I Don't Have Time

What “I Don’t Have Time” Truly Means

Photo by my friend Ning-ru Yang. Thank her for kindly letting me use the photo.

Photo by my friend Ning-ru Yang. Thank her for kindly letting me use the photo.

When we say "I don't have time"

I don't have time is just another way of saying, it's not my priority.

Many people seem to be busy every day. Some always say we are too busy to do exercise, we have no time reading, etc.

When we say “I don’t have time”, it doesn’t mean we’re too busy to do something. It actually means that something is just not our priority. If something is our number one priority, then we will do it no matter what. The magic trick is to say no to everything else.

When people say "Sorry I've been busy"

Similarly, what’s the true meaning when people say “Sorry I’ve been busy lately” to us?

For me, I tend to interpret it as “The thing I’m concerned about is not their priority” or “I’m not important enough to them”. Everyone has their own priority, and that’s it. Either people really have a lot of must-do with time constraints, or they want to relax because they value their own mental health more.

We can always make a charitable guess that, even if they actually don’t have many things to do, maybe they are on the verge of burning out and the top priority for them should be not doing anything.

Therefore, we don’t have to be upset when people are not responsive, either our advisors, recruiters, partners, or friends. You can always find charitable reasons for them. For example, sometimes people reach out to me for my feedback or even suggestion, and then never reply back. I always think that maybe they are busy with taking actions according to my response (or maybe my words are totally BS so they don’t even want to reply), and I’m happy with either reason.


“Don't tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I'll tell you what they are.” - James W. Frick

Lastly, similar to what James W. Frick said, don’t trust what we say about our priorities, see where and how we spend our time.

Keep a log of how we actually spend time. Look at our information diet, the podcast we subscribed to, the audiobooks we listened to, the books we read, the articles we saved, the video we watched. Pay attention to whom we spend time with.

We will always be surprised by how we actually spend time. If our behaviors don’t align with our priorities, we have to face the harsh truth: we aren’t really fulfilling our priorities.


  1. The original idea of this article is derived from Naval Ravikant: The Angel Philosopher [The Knowledge Project Ep. #18]

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