Monday, September 26, 2011
"I don’t have time"
'I don’t have time to do that.'
What we mean when we say this is, 'I'm not prepared to make the time to do that. Or at least, not right now.'
There's nothing wrong with this, in essence. It's common sense. In our lives, we have to prioritise, and that means making decisions about what we do and when we do it.
Yet let's not fool ourselves. Take the test.
If I ask you to stop whatever you're doing right now, and read the telephone directory from cover to cover, there's a fair chance the kindest response I'll get from you is, 'I don't have time (and/or the inclination)!'
There will, I'm sure, be rather less polite suggestions as to what I can do with the phone book.
Yet as you know, I am a person generous beyond belief and have more cash than Bill Gates. If I were to say (and you were either foolish or optimistic enough to believe me) that I have a briefcase crammed full of $100 bills that I would like you to have, and that all you have to do to keep them is open the case immediately and look at the contents, I get the feeling that you wouldn't say, 'I don't have time. I'll just make a cup of tea instead.'
I think you'd most likely make the time. Offer me the same deal and even though you're interrupting my movie, I'd probably manage to squeeze in the task of opening the case.
It's like the classic joke, which I, and almost certainly you, will have heard in many different forms.
An old man sidles up to a pretty young woman on a park bench and says, 'Would you come with me for a million dollars?'
She looks askance at him but says, with some hesitation, 'I suppose so.'
'Ahh,' he says. 'Would you come with me for one dollar?'
She is very angry.
'Never! What kind of girl do you think I am?'
'We have already established what kind of girl you are,' he responds. 'What we're negotiating is the price!'
Without wanting to offend you, that's a bit like what we do with our time. We negotiate its price. We do it constantly. It's not that we don't have time under most circumstances, it's that we choose to do some things and not others, or not just now.
I always think, when I hear 'I don't have time', that whatever it is simply isn't at the top of that person's priorities. If those words come to me when someone asks me to do something, it always makes me think whether or not I should be making the time, and at least not to kid myself as to the reasons why I won't do it right now. What are my reasons? How valid are they? Am I using that as an excuse when the reason may be entirely different? Are my priorities fair?
It is, almost always, a matter of personal choice. Some of those choices, admittedly, can be difficult ones.
I'm not going to read the phone book, that's for sure. But I am interested in that briefcase you have there....