at work whilst reducing risk of burnout, addressing demand overload and minimising wasted effort for yourself and your teams.

1-1 Coaching

Leadership coaching to help you achieve your full potential as a leader and avoid burnout in the process.

Who I have worked with