Lack Of Time = Lack Of Priorities

The following is inspired by the recent UKSTAR testing conference. I’d highly recommend it to anyone.

I.

Three questions:

  • Do you feel that you are always busy, and can’t do everything you have to do?
  • Do you think that a lack of busyness equates to laziness?
  • Do you often find yourself thinking “If only I had more time” or “I have too much to do”?

If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, then the following advice might be useful:

A lack of time is a lack of priorities.

In more detail (quoting from this blog post):

“””

Sometimes the simplest ideas really stick out.

This was particularly true for me when I read Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek. I pulled a bunch of good ideas from his book, but one in particular that stands above the rest is this:

A lack of time is a lack of priorities.

I think this idea has improved my life over the last few years more than any other tidbit of productivity or life hacking advice.

Most often, a lack of time—time pressures, rushing, scrambling to finish things, busyness—is simply a lack of priorities. We can choose to spend our time differently, on the things that are more important, and ditch the things that aren’t, thereby freeing up our time and energy.

We choose to be busy or rushed, and we can choose otherwise.

“””

II.

A lack of time is a lack of priorities.

I concur that this idea has improved my life over the last 18 months more than almost any other piece of advice.

When I first started working after uni, I found myself overwhelmed by the demands of doing a full-time job, handling domestic chores, doing self-care, socialising, maintaining relationships, pursuing my hobbies, and a million other demands on my time.

I found myself committing to way too much, realising far too late that there was no way that I was going to be able to do everything I’d committed too, and upset a lot of people along the way.

Something had to change.

III.

A lack of time is a lack of priorities.

The first thing that helped was realising that there was almost nothing I had to do.

In more detail (quoting from this blog post):

“””

There is nothing in the world that we truly must do. We can choose to do or not do just about anything. Take wearing clothes in public. It sure feels like you have to do it—and if you’re like me you want to do it too—but you don’t actually have to.

I found this idea very hard to internalize at first.

Let’s say you feel that you have to complete an important assignment. If I say, “You don’t have to do it, you can choose to do it or not,” you’ll probably think, “Okay, that’s true… but it still feels like I have to do it!”

This can be so deeply engrained in your psyche that it will take a long time to fix. I’m not entirely sure what helped me move away from “must” thinking to “choice” thinking; it’s been such a gradual change over time.

Being aware of the distinction is probably the place to start. If you can constantly remind yourself that you choose to do the things that you do, you’ll slowly shift away from “must” thinking.

“””

You can always make more time for things if you choose to.

IV.

A lack of time is a lack of priorities.

The second thing that helped was actually thinking about what my priorities were.

In more detail (quoting from this blog post):

“””

Without a clear sense of priorities you’ll have difficulties deciding where to best spend your time and energy.

If you don’t know your priorities it’s probably worth your time to sit down and think about it. You’d be amazed what you can come up with in just five minutes of conscious effort.

“””

How many of you know actually have a clear sense of your priorities?

Lots of things sound “plausibly important”, and without having a sense of priorities, I found it really hard not to say that everything was important.

At the beginning of this year, I spent an afternoon thinking about exactly what my priorities were, and explicitly writing them down. Most productive afternoon I’ve spent this year. Since doing that, I’m basically never stressed about having too much to do. I can pick what’s most important (based on my priorities), and do just that.

V.

A lack of time is a lack of priorities.

The final thing that helped me was learning to use the thought “I have too much to do” as a trigger to reduce the amount I’m going to do.

In more detail (quoting from this blog post):

“””

Over the last few years I’ve slowly improved my ability to notice that feeling of “If only I had more time!” or “I have too much to do!”

Whenever I catch myself reasoning along these lines I think, “Wait! I don’t have to be busy. What’s important here? What’s not? What else could I be doing with my time?” etc.

In other words: Pause. Reassess. Decide. Relax.

This has come in handy more times than I can count.

“””

I endorse practicing this technique – whenever you find yourself thinking “I have too much to do”, practice using that as a trigger to reassess what you actually have to do.

VI.

To summarise (quoting from this blog post):

“””

You have all the time in the world to do what’s important.

Don’t have the time? Then drop something else to make the time.

Or, accept that it’s not important enough and move on.

Or, accept that you’ll voluntarily be busy for the next little while; that it’s a choice, not a burden.

“””

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