What It really Means when You say Your “Too Busy”

I’ve been coaching for over a decade and in that time I have heard my share of excuses from clients on why they don’t stick to their own commitments and goals. There seems to be one excuse in particular that I keep hearing over and over like a broken record. The excuse I’m referring to is typically some form of “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have time”.

Do any of these statements sound familiar to you?
“I’m too busy to go to the gym.”
“I don’t have time to meal prep this week.”
“I’m too busy to stretch my hamstrings.”
“I don’t have time to eat breakfast.”
“I have too much going on to sleep 7 to 9 hours a night.”

On the surface, “busy” sounds like a perfectly valid excuse. In fact, it can almost sound downright positive in some cases. For example, you might be asked, “How are you?”, and a common reply might be something along the lines of, “Oh, busy as usual”. “Busy” is such a great excuse because it sounds both plausible and positive in some cases. Yet, the same clients who say they are “too busy” to go to the gym miraculously find time to do a great number of other activities such as binge watch a few seasons on Netflix, go out for drinks at the local happy hour, watch cat videos on the Internet, attend their cousin’s sister-in-law’s best friend’s birthday party, and endlessly scroll through their various social media feeds.

As a coach, I’m not here to judge how anyone spends their free time. However, my job is to help you achieve results in your physical health and athletic performance, so I would be remiss if I didn’t hold you accountable to your own commitments. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with watching your favorite television show or browsing Facebook, BUT if these activities are crowding out the things that actually move you towards achieving your goals, you might want to re-examine how you manage your time and your priorities.

“I don’t have time” really means “It’s not a priority”.

Think of a recent situation where you used “I don’t have time” as an excuse. Now, replace it with “It’s not a priority for me”. In most cases, you’ll find that the latter is more valid and accurate. The problem with believing that we don’t have time is that there’s no way to add more hours into a day. It becomes a limiting belief that keeps us stuck. Being honest with ourselves and admitting that it’s not a priority is far more empowering. Now, the need to bend space-time reality is gone. You just need to re-evaluate your other priorities and decide if what you claim you don’t have time for is actually more important. From there, you can adjust your to-do lists and schedule your calendar accordingly.

“I am too busy” is a euphemism for “I don’t manage my time effectively”.

If I were to look at your calendar right now, what would I find scheduled? Would I be able to determine your priorities by looking at your calendar? Do you schedule the times you plan on going to the gym this week? Do you have times blocked out to stretch, meditate, or meal prep? Or do you just “wing it” every week? In my experience, if you don’t schedule it, it’s unlikely to happen. I’m a coach who works at a gym and even I need to schedule a time for my own workouts. I recommend taking a few minutes on Sunday evening or Monday morning to plan out your week. As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

“I have too much going on”, “I’m overwhelmed”, and “My schedule is crazy” probably means “I need to learn to say NO”.

Do you say “yes” to everyone and everything that comes your way? Are you a bit of a people pleaser? Do you let other people’s agendas and priorities overtake your own? Would you like to get some of your time back and feel less busy? Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, once said, “Focus is about saying no”. The more you say no to the things that don’t matter, the more you can say yes to the things that do. I can tell you from personal experience that being chronically overcommitted is a surefire way to burn yourself out. Learning to say no is a necessary skill if you want to reduce the feeling of overwhelm and create the space in your life to focus on what really matters to you. It might be difficult at first, but think of saying no as a muscle you can build up over time. Start with something like “No, thank you”, “No, I can’t commit to that”, “No, I am not interested”, “No, I have other priorities right now”, or even a plain and simple “No”. Don’t lie, don’t make excuses, and don’t over-explain yourself. Just politely decline.

I sincerely hope you’ll consider retiring the old “I’m too busy” excuse. Other people might still fall for it, but more importantly, don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking it’s a valid excuse for why you aren’t achieving your goals. If you need some help making this shift, find a peer group, an accountability partner, or a coach who won’t accept “I don’t have time” as an excuse. Re-evaluate your priorities, make it a point to sit down and schedule your time, and learn to say no to the things that aren’t important. Remember, you have the same 24 hours each day as everyone else on the planet. I hope you make the most of them.