One of the most common complaints I hear from people who are trying to get their finances (or any other aspect of their life) in order is that they don’t have enough time. The thing is, in most cases this is just an excuse. Most people have plenty of time. What many people mean when they say “I have no time” is “This isn’t as important to me as something else I want to do.”
People often talk about how, between work and household duties, there’s no free time left to deal with things like getting quotes for insurance, clipping coupons, or learning how to invest. To some extent, I understand and even sympathize. Our employers demand more and more of our time. We have other obligations and a certain amount of cleaning and laundry has to be done to keep us from living in filth. We want to keep a little time free to do some fun stuff. By the time all of that is done, extra time is limited. But not non-existent.
Generally speaking, an overly busy, cram-jammed life is our own fault. We refuse to say no. We refuse to tell the church group that we can’t bring three hundred cupcakes to the bake sale. We refuse to tell the kids that they can’t do six different activities a week if we’re going to have to take them to every single one. We refuse to tell the boss that, sorry, we just can’t work until ten at night every single night. We think we have to go out with friends or to the movies every weekend instead of staying home. We go shopping instead of doing things around the house. We spend hours trawling the Internet and looking up old friends on Facebook. We watch too much TV or play too many video games. While there’s nothing wrong with any of this in moderation, when it piles up to the point that you have no time to work on the important things you need to do, it becomes a problem.
If you want to create more time in your life to focus on your finances, your relationships, learning new skills, or whatever else you want to improve, the first thing you have to do is learn how to say no. Sure, it’s great to help everyone, go out with all of your friends, and to enroll your kids in lots of enriching activities. But when you’re constantly on the go, it’s not only exhausting, it deprives you of the time you need to accomplish other things. Say no to one or two things a week and use the time to work on your finances.
The second thing you need to do is to figure out where the rest of your time is going. We all have time sucks in our lives. It may be the TV, the computer, the phone, the gaming system, Target, or the shopping mall. These are the things we often do mindlessly and then we look up and wonder how it got to be so late. Try keeping a log of how you spend your hours for a week. If you find that you’re spending too much time in a time suck, become conscious of it and work to minimize it. Use the time you free up for better things.
In most cases, the fact that you are overly busy is correctable. You just have to understand where your times is going and decide to use that time differently. Sure, your kids might complain when you drop them down from six activities to two. The school might complain when you don’t volunteer to (yet again) make all the costumes for the school play. Your friends might be disappointed when you limit yourself to monthly outings instead of weekly. But you know what? They’ll all get over it. Chances are it will be forgotten very quickly. You might miss a few TV shows or a few Tweets or status updates, but which is more important? Updating your Facebook status or making five phone calls that end up saving you $500 on your auto insurance? For the most part, you choose how to spend your time and if you want to accomplish big things, other things have to go.