“I wish I could, I just don’t have the time.”
It’s a phrase people simultaneously hide behind and utilize to mean different things — “I procrastinated,” “I don’t want to tell you the truth,” “I don’t care about it” or “I have other commitments.”
It’s funny how even though everyone has the same 24 hours in a day — yes, even Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Beyonce — people go about their days with the sense that time is fleeting.
While it’s no surprise that college students naturally lead highly-scheduled lives, jam-packed with classes, sports, social life, sleep and jobs, every person has more time than they think they do. Because behind every “I don’t have the time” excuse is a desire to go on a Netflix marathon, online shop or lounge around doing nothing.
The truth is, students find time to do what they want to do, and the constant choice to do the less-productive thing develops into a routine. When an opportunity comes around that requires more commitment or which encroaches on time set aside to do nothing, it’s often easier to throw out that five-word phrase. Why? It’s just easier.
The phrase itself sounds important and legitimate, and people usually give the person who uttered it the benefit of the doubt. I’d go so far as to say this phrase is related to students’ inner need to constantly seem like they’re “on the grind,” an attitude that has become characteristic of and normalized for Gen Zers.
Making something a priority in one’s life — whether that’s dedicating more time to studying, going to the gym, setting aside time for introspection or getting a job — is as simple as taking the time one would spend doing something less important and diverting it to something more fulfilling and productive.
Students can download RescueTime, which tracks browser activity for a week and can give individuals an overview of where their time is really going and how to optimize their energy. Forest, another productivity app, helps people go phone-free and focus on the tasks at hand.
The biggest challenge is not with the amount of work professors assign or with other commitments, it’s with ourselves. Focus on the root causes of each “lack of time” excuse and figure out what’s really, truly important.
Email Anastassia Kostin: firstname.lastname@example.org