“Everyone finds time for what they really want to do.”
My friend recently repeated this phrase to me in response to a story I told him. He finds perverse pleasure in doing that, since I coined the phrase some time ago. He likes to repeat it back to me, to use it as a talisman, and to reference it as if some great philosopher spoke it a thousand years ago. My friend makes it clear that the concept is not something he hadn’t considered, but rather that it is spelled out so simply.
That’s what people do – they find the time to do what they really want. I’m not suggesting that we have complete control over every moment, and at any second on a whim we just do what feels good. However, we do have a lot more control than we let on. And sometimes we have more control than we will admit, and then comes the excuses.
Awareness is the first step
It becomes obvious once you are aware of it. When someone says “I’d love to but I have to do blank instead” that’s usually a flag. People in sales know this, and have many ways to work around it. Most of these ways are not very effective, because the person in question just doesn’t want to do it.
When you become aware that others do that it gives you a window into their priorities. It can also cause you to be a bit offended – I’d love to see you but I just washed my hair and can’t do a thing with it. (hey!)
This same friend has taken it upon himself to call out some people on this. He found out, the hard way, that people do not like to be called out on this. Understandably, like many things that make up our psyche, it is part of a complex structure of protective layers. Like all things ingrained in you it is there for a reason. Sometimes the reason is silly, sometimes it’s not. Usually it’s protected by safety measures that can kick in when questioned.
I’m not at all suggesting that you question your friends, family and acquaintances every time they are not available – “What are you doing instead…? AHA!” Unless you want a lot less friends, family and acquaintances.
But that is where the fun begins. For my friend, it’s the fun of seeing the look of recognition and uncomfortableness. For me it’s the realization and ‘aha’ moment they get – it’s the moment I just handed the steering wheel back to them.
The workplace is different
We do this all the time in the workplace too: we find the time to do the things we want to do. That’s when we assess what we are doing, and what we’d rather be doing. The difference is that in the workplace what we want to do is replaced by what we are supposed to be doing. In some cases those things are done in compliance with what fits with the mission statement, the culture and the job description. In other cases it is what is needed to get the job done effectively, and in other cases those are one in the same (mission, culture and job description define the things that get the job done effectively, productively and competitively). We give it labels like Time Management, Process Improvement and Prioritization.
In other cases, unfortunately, it truly is what the person wants to do – being on Facebook, surfing the web, streaming netflix, shopping, handling personal business via endless calls and emails. Let’s just assume that you’re not one of these people and never speak of this again. 🙂
As I was saying, in business we accept what we are supposed to be doing, sometimes begrudgingly, but it is accepted nonetheless. We know that one thing is supposed to take priority over another, and often times we have a manager that will remind us of this. In fact, your job may be to in part or in whole to keep others on track in this way, with you being the leader and effective coach of the team.
In our private lives we are much more territorial about this, and we develop protective justifications. In business we can’t or aren’t supposed to develop these justifications because this prioritization is part of the job. Of course that doesn’t stop many from finding ways to still develop protective justifications for not doing what they are supposed to be doing. That’s what gages the effectiveness of some employees – their ability to be doing just what they are ‘supposed to be doing’ at any given moment. And that’s what sometimes defines an employee who is not so effective – they tend to focus on the wrong things, in the wrong order, etc. Their manager has to spend a lot of time refocusing them on a task they should be doing instead of what they are doing.
Having the autonomy of working on just what you are supposed to is a valuable and underrated asset.
So what then?
- If you receive it as a reason, you can now recognize it. You now know what “I don’t have time for that” really means
- Don’t give it as reason unless it’s true and you actually want to do that thing. Someone, like you, may be enlightened to this fact and you will end up being more transparent than you intended. Instead try the more direct route with them. And be honest with yourself. Do I really not have time, or do I just not want to do it?
- If you are giving this reason a lot you are spending a lot of effort avoiding conflict. In the end this is going to cause more effort and time than it’s worth. It is a crutch that can worsen a weakness you already have.
- Comparing what someone is supposed to be doing and what they are doing is a helpful measurement. Arguably, the closer those things are to being one in the same, the better fit they are for a job or career. One can argue that they just need coaching, aren’t right for the culture, etc. Regardless it’s a simple gage, and very revealing.
If I just handed you the steering wheel you may enjoy driving over to my other articles at alchemyfor.life/balancecoaching and read them on Linkedin.
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Mark Bradford developed a system to achieve goals, manage your energy and understand and strengthen your path – it’s Alchemy for Life.
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