“Not Having Enough Time” Is Not a Good Excuse

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Girl, Stop Apologizing" by Rachel Hollis. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you have a goal in mind but you don’t pursue it because of “not having enough time”? How can you make more time in your schedule to focus on your goals?

Between work, children, errands, friends, exercise, it seems like there is never enough time to work on yourself and your goals. The hard truth is: there will never be more than 24 hours in a day. However, there are methods you can use to find time to work on your goals.

Here are Rachel Hollis’s tips for finding more time to focus on your future.

Stop Saying “I Don’t Have Enough Time

Of all the excuses Hollis highlights, she says the most common one she hears is, “not having enough time.” At this point, you have decided that you can be a good woman and still have a goal, that you’re capable of achieving said goal, and that your goal is worth pursuing even though it’s already been done. The excuse you might tell yourself now is: I will start once I find the time.

Hollis notes that in an ideal world, we would all have time for work, to socialize, to exercise, to have quality time with our families, engage in hobbies, practice self-care, and get a full night of sleep… 

However, we don’t live in an ideal world and there’s a reason why “there aren’t enough hours in the day” is a common refrain. Hollis points out that in this world, where most people already feel like they can’t fulfill their obligations and still take care of themselves, the thought of adding another task to our already full plates can seem overwhelming and downright impossible.

Overwhelm Paralysis

Have you ever had so much to do that you took a nap instead? Counterintuitive, yes, but common. According to Dr. Ellen Hendrickson, when we are faced with a large to-do list, particularly if the items on that list are complicated or difficult, our brains don’t see tasks, they see scarcity. Our brains see a lack of time, the possibility of failure, and the consequences of not completing the tasks at hand. These are all danger cues. 

When faced with danger, wild animals fight, flee, or freeze (in hopes of not being seen). Humans still have this instinctive response, and in moments of overwhelm, we often innately choose to freeze. In other words, we do nothing.

Later in this guide, Hollis suggests using “outcome lists” rather than “to-do lists” (see Skill 3: Effectiveness). However, if you find yourself immobilized by overwhelm, it is helpful to break your list down into bite-sized pieces. For example, if your list says “clean the house,” and you feel paralyzed, it might be more helpful to create a longer list that includes items such as “wipe off the kitchen counter,” and “vacuum the bedroom.” Smaller steps that feel more concrete and manageable will help break the paralysis.

The Truth: You Will Never Find Time, But You Can Make It

Hollis acknowledges that everybody has the same 24 hours in each day. She maintains, however, that how we choose to use those 24 hours is what separates those who accomplish their goals from those who don’t. Put another way, high achievers have figured out how to best utilize their time.

Hollis puts forth a simple truth: You won’t find more hours. It is impossible to find more hours because all 24 hours of your day are already filled. There are no blank hours in your day. Something is always happening—whether it is working, sleeping, scrolling, or watching television.

Instead of trying to find hours, Hollis says you need to make time by redesignating what fills your hours. She stresses that you can replace any activity with a different activity; the choice is entirely yours.

For example, let’s say you normally cook dinner every night from 5 to 6 p.m. If you decide to cook a frozen meal from 5:45 to 6 p.m. twice a week, you’ll free up 1.5 hours for another activity.

Timeboxing: A Technique for Balancing Your Schedule

Hollis recommends you redesignate your current hours, but she doesn’t provide a clear strategy for how to do it. Nir Eyal, author and investor, has a simple but effective strategy for managing the time you already have. Described in his book Indistractible, timeboxing is the technique of preemptively blocking out chunks of time on your calendar and designating them for certain activities.

What this looks like: On your calendar, schedule your entire day or week using different colors and categories. For example, you might spend from 5 to 7 p.m. each night cooking and eating dinner with your family. You might be tempted not to include items on your calendar that you routinely do every day (after all, you don’t need the reminder), but you will want to put them on there anyway, as you will see next.

Why it works: There are two major benefits to timeboxing. First, it allows you to keep balance in your schedule. If you are worried about work-life balance, you can take a quick glance at your color-coded calendar to see where the bulk of your time is being spent. Second, this method keeps you on task. It is easy to get caught up in a project and find that suddenly your entire day is gone, and you haven’t even touched the rest of your responsibilities. Giving yourself an end time will ensure that you don’t waste time.

Hollis acknowledges that redesignating your hours can feel like a sacrifice. Sometimes, you’ll replace mindless television watching with a fulfilling activity, and that feels good. However, other times you might have to sacrifice something meaningful (like time with your family), and that can feel bad.

To ease the sting, she recommends that you be intentional about how you schedule your time and prioritize the parts of your life that are most important to you. 

(Shortform note: It is also a good idea to have a conversation with yourself about which sacrifices are temporary and which are permanent. For example, you might be more likely to give up Taco Tuesdays with the girls if you know that it is only until after your marathon. Consider what you’re giving up, for how long, and your reason for doing it. If you keep these answers in mind, you’ll be less likely to give in.)

The Fix: Start With Five Hours Per Week

Hollis recommends you start by “making” five hours available each week to work on your goal by reducing or eliminating other activities. Here’s her step-by-step plan:

  • Step 1: Record everything you do for an entire week, down to the minute, then find five hours you can replace with time to work on your goal. The five hours can be divided into whatever increments work for you.
  • Step 2: Treat those five hours as sacred, and don’t forgo them for any reason. 
  • Step 3: Schedule those five hours for whenever you’re at your mental best. For example, if you’re a morning person, schedule your hours early in the day.
  • Step 4: Schedule your hours weekly. If you do it once a month, you’re not giving yourself enough flexibility, and if you decide day-to-day, you will end up flaking on yourself. 
How Many Hours Should You Dedicate To Your Goal?

Hollis recommends starting with five hours per week, but is this enough time to effectively pursue your dream? Throughout her book, she discusses working tirelessly toward her dreams, often working late into the night and early in the morning. Grant Cardone, author of The 10X Rule, claims that working 95 hours per week is required to achieve success, and other self-made millionaires agree. One even stated that in the first year of starting a business, you should put in 18 hours of work a day, seven days a week. 

It is important to keep in mind that the number of hours you put in depends on what your dream is and how many sacrifices you’re willing to make. This is a personal decision and there’s no right or wrong answer. Hollis likely recommends five hours because this is a manageable starting point.
“Not Having Enough Time” Is Not a Good Excuse

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Here's what you'll find in our full Girl, Stop Apologizing summary:

  • Rachel Hollis's lessons she learned while building a multimillion-dollar company
  • Why "having it all" isn't something you should aspire to
  • Why women need to stop trying to fit society's idea of a "good woman"

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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