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Why Saying "I'm Too Busy" Is Just an Excuse

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Often when I talk about being an author, people say, "With your busy life, I can't believe you find time to write." And when I start talking about how I love to read, people will invariably say something like, "I don't have time for reading. I'm just too busy."

Both statements stem from a similar presupposition–that it's nearly impossible to find time to write or read amidst the crazy chaos of life.

The problem with such a presupposition is that usually it gives off the impression that somehow the person who's writing or reading is lazy or else has more free time than the rest of mankind. Why else would they have the time for such "frivolous endeavors" when the rest of the population struggles through each day with overly busy schedules?

Of course it usually irks me when someone thinks that somehow I magically have more time in my life and that's why I can accomplish all that I do and still have time for reading. It's during those moments, I want to print out a daily log of my life.

For example, this summer I've had to take one or another of my kids to daily swim team practice, swimming lessons, play practice, volunteer work at the library, basketball camp, football practice, play dates with friends, dentist and orthodontist appointments, math tutoring, and more.

To put it mildly, the summer has been chaotic. Somehow my main job has become taxi-mom driving my kids everywhere for everything. (Along with all those other things that need doing–like washing smelly beach towels and scooping the litter box for FOUR cats!)

I can certainly go toe to toe with anyone who says they're "just too busy." My life is a far cry from couch-potato bliss.

And yet, somehow I've managed to write a full-length novel that I started in May and finished in July. I completed rewrites on Captured By Love (releasing next summer). And I critiqued a novel for another Bethany House author. That among all the many other writing duties I attempt to keep up with, like this blog.

I also have read approximately two full length novels a week this summer (for a total of 15 books so far).

My point?

Most people who say they don't have time for writing or reading (or really anything they enjoy doing), are just making an excuse. (Note I said most people. I realize there are situations where people legitimately can't make the time.)

The truth is the large majority of us can make time for the things we want to do.

In fact, an article in New York Daily News from 2012 said: The average American over the age of 2 spends more than 34 hours a week watching live television, says a new Nielsen report — plus another three to six hours watching taped programs.

A fascinating infographic How People Spend Their Time Online says that: the US Internet user on average spends 32 hours on the internet per month. (That averages to about 8 hours a week.)

That means between TV watching and internet surfing, the average American clocks in about 40 hours.That's almost a full time job!

Those who say they're too busy for reading or writing usually aren't too busy to watch their favorite shows or spend an hour playing Candy Crush. Instead of saying, "I don't have time" people should just honestly admit, "I choose not to make the time."

I choose to make the time for reading and writing. But I also do several other things that help me carve out the time:

1. Prioritize. I figure out what I need to get done each day, do the most urgent, and then tackle whatever else I can in the leftover time.

2. Budget time wisely. The buzz word around our house is, "Budget your time wisely." We're all given the same amount of hours in a day. It's up to us how we spend them. We can piddle our time away putzing around doing diddle. Or we can work diligently.

3. Make time for personal well-being. I've learned over the years, I need to make time in my life for the things that make me healthy. Writing satisfies my soul. And reading is relaxing and stress-reducing.

So has anyone ever told you that they're too busy for reading (or writing)? What have you told them (or wanted to tell them)?

23 comments:

  1. I love this post! I have been saying this for years. I too feel "less than" and/or "lazy" when I tell people how many books I read or share my blog with others. The comment "Must be nice to have the time" always grates on my nerves. Depending on my mood, I will either smile and ignore the comment, agree (sarcastically), or point out that everyone has time for a "hobby" and that I'm sure they too spend time on something others might consider frivolous. I recently came across the following quote and use it as my mantra: "Stop the glorification of busy!" Thanks for the post!

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  2. I've been teaching through the book Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free for the ladies who attend our church Bible study. And we just talked about this very thing when we read the chapter on priorities. The bottom line is, we have time every day to accomplish what's on GOD'S to-do list for our lives. Maybe not everything on our to-do list, but definitely on God's. I find that thought very comforting. :-)

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  3. Oh Jody, You have opened up a can of worms.. this is a topic after my own heart!

    If it hadn't been for my books by my faved authors,I would have gone completely crazy over the last six months,with all that is happening here.

    I found that I HAD to make time to read.

    I found it a wonderful stress relief mechanism, especially at night, when I virtually collapsed into bed with my mind racing as I recalled the events of the day! Reading is a wonderful nightcap(without the headache to follow.LOL) and certainly helps me relax.

    I have also found that after a particularly stressful shift at the hospital, more often than not,I mentally bring my work home with me, mulling over what I should have done,that I didn't do, etc etc! This practice is extremely fatiguing and this is where I am so grateful to have my book close by!

    I have also noted, that the people who work extremely hard,or are in a higher powered position of responsibilty within their working environment,are the motivated ones who will jump at the chance of seizing an opportunity to better themselves,even if it involves study and demands committment,thereby choosing to increase their workload. They simply,"make time".

    I'm sure I will be shot down in flames for saying this,but it is nearly always the people who coast along, who are the most apathetic when it comes to seizing an opportunity with both hands and sadly it slips from their grasp.

    We are given so many choices in life,that it seems a pity not to take advantage of them, when they are right before our very eyes!

    What better way to nurture and revitalise ourselves from this mad world of panic,by stepping back in time to an era of gracious living,pomp and circumstance...and of course I'm talking about my beloved historical novels written by my favourite authors!:0)

    As long as those books keep coming, I'll keep reading!:0)

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  4. I can't tell you how many people say to me (usually with a wrinkled nose): "I don't know how you find the time to write!" Which, like you said, somehow paints this really negative picture of me and how I choose to spend my time. I find the time to write (and read) because I don't watch television. In the evenings, when my kids are in bed and my husband has his feet kicked up watching a couple hours of television before bed, I'm in my office doing what relaxes and rejuvenates me: writing, or reading. I agree a hundred percent, people find time to do what they love (I tell them that all the time). For me, I love books, so I find the time to read them and write them. We've started to tell people we're going to be homeschooling our oldest this year and I've had people point-blank say: "So, that means you're giving up your writing, right?" Um, no. I write when my children are sleeping, that won't change. I'm preparing myself to hear this question many more times.

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  5. We all make choices, don't we? One of my choices is to read! Since I love getting immersed in a novel and won't come up for air until it's done, I read mostly non-fiction and magazines in the evening while my family watches television. A few years ago, I started reading fiction whenever I could fit a chapter in, and I'd like to get back to that. I was able to read more that way!

    Great post!

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  6. I find this is so true not only with adults but also with the high schoolers I tutor. And the advice I give is the same: just a few pages before bed adds up. It really does. Plus I find that I am less likely to dawdle in getting ready for bed if I have a really great book to look forward to. It's a life giving cycle: I go to bed earlier; I read good books; I wake up with more energy and remember there is enough time to do beautiful things each day.

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  7. I used to feel guilty about reading but I discovered that I could allow myself to read one chapter during the day and read more at night. I felt guilty because of what other people would say. I have also learned that I need to forget the criticisms of others and live the way God wants me to live instead of the way others think. Just think of all the books I could have read by now.

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  8. I like to read at night, in bed before I go to sleep. Helps me to relax. I just love it when people say "Who has time to read these days?" I do! I can't imagine not reading every day, even if it's just a chapter.

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  10. Typos...

    All I can add to this discussion is this-

    PLEASE BE KIND TO YOURSELF!

    It's so easy to beat yourself up for trying to hold yourself accountable, I've been there, and parents I really need you to hear this, it's NOT pretty.

    I'm not a married or a parent.

    But I know the dangers of turning normal accountability into PARALYZING shame you NEVER deserved.

    No matter much you might have time management issues.

    It's not always about MAKING TIME for things you need to do. It's about giving yourself a break sometimes.

    Jody, I'm glad you and others who commented before me are finding ways to keep reading in their lives.

    I just give this warning from my own experience. It may not be the norm, but it's real, and I don't want anyone who might read this post who went through periods of time when reading in my genre felt like war, rather than a pleasurable necessity, they aren't alone.

    Sorry Confucius, but the absolute way you view reading doesn't fit my life.

    But I assure you: I'll NEVER stop reading.

    I just have to define my reading life differently than you for my personal sanity.

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  11. This is well timed for me as I was recently considering how I was going to go with nanowrimo this year (I've never participated) but once thing I have definitely realised is that being open with your goals and MAKING time is the only way you will achieve what you want to when writing. Thanks for the pep talk!

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  12. I honestly do get annoyed when people say "oh,i don't watch tv" or, "oh, i don't have time to write" or "i don't have time to read." i just say, "ya, well i'm a heathen, i have time to read, write, and create art." i feel really good about not acknowledging that they were trying to be superior.

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  13. And it erks me no end when people say, I don't have time to read or write. Good grief. And it is like they are saying their time is more important than my time.

    Thank you so very much for blogging about this. Well done!

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  14. Jody...as a follow-up to this post, it might be good to talk about the things you DON'T do. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, and when you commit time to writing (or reading or homeschooling or whatever), there are things you have to give up. No one can do everything; the concept of "supermom" is a myth, in my opinion. So it might be enlightening to know what you've had to (or chosen to) give up, to make time for your writing career.

    ~ Betsy

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    1. Very true, Betsy. We can't be supermom's and do everything! Even if I limit my tv/movie/internet time, I still have to sacrifice other activities (even good ones!) to make time in my life for a writing career. I like the idea of doing a post sometime about it! Thank you for that idea! :-)

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  15. I agree with Betsy- please post on what you've sacrificed. When people tell me they don't have time to read, I tell them that it's the same as "not having time to exercise" - you have to MAKE time for it!
    And now, I'm going to get off the Internet so I can go write! You've inspired me. And I can totally sympathize with the mom taxi thing!

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  16. It's definitely all about priorities and sacrifice. I've struggled with time to write the short stories/novels, but have found time to blog, write book reviews and things of that nature. I also work a full-time job outside of my home, bake most weekends for my family, am active in my sons' schools, and do freelance writing/editing. Of course I've had trouble finding time to write! Over time I realized my problem was that I didn't want to give anything up.


    I've always been interested in this question of "finding time", not because I thought writers were lazy in some way (a presupposition about the inquirer's motivation?) but rather I wanted to glean from others how they managed their time better than I (or perhaps find inspiration for the hard choices I needed to make.) I've finally scaled back on the blogging and I'm bringing my book reviews to a halt. The freelance editing has helped my family take my writing endeavors seriously because they get that Mommy is working, although I'm cutting back a little on that too in order to make time to write. I committed to the PTA this year, but I'm more easily saying no to other things, putting my goals ahead of everyone else's, which is really the heart of my struggle. It's definitely ALL about priorities and choices.

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    1. I agree, Patricia. It boils down to the choices we make with our time. And quite honestly, I think a lot of us moms get guilted into over-committing to things that we don't necessarily need to do but feel like we should in order to be seen as a "good mom." I've had to shed that guilt and know that I'm using my unique gifts the way I need to. I can't worry about what other people think I should or shouldn't be doing!

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