I had a dream the other night about an old college friend who I haven't seen since his wedding last summer. He saw my career change on LinkedIn a few weeks ago and after dropping me a quick 'we really need to catch up!' message and getting a 'hell yes we do' response, he fired over a series of dates that he and his wife were available this summer.
That was at the start of April; it's now the middle of May and we still don't have anything in the diary. I've even sent a couple of 'shit, I know I'm useless, I'll get back to you with dates ASAP' messages in the meantime, yet haven't got round to actually arranging anything.
After waking up from my dream the following morning, I immediately grabbed my phone to send an apologetic text. My go-to excuse?
'So sorry...things have been mad'.
Yes, things have been mad - in fast things have been pretty insane this year. I'm in the midst of my first year as a studio owner, I've trained as a sports massage therapist, am in the middle of training as a PT and am still finding my feet without an employer or a pay check. We've had continued renovations on the house including a bathroom fitting from hell and now have a puppy inbound next month which we need to prepare for. I launched The Selfish Start Up Co, have been managing bookings for our first retreat this autumn and this month joined the Entrepreneurial Spark business accelerator program.
Am I entirely on top of everything? No, not really. I have a to-do list as long as my arm and seem to come up with more new and crazy ideas every day, but can I truly, completely honestly, hand on my heart without a flicker of doubt say that I don't have time to arrange a date to catch up with one of my favourite people? Not really, no.
What's actually the truth?
To be honest, I'm just being a bit shit.
Whether we're telling it to ourselves or other people, it's about time that we were all a little more honest about what we really mean when on a daily basis we find ourselves saying 'I just don't have time'. Let's start seeing that phrase for what it actually is...an excuse.
Now what it's an excuse FOR is a different matter entirely, but one we need start getting to the bottom of. It's not a fun exercise but if we're going to up our productivity game, it's something all of us need to get on top of. This isn't to say that we're not all busy - I have projects, classes and training courses coming at me from all directions and desperately look forward to the day when I live in a house where I can actually lay my hand on what I need the first time. That said I also know that this year I've binge watched 3 seasons of Nashville, launched some exciting spin off projects that aren't part of my core business (because they've been seriously fun!) and also had some wonderful weekends away and nights out with friends. If I really want to do something, I can find time to make it happen. So why do some things that are seemingly important to me continue to slide?
It's a matter of priorities
I'm not preaching. I don't know what your priorities are, and frankly I don't actually care. That's not the aim of the game here. The aim is to be honest with YOURSELF about what really matters to you.
I love to make my ramblings vaguely relatable, so I'll give you some examples...next week I'm off on holiday (thank GOD...literally counting down the hours already). It's something that's been booked for over a year and it's the full family shebang, a beach holiday in Greece to celebrate some big birthdays across 2017.
It's not exactly something that's been sprung on me, but as the weeks tick by and the date draws closer, every time I look in the mirror I feel a little less 'beach body ready'. Before the harassment begins, no this isn't about body shaming or feminism [hello controversial Protein World advert last year?!] this is simply about me knowing that when I step foot on the beach in 2 weeks, I won't be in the best shape I could be in. Why not? Because over the last 5 months, things have slid on the training front. My workouts have gotten few and far between and my nutrition (whilst having seen a big improvement this month) still isn't what it would be had I been working towards my optimum body composition.
The easy excuse I might instinctively be guilty of reaching for straight away is definitely 'urgh I feel so crappy for not working out or eating right but things have been soooo crazy this year, I just have NOT had time!'. Oh look, here we go again.
This isn't always about saying this to other people (although my other half probably hears me generally whinging about this a lot!) sometimes it's about what you're telling yourself. The problem is, each time you let yourself believe that the reason you haven't done XYZ is because you simply can't fit it in, you don't look for an alternative solution, because 'not having time' is something that seems beyond your control...
There are ways I could make it happen if I really wanted to - I could set my alarm a couple of hours earlier each day and go to the gym before I start my day, I could squeeze a 5km jog in between classes during my week and I could meal prep at the start of the week so I knew I had healthy nutritious pre-holiday-friendly food for the days ahead when I'm not home until late. If you want to make something happen, you will always find a way.
Deep down I know that I have access to the knowledge, methods and full ability to get myself in any shape I want to for my holiday, yet still I haven't done it.
Ok so this wasn't a work based example, but I could give you 50 others that relate to my business at the drop of a hat....
Why am I not putting out blog posts as often as I'd like?
Why am I not shouting about my qualifications to try and book more clients?
Why haven't I finished and launched my teaching website?
Why haven't I taken 5 minutes to follow up yet on some lead emails I sent last month?
Why am I carrying over at least 5-10 staple tasks each week from my to-do list instead of just sitting down and clearing it out?
The list is endless. So might apply to you, others won't. You'll each have your own but when you actually tap into the real why of some of these things, some of the following reasons might resonate with you...
Fear of failure
This old favourite. Why do we avoid doing a LOT of what we know we could or should? We don't want to screw it up. Whether it's rejection from someone or something, or the results not going the way we hoped, it's easier to make the excuse that we don't even have the time to start something rather than give it a go and have it go 'wrong'.
Example? If I 'don't get round' to pitching for that TEDx talk this year before the deadline has passed, I can give a melodramatic sigh, tell myself that I probably wouldn't have had time to do it justice anyway and think maybe I'll have a go next year instead of putting myself forward with the possibility of being rejected.
An avoidance tactic - if it's something we've been putting off for a while, when we come to having to deal with it that involves facing up to the fact that it could have been sorted a long time ago. Ignorance is bliss and all that...
Example? I feel so so bad for not arranging to see my friend sooner...to get round to arranging it means confessing I've actually been pretty useless.
Lack of knowledge
We all have wonderful ideas and fantastic intentions, but sometimes we don't actually know HOW to start. The thought of taking on a steep learning curve can be too daunting to face. Sometimes breaking tasks down into the 'learning' and then 'doing' element can be a lot more manageable.
Example? I need to finalise my personal teaching website and embed a booking system into it. The reality? I probably need to figure out the best way to do that first, so it ends up growing into a much bigger task than it should be. Hello delegation!
It's just not that much of a priority...
This is a big one. How many of us have things on those mile long lists that we're not actually that fussed about. I'm not talking about the tedious jobs we have to do like bookkeeping, admin and invoices (although there's probably an argument for delegation of these too if you're in a financially able position!) but the things we think we should be doing.
Example? Back to my beach story - yes there are numerous ways I could have gotten into better shape, but when it actually came down to it I realised that I wasn't that bothered. Yes I could have hit the gym a few more times in the last few weeks but would that have fundamentally changed my happiness on holiday? Hell no. So instead I used the time to take actions to improve my business...now that does change my happiness
Poor time management
Particularly in the early days it can be a nightmare figuring out which way is up when it comes to managing your business. When you begin to get clients, you fit them in wherever you are free, or more importantly when they are free. In the past this has seen me dashing up and down the motorway numerous times in one day just to co-ordinate my busy schedule with my clients equally hectic days.
Example? This is one I'm certainly guilty of - this week I drove into the city on Wednesday morning for the Entrepreneurial Spark workshop. Straight afterwards I had to dash to the car and drive an hour up into the country to teach a private yoga class at 1.30pm. I then nipped down to the studio (another 20minutes...) to deal with admin and open up for the class that evening, after which I got back in the car for another 35miles to make it BACK into central Bristol to teach an evening class there. Since then I've attacked my planner and will be streamlining my working days. It's not just the working hours you need to manage, but the logistics of the time in between. If I'm stuck in a car for 4 hours a day, that's useful time that could be spent doing other things.
Genuinely no time!
Let's be clear, there's no magic bullet to most of the kind of problems we have (however much some of the cheesier business coach adverts make it seem like 'IT'S ALL WITHIN YOUR POWER!') and after running through all of the above, you may well come to realise that on this occasion, you actually just didn't have the time to fit that thing in.
As a general rule, we love to believe that things 'happen to us' which are beyond our control. As soon as we admit that they're our responsibility, we no longer have the right to complain. This is because we begin to realise that the circumstances we find ourselves in can often be a result of past decisions we have made or limitations we have (particularly when we start to see repeated patterns!).
So next time you go to tell yourself that something didn't happen because you didn't have time, stop and actually think about it.
Are you sure?
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