It's Not About Time, It's About Priority


So, you have a new project that you want to start. Perhaps it is training that you wish to do with your team. Maybe it's an online course on basketweaving. Or its a self-directed immersion in Chinese so you can seem smart with your new clients from Guangzhou.

But, then you realize you don't really have time for this. Too many meetings, too many emails, that work project that just blew up and Janet is out on vacation till the first week in August so you really need to handle it. You realize that "right now" is too crazy and maybe next week might be better for that new project.

But, if you look back several months, you'll realize that there never really was a time recently when things were "less hectic". Things were just "different hectic". Phrases like "when I have more time", "an open schedule" or "one of these days" is really just code for this is not a priority.

And, that's okay.

The key lesson is not that we have limited time (which is true), but rather that we can only have so many priorities in your life. Some time management gurus will preach that with the right level of discipline, you can organize your life to have dozens of activities. Unfortunately, regardless of the diversity of your interests, only a handful of things can ever truly be priorities. You'll know if something is a priority if you make time for it. If you can't find time for a new task, then it isn't a priority (at least for now).

If you can't find time for a new task, then it isn't a priority (at least for now).

There is a somewhat reductive thought experiment called The Four Burners Theory, which states that your life is like four burners on a stove: one is your health, one is your work, one is your family, and the last one is your friends. The Theory goes: to be successful, you have to cut off one of your burners. And, to be really successful you have to cut off two.

I'm not a huge fan of this analogy, mostly because I feel it is too reductive. Life doesn't present itself in such well-defined ways. However, there is a kernel of truth in that in this era of more-more-more, sometimes the best solution is to reduce.