Wednesday, July 18, 2018

‘I don’t have time’

Photo credit: Titan
In an office I worked previously, many years ago, there was a colleague, who was once told to do a particular task by his boss.

Here’s how their conversation went:

Colleague: I am sorry, I won’t be able to do it.

Boss: Why?

Colleague: Because I don’t have time.

Boss: You can’t say you don’t have time. …

Colleague: I am not kidding. I simply don’t have time for what you are asking me to do.

Boss: Then who will do it?

Colleague: I am sure you will find someone else who will have the time to do it.

Boss: Tell me … do you have time to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner? Do you find time to watch a movie? Do you find time to have a shower? Do you get time to chat with your friends? 

If you say you don’t have time, how do you expect someone else to have time, since all of us have the same amount of 24 hours a day.

Don’t tell me you don’t have time. Tell me, the task I gave you is not a priority for you. If it is a priority for you, you will surely find time to do it.

Colleague: I get what you mean. But what I am trying to tell you is precisely that. I have more important commitments; so I won’t be able to do what you are asking me to do.

Boss: I know! I was just kidding!

The topic of their conversation shifted to something else; and someone else ended up doing that task.

When we say: “I don’t have time,” that can sound a bit insensitive and curt. It could also indicate a disinterest in the task we have to do. The boss is right in saying if there is some inclination to do it, we would surely find some time.

If there is genuinely no time, it is better to phrase it this way: “I am too tied up with other equally important work, so I won’t be able to do it within the specified time.”

After this, I always check myself before blurting out, “I have no time.” (Unless of course I am telling someone very close to or in an informal context.)

The most recent occasion was when a friend asked me: “You were so feverishly blogging - one post a day - in April, what happened now?”

I told him, ‘I don’t have time.” (Since he was a close friend of mine.)

His immediate retort: There is no challenge now. That would be more accurate!

(He was referring to the A to Z Challenge, in April, just in case you are wondering what he meant by 'challenge'.)

27 comments:

  1. And saying that you don't have time manifests as things taking up time so you don't have time. We'd all do to be more precise with our language.

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    1. Thanks Liz for dropping by and for your comments.

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  2. Your colleague’s boss is kinder than me. Your colleague had more important commitment than the request from the boss to do a particular task? If he was working for me, he will be properly “taken care of” during his performance review and bonus time.

    “I don’t have time” is unacceptable. Presidents and Prime Ministers sleep only a few hours every day. Their calendars are booked upto one year in advance. Still, if there is a disaster or a death or a non scheduled celebration, they go and attend (cancelling other engagements). They never say I don’t have time.

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    1. Yes his boss was a nice guy. But more significantly, the task that the boss asked him to do wasn't so very important that only he could do it. It could be done by anyone else. That's also probably the reason my colleague dared to say he hadn't time!

      You are very right, that people in high offices have a packed time and if a situation warrants they find time for it.

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  3. All of us ordinary mortals find time for entertainment / to entertain ourselves. So neither phrase "i am busy" nor "i don't have time" is any longer quite acceptable, imo.

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    1. Thanks Latha, for dropping by and for your comments. You are right. Ultimately, it all boils down to prioritizing I guess.

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  4. Very true. Rephrasing our thoughts would avoid so many misunderstandings

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    1. Thanks, Rakhi for dropping by and for your comments.

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  5. The boss surely knew what his other commitments at work were. So he could have himself allocated it to someone else without asking this employee. But then this happens in offices - some work more and others hardly work!

    Destination Infinity

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  6. The time available for all of us is same.As you have rightly pointed out in one of your replies, it is all a question of prioritisation.Nevertheless, one can always ‘steal’ one’s own time for furthering one’s benefits.

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  7. I don't know about you Pradeep, but I'm soooo glad we don't have to blog every day! That AtoZ Challenge sucks me dry and I definitely don't have time to do that all year round! It's all about priorities and knowing what to focus your time and energy on.
    Thanks for linking up with us at #MLSTL and I've shared this on my SM

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    1. Yes, Leanne, it is all about priorities. Thanks for your comments.

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  8. I would never have told my boss that I don't have the time. I have however pointed out that I did have other projects that took priority. As a Manager who was always grooming my Supervisors to get ahead, I would have pointed out one of my team members who could take over the task. Especially since this example appears to be just that type of moment.

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer for sharing your thoughts.

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  9. It is all in the way we say things isn't it, Pradeep? Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us at #MLSTL and have a beautiful day.

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    1. Indeed. Thank you, Sue, for the comments.

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  10. I am a people pleaser and hate to disappoint. Consequently, I find I don't have time for what I want to do because I am too quick to agree to do tasks that do not align with my priorities. Your colleague is brave ... and I would like to cultivate that kind of bravery in my own speech. Pinning to my #MLSTL board as a constant reminder.

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    1. I too don't like to disappoint people. So I too have a tendency to overstretch myself, to accommodate requests. But of late, I have been trying to say 'no', in the most polite manner possible.
      Thanks, Molly, for your comments.

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  11. Interesting take on "I don't have time".... Like Molly, I am a people pleaser and often (in my past) over commit my time. Now as an almost 71 y/o, I am taking time. MY time, to do what pleases ME!

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    1. Oh, almost forgot... #MLSTL visitor (shared on SM)

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    2. I too am like Molly and you, Donna. I tend to overstretch myself to accommodate requests, and get into a jam. But now I am trying to prioritising and I am able to make some difference to myself.
      Thanks, Donna for the comments.

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  12. Yes this is a phrase we use all to often, I like how you have accurately assessed what it actually means though! Perhaps we think that saying "I don't have time" comes across more politely than "That isn't a priority for me right now"! But really the two are synonymous.

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    1. Indeed, they are, Hannah. Thanks for your comments.

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  13. Haha! You converted a conversation about not having time to blog in to a blog post. Lewis Carol, would have been very proud of you. I am too!

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