The Number One Reason People Don’t Have Time to Accomplish What They Want

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A frequent question I get is, “how do you have time to do all that?” which I’m quite sure is often accompanied with thoughts of “he must be a work-a-holic”. The obvious implication is: there’s no way someone can accomplish alot, and still have a life.

WRONG! Wrong, wrong, wrong….. wrong, wrong.

Let me tell you the primary reason I seem to do a lot more than typical: I have cut out much of the typical “time wasters” that are common today.  I have my lazy days, that’s for sure. Once in a while I feel really tired and just hit the proverbial wall.   Occasionally I get a butt-kickin’ headache that ruins an entire day. Once in a great while, I get a case of the procrastinate-itis.

For the most part though, I don’t waste time.  I have something to read and study at almost every point of my day. While driving, my wife and I often discuss ideas, or I’m making recorded notes into my iPhone. Often, even if I’m watching TV (a rare occasion), I’m still reading or working on something. (You’ll find TV has less and less appeal when you fill your time with things that really matter)

Do You Work All the Time and Cut Out Fun?

“That’s all you do is work then!” Nope. When I spend time with my wife or kids, I don’t work: I spend time with them. We don’t lull away the hours in front of the one-eyed-brain-killer (that’s the TV for those of you who have spent to much time in front of it).  My wife and I go on dates, and prefer bookstores and coffee to movies. I play tennis, ride bikes and make time for serving others all of which is time well spent, not wasted.

Let me clarify one thing before we go on: I’m not talking about this kind of hyper-super-productivity where you try to squeeze every ounce of effort from every minute of every. You should maximize productivity during the time you choose for work but primarily this post is about cutting out or cutting back on those habitual things that really are a long term waste of your life-time.

When I hear someone say “I just don’t have time to… [choose one: start a business, write a blog, read my Bible, spend time with my family, help others...]“, a little further investigation reveals the same thing 99.9% of the time: if you look at their schedule, you’ll find they actually have plenty of wasted time then claim “not enough time” for their un-achieved goals.

Passive Electronic Stimulation

The major culprit today is PES (Passive Electronic Stimulation).  I’m not sure PES is a real term; if not, I just made it up because I don’t want to type it over and over. What is PES?

  • Television and movies
  • Electronic games
  • Instant messaging
  • Social internet sites
  • Internet news sites
  • Internet pornography, gossip, scandal or Hollywood voyeurism
  • Email

You can pretty much sum up wasted time in two words today: Television and Internet.

It is the rare person who doesn’t spend an hour or two or more A DAY watching electronic entertainment in some form or another; “surfs” the Internet, or engages in something casual and non-productive on the computer. That’s the “productive” people!  Typical unproductive people spend 4-10 hours or more A DAY in these activities. UNREAL!

It’s Your Time, Spend It However You Choose

IT’S YOUR TIME. Spend it how you want but don’t whine “I don’t have enough time” when your financial, spiritual and personal goals lay neglected. Just say, “I choose to spend my time turning my brain to unproductive mush with passive electronic stimulation instead of doing worthwhile things for me and my family”.  At least have the guts and self respect to admit it is your choice. It’s YOUR life. Spend your time doing what YOU want – just have the courage to be truthful about it.

Look at the truth about what is really being said here (are you saying these things?):

  • I don’t have the time for [insert worthwhile goal] because there is 20 hours a week of football and golf that must be watched.
  • I don’t have time to [insert worthwhile goal] because I have to spend 2-4 hours a day checking email, instant messaging and keeping up on Facebook and Twitter.
  • I don’t have time to [insert worthwhile goal] because I stay up until almost midnight every night watching movies, the news, talk shows and late night garbage.

From my experience, I would take an educated guess that even disciplined people probably waste 1-3 hours a day on PES; the average person wastes 3-6 hours a day; and an alarming and growing number of people waste 5-10 hours every single day on passive electronic stimulation.

Consider what PES is doing to your brain: loss of cognitive skills, inability to think abstractly, the weakening of personal and professional communication… and probably all sorts of other fancy $12 phrases that I don’t even know about.  Ask any business owner who must deal with the task of finding people who can actually write and communicate well if he thinks these skills are scarce today.

I’m not a fancy doctor, researcher or scientist… but my experience, gut and instinct tell me that PES is the primary culprit in the dramatic loss of communication skills and critical thinking in America.  Of course the experience, guts and instincts of a reasonably bright monkey could easily surmise the same thing, so I probably won’t win a Nobel.

So What?

I wrote all this to have you think honestly about PES in your life. Sit down privately and take a brutally honest look at how much time you spend on these activities. Don’t justify or defend. Don’t make excuses. Be honest.

After you evaluate it, think about what you could accomplish using that PES time to pursue personal growth,  financial peace or spiritual fulfillment. In the end, if you simply WANT to invest that much time in PES that’s your right but don’t bemoan some false lack of time when the important things never get done.  Don’t look at parts of your life that need improvement and deceive yourself by saying “I just don’t have the time or I would”.

Oh, by the way… reading my blog does not count towards PES.  :)

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  • Hi Brent, I agree about the time wasting. I’m almost afraid to tell you though about my biggest time waster. Before this, I never wasted time! I sewed, quilted, chatted with the kids, went on drives and walks and spent time with the Lord. I gave pep talks at workshops about making the most of every minute. I love the book by Don Aslett..the 24 hour day. Like him, I got tons of things done!

    Then I started a blog. The blog was fine when I was just uploading my projects. It was sort of an online sewing journal. Without a single bit of effort, after about 3 months of posting my quilts and stuff I’d done over the years, I was getting a hundred hits a day just looking for the projects I’ve done. I do unusual things like Persian knotted-rug tying, French boutis, Kuna Indian molas etc which I teach myself how to do. You can hardly find anything on the internet so of course people end up at my blog. So I did my art and people looked at it and I don’t know what they do, but they reference my stuff all the time.
    But I started a homemaking ‘blog’ sharing the stuff I have for years at workshops etc. 1/4 of the 2000 people per month who hit my blog, spend an hour or more. I don’t know if that’s the usual amount of time. I have 300 posts right now since 2007. I only started posting regularly in Nov.of 09. I’m up to 10,000 hits as of Dec.1 09.

    Here’s my question though. I’ve started working on making it look better. I’ve started writing better posts. They are always popular anyway. But I only get a few comments a day and that’s if I go and visit lots of people and follow them, which is what friends told me I must do if I wanted an audience to share my ‘content’ with. They told’ve got great content, but you have to develop a community. No one reads don’t have followers.

    So I started doing give aways and other sorts of bloggy things which don’t honestly appeal to me. I like people and I like encouraging people, but I want to spend most of my relationship time with my family at home. In other words, I want to teach but I don’t want to hunt down an audience.

    So now there is this pressure to keep up the posts…and now I don’t sew, quilt, or do the art show submissions that I normally work on every year. I love doing tutorials and posting them, but I spend more time just tweaking my blog and trying to comment to people. It’s driving me crazy.

    I guess I’m just a workaholic, but I never intended to switch from doing my best as a homemaker and fabric artist to being the best blogger. I feel some kind of weird pressure to make sure a post gets up every night.

    I used to avoid the computer because it wasted time, but this whole blogging thing has become almost too compelling. I love helping people, but I almost think it would be better to go back to making all my creations..which I love doing and can put down any time to take care of other things..and just post when something’s finished rather than feel I have to keep up the posts. How often is enough? Maybe I should just plan to only post something once a week and make it a really great sewing or homemaking or organizing tutorial and rely on the content to keep people interested. I have 78 followers and 30 return daily.

    When ever I do a sewing post and post it say at Wardrobe Refashion I end up with 600-800 visitors and several new followers. I would really like to do an E how article now and then. (Some people do such mediocre work on that place! Though some do a great job of course.) I’d like to do more posts for Wardrobe Refashion. I think I’d do better getting stuff to them which brings the readers to me than the other way around. I feel I’m sacrificing quality for quantity.

    I’m stumped..can you advise me? I wish you could drop by my blog, like a doctor and see if you can tell me what I’m doing wrong. By the way, I did donate 20.00 to you right off the bat. It would be worth the whole amount if you could give me a clue of what I should be focusing on here. I’m tired of the pressure and am not sure I’m really helping people all that much.

    I have lots of kids too and I know you must be so busy, so if you can even jot me a clue in a comment, I’d appreciate it so much!

    PS. I have to say my blog looks so much nicer and my articles seem so much more inviting thanks to you! You’ve helped more than I can say. I did a post featuring your blog the other day.
    Thanks for helping us all out.

  • Brent,
    You’ve brutally hit the nail on the proverbial head with this article. I am/was one of those people. Always making excuses as to why I didn’t have enough time for this or that. If it’s not TV it is the internet. Recently I have at least made the decision to try to do something productive with the time I spend online. You’re article has really got me thinking. Life is to short to waste it glued to the TV.
    Thanks for the e-kick in the pants.

  • Like our Pastor said this morning it’s all about priorities. We make time for the things we want to do, but what about the things we need to do.

  • Yes! Someone else who thinks that people with full lives don’t need television! and other ‘stuff’. I’m too busy to watch TV and that’s not frantic busy, that’s house-full-of people’s-children-and -friends busy. That’s people who haven’t time to spend with their own children because they switch on the TV as soon as they walk in the door. So their younsters talk to me-how sad is that? What they are missing. Another funny thing, when our house is full of teenagers and they bring videos to watch 9 times out of 10 they never get round to it because they are talking, cooking, playing board games, and even tobogganing down the stairs in sleeping bags…to me that is ‘real time’…

  • Thank you – excellent article! It is always good to be stepping back and evaluating your life. We have 9 children and don’t watch TV and people often say the exact words you said, “how do you get so much done?” Inside we chuckle, since we know that we constantly struggle against wasting time!

    We do enjoy Facebook and set a little time aside for it – we live out in the country and stay home a lot – so it’s an efficient way to keep up with some of our distant friends. This morning my husband sent me this article as a great reminder:

    Thank you again!

    • It’s ironic… the people who have the LEAST need to do these things always have the clearest understanding of them… I guess that goes without saying but you would think it would be PAINFULLY obvious to someone who watches TV 11 hours a day…. (or today it would be “on the computer”)

  • I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said! I have been on the path of simplifying my life as much in the past year. I came to a point where I felt like I was getting NOTHING done, despite the fact that I was running in circles doing as much as I could in a day. At the end of the day, I would look back and see that I got very little done. I started searching for the reasons why my days were so unproductive and found it in the form of T.V., cell phone, internet, messaging, etc. I realized that having these things readily available to me was too much temptation and keeping me from the responsibilities God had set before me. So, I have been slowly phasing them out of my life. I turned off cable and get the occasional movie through Netflix (I have their cheapest subscription option), my cell phone contract is up in about two weeks and I will NOT be renewing it (bye-bye cell phone), I downloaded an extension from Firefox that tracks the time I spend on the internet, and I have limited myself to 30 minutes a day. This is just a start, and it has made a HUGE difference. I get a lot more done and I don’t feel drained by days end.

    Anyway, great article and thank you.

  • Great Post.
    It’s particularly hard to stay focused when you have a blog – there are always more things you can be doing.
    Thankfully with the blog I can reach over and have a tickle with my little ones in the middle of making comments like this…

  • hi. i thinks this is a great post. can i copy this post or part of this post and put it my blog. i’ll put a source and a link back to this post. thanks

  • This is a great post. I have some great goals that it seemed that i would never achieve. It just shows that I have some time wasters in my life that i needed to cut out. Thank you for the write up.

  • This was an amazing post. I admit I fall quilty to this phrase a lot. I justify it by the fact that I am a full-time working Mommy to a 10 month old but what you say is so true. I do waste my time on PES. I feel like I do have a little bit of trouble focusing though…perhaps too much PES!? I linked my blog to this post…definitely warranted sharing!

  • Just found your blog.. Great post! There are so many time wasters that people use as excuses not to be productive or accomplish their dreams. We have worked at getting rid of most of them, but then this facebook thing came up… :)

    • Social sites have definitely become the latest trend in PES… they can be very useful or very wasteful… it takes a lot of personal discipline…

  • Great post! I’m often asked, “How do you do it all?” or “Do you ever sleep?” and don’t really know how to answer effectively. Your points are well made…it’s all about time management and what you CHOOSE to spend your time doing!

  • I was JUST talking with my mom about this today!! We are both the same in that we get asked this a lot by others…how do we do all that we do. We’re both better people the more productive we are. This is an excellent post!!!


    • That’s true for everyone… I always hear people say, “I shouldn’t waste so much time on…” but then they never CHOOSE to stop. We all have the same amount of time and we CHOOSE how we use it.

  • I just finished reading John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Life.” I agree with what you are saying, and have made some pretty serious alterations in my time management. As a result, I’m getting much more done!! Shocking, eh? :-)


  • I think for me I need both PSE and quality work time. Since I am a book reviewer I get asked “How do you read that many books?” My simple answer is that I make reading a priority during certain hours of the day. I also make blogging and writing my priority during certain hours. I know my brain is the most productive in the morning so I do most of my writing at that time. I also know my brain is mush by the late afternoon so then I allow some PSE. I am not a big TV watcher, I usually rely on TiVo so I can watch according to my schedule.

    Great post, enjoyed reading it and it gives me additional things to thinking about.

  • This is a test comment. My comments weren’t showing up correctly but I think that is all fixed now. Not sure if past comments are going to show up on the right post, but they will from now on.

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