It’s something we all think and say on a regular basis. Phrases like “there aren't enough hours in the day,” or “I just don’t have the time” form such key parts of our vocabulary that we almost announce them without thinking.
There’s no denying that our generation is the busiest yet when it comes to careers and everyday life. However, having a long to-do list is very different to not actually having the time to do something or meet someone, or make that phone call. When you break down just how many free hours we have per week – those that are not spent working, studying or sleeping, the figures just don’t add up.
Even on a weekday, if the average person spends, say, 9 hours at work and 8 hours asleep, that still leaves 7 hours of free time per day. That figure adds up to 35 hours per week – not including weekends. So why is it that with 35 hours of free time at our disposal during the working week, we still “don’t have the time” to Skype our friend who lives abroad, or get to the dentist about that worsening toothache, or call a relative who’s been a bit under the weather?
A good tip I have heard to adjust your thinking when it comes to managing time is to replace the phrase “I don’t have the time” to “It’s not a priority.” You do have the time to do that load of ironing – it’s just not a priority. And, most likely, if you’re like me, that’s true. But when you apply the same language change to a task such as grabbing coffee with a friend who you haven’t seen in weeks, or calling your mum back – it’s doesn’t feel so easy to say “It’s not a priority”, does it?
When we choose to spend our time in front of the TV or Facebook-stalking someone for an hour, we are making that activity our priority. I’m not saying that Netflix-bingeing isn’t a completely worthwhile way to spend a few hours – it’s one of my own personal favourite activities – but we do need to notice the difference between doing something because we want to, and doing it because we believe we have nothing better to spend our time on.
So perhaps instead of trying to cram hundreds of tasks into one day, we need to clarify what our priorities are in life – what’s most important to us. Those are the things that are worth our time. After all, what’s going to matter to you most 30 years down the line – the fact that you have strong relationships with friends and family, or the fact that you never once missed an episode of Great British Bake Off?