Sorry this page looks weird. It was automatically migrated from my old blog, which had a different layout and different CSS.

Note To Self: I Didn’t Have Time

One of the signs of maturity is taking responsibility for our actions.

How often do you reply to someone, “I didn’t have time to do it”? I say it quite often, particularly in regard to getting out of bed in the morning. The problem is that it’s not true: we all have the same number of hours in the day. It’s up to us (hopefully) to choose how we spend them. If we don’t do something it’s because we’ve chosen to spend our time elsewhere.

It also chips away at our motivation. When we say we didn’t have time to act, we shirk our responsibility: we imply it was out of our control and so we pass the buck. As Aristotle observed, actions repeated become habits and habits inform character. If we habitually claim we did’t have time to do something we’ll come to believe that we were helpless to have things happen any other way. Eventually, to be melodramatic, we’ll cede some of our freedom.

Instead we should say, “I haven’t done it because I chose to spend my time doing x, y and z instead.” We chose to spend our time the way we did; we should take responsibility for that decision. Presumably the tasks on which we spent our time were more important or perhaps more urgent. If not then we chose poorly — but we still chose. We need to stand by our decisions in order to have self-respect.

After a while this simple change will, Aristotle-style, increase our awareness of how we choose to spend our time at any given moment. Consequently we will make better decisions and gain control of our time. Perhaps we’ll even get more done. At the least we’ll be honest with others and ourselves.

Lest you’re wondering, I’m writing this as a note to myself. I’m not caviling at anybody else! Although now I think about it….


Very nice. I actually came here looking for information on a rails problem which I found. I felt like this article was a good read as well.

Tyler Pedersen

Tyler Pedersen • 11 September 2009

Andrew Stewart • 14 February 2008 • Notes To SelfProductivity
You can reach me by email or on Twitter.