"…time is highly elastic. We cannot make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we choose to put into it.” – Laura Vanderkam, How to Gain Control of Your Free Time
Finding – no, Making the Time
You’re busy – we get it. Between working 40, 50, 60 (?) hours a week, getting in your 30+ minutes of exercise, keeping the house clean, grocery shopping, finding some sort of time for a social life, and jamming in whatever amount of time you have left to sleep – you just don’t have the time to learn a new skill. Sound familiar? We bet.
We idolize this idea of busyness equaling productivity, and culture further perpetuates this kind of thinking. It’s all about the hustle, the grind, the can’t stop, won’t stop mentality. So we fill our days with things that make us feel “busy”, and we walk around with this idea that because we’re so “busy”, we’re important. And when we’re not, when we take a second or a few hours to pause, we’re binging Netflix or mindlessly scrolling through our phones or just sleeping because we’re so burnt out.
The research tells a different story though.
Studies show that we’re not all that busy after all. On average people spend 2.8 hours a day watching the television. Women spend an average of 4.9 hours doing leisurely activities daily and men spend 5.7. Now we’re not suggesting you abandon your leisure time and fill it with all work, no play – but be careful when you say you don’t have the time. Because the research shows you do.
Washington Post reporter Brigid Schulte set out to figure out this why in her book entitled “Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time”. She theorizes that we spend most of our days thinking about the things that we have to do, instead of doing them. “Schulte terms this the ‘mental tape-loop phenomenon,’ and she argues that it’s sapping our precious energies, so that we can’t even ‘decide what to think about, worrying about home stuff at work and work stuff at home.’“ She argues “…that ‘the overwhelm’ is a function not so much of how many things Americans have to do but of how much time they spend thinking about how many things they have to do.” In doing so, we sabotage our days – thinking we are “so busy” when in reality we’re spending most of our time just thinking about what it is we should be doing, and then not doing it.
So it’s not about finding the time to learn a new skill. It’s about making the time. It’s about prioritizing learning. Instead of saying you “don’t have the time”, try saying “it’s not a priority”. This is not a suggestion to cut back on everything you love so that you can spend two hours a day at your local community college. There will still be plenty of hours in the day to binge the new season of American Crime Story. But if some of the most successful CEOs, celebrities, and influencers in the world have time to learn – so do you. We all get the same 24 hours. What you choose to do with your 24 is up to you.
You don’t find time to learn, you make the time. You make it top of the list. You schedule it into your day like you would your dentist appointment or dinner with a friend. It doesn’t need to take up a full two hours – it can be thirty minutes of your day. It can be as simple as listening to a lecture or podcast during your commute or starting a course on Coursera or Skillshare. If you want to learn a new skill, you just have to begin. Make it top of the list and grow your skills so you can grow your career.