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The Harsh But True Meaning Behind Every “I Don’t Have Time”

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The Harsh But True Meaning Behind Every “I Don’t Have Time”

How often have you heard the line “Sorry, I just don’t have time” in response to you suggesting an activity to a friend or asking for help? Perhaps you’ve said this yourself to other people. While it could be genuinely true for many, the harsh reality is that it’s not usually entirely the case.

The Real Truth Behind “I Don’t Have Time”

If we get this response, we usually give the person the benefit of the doubt – after all who are we to question how much time they really have? But at the back of our mind, we often wonder if we’ve just been given a quick and easy excuse. The only reason we do doubt it is because we’ve most likely given this excuse ourselves at some point. So what can it really mean?

  • I genuinely have a lot to do and I can’t realistically fit it in: For many of us, we take on far too much and although we would like to help or do something with someone, we feel stressed when there’s a lot on our plate already.
  • I have more important things to do than doing that with you: This sounds harsh but sometimes other, more important priorities, can take over at any particular time.
  • I don’t have anything to do but I don’t want to do that anyway: It’s cold but sometimes a person isn’t in the mood, is tired or what you’ve suggested doesn’t appeal to them. Perhaps in that moment, they were looking forward to hanging out on the couch with a good book and a glass of wine but feel a bit mean admitting that they’d prefer that to hanging out with you.
  • I don’t have anything to do but I don’t want to explain why I can’t do that: Sometimes it’s easier to tell a white lie than to have to explain why you don’t want to do something with someone. Maybe you’re not in the mood or you actually don’t like hanging out with that person much. It’s usually a quick instinctive reaction to get out of it easily with no awkward questions.

Even though the underlying reasons behind this response can seem harsh, we can all admit that we can relate to at least one of them.

Question the Common Lie

About 90% of the time, if you hear this it’s most likely a lie. But this isn’t going to be shocking to us because we all know it. Yet we usually let it pass without question when someone says it to us. However, instead of dismissing this common lie, perhaps we should consider what it really means for our friendships and relationships with others.

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You are a low priority. Is this really the basis of a good relationship with someone if they continually imply that you’re not high priority in their life? Relationships take effort on both sides so if you’re both using this excuse a lot then it may be time to question it.

You aren’t getting the respect you deserve. We are all worthy of good relationships with friends, family and loved ones and we deserve respect. Ask yourself why you aren’t getting that. Do they really value you as an important person in their life?

They can’t be truthful with you. A real friend will tell you they have other plans and won’t want to lie to you. They’ll go to lengths to make it up to you, arrange another time because they want to spend time with you. If they feel they need to lie then there could be an underlying problem.

The Damage of This Well-Known Lie

Of course, we’re also guilty of using this excuse. But what does it say about ourselves, our integrity and outlook on the relationships in our life?

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Deep down we all know the meaning behind why we say it – whether we hear it from others or use it ourselves. But just because we don’t openly admit what it really means, doesn’t mean it’s not having an impact. It gives people an unsaid impression of you that builds up over time and can damage potential close relationships or break close bonds.

The most common thoughts people have when they hear “I don’t have time” tend to be:

  • “You’re so bad at organising what you’re doing that you can’t manage your time well.”
  • “What an arrogant person you are that you don’t even bother telling me the real reason why you can’t do it.”
  • “This person clearly doesn’t respect our relationship, and now I’m starting to lose respect for them.”

Make Time, or Tell the Truth

At the end of the day, it’s all about priority. We all know that everyone has the same 24 hours in a day – it’s more about our mindset and how we choose to organise our time. We all have the choice to either make time for something or not.

The key is to ditch the excuses and be honest. Explain why you don’t have time because although this could come across as harsh, it’s no more harsh than the impact of people wondering what the real reason is and diminishing respect on both sides.

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Tell them it’s not your priority

That’s right, it’s difficult to admit and say, isn’t it? But being honest in this way is laying it out there. Our time is a limited resource and there’s no point pretending it’s not. Yes it may come across harsh but at least it’s honesty rather than the other person feeling they’ve been fobbed off with an excuse which could ultimately cause more damage.

Follow up with a reason

The best thing to do is explain why in order to lessen the harsh reality. This will cause the person to understand your position a bit better and will have less negative impact on your relationship in the long run.

Arrange an alternative

Always try to carve out another time to make them a priority. If you want to cultivate your relationships, it’s important to show them that they can be a priority to you, just not right now.

An example of this could be: a friend has asked you if you would come along next Friday night to check out her new exhibition. You probably could go technically, but you’ve been putting off sorting out your CV and job search for a while and you need to start prioritizing this. Instead of simply saying sorry, you don’t have time, explain your priorities, wish her luck and arrange a coffee date later in the week to find out how it went.

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Remember that this common excuse can be more damaging than you realize. If you find you use it a lot, it might be time to start questioning your values towards friendships and relationships with others. Start being more honest. It could save your integrity and connection with the important people in your life.

Featured photo credit: Kaboompics via kaboompics.com

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Anna Chui

Anna is the Chief Editor and Content Strategist of Lifehack. She's also a communication expert who shares tips on motivation and relationships.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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