The myth of ‘no time’

“I don’t have time!”

“I wish I had more time.”

“There are so many things I’d like to do if I just had a little more time.”

“If I only had a little more time I would get to that project.”

Have you said anything like that before? Of course you have! Who hasn’t? We all have the thought going through our minds that we don’t have time for everything. And we don’t.

Most of the time I find that when I’m floundering with the thoughts of not having enough time I am actually accomplishing very little. That is one reason I’m so frustrated. I get to the end of the day and wonder what I did. As a mom with young children I can easily convince myself I have no time at all, when in reality I’m just not being observant and using bits of time that come up in the day.

There are three main things that have helped me get a better grip on my time. And, trust me, I’m still working on this!


We must remember that we can’t do everything. We can’t do the playgroup, music lessons, ballet, book club, story time at the library, church events, work, an involved project or goal, an exercise routine, dinner with friends, quality time with our spouse and children, etc, and still expect to keep our homes picked up, our children educated, our lives in order, and relationships thriving.

We just can’t do it. You have to choose. I’m the first one to tell you that this is often extremely difficult. Because we are usually having to choose between good things. But you must choose.

I would encourage you to sit down and write down your activities and priorities. Get out a sheet of paper and write out five categories.

  • Non-negotiable: Absolutely this must happen.
  • Would be really nice: I would really, really like to do this if at all possible.
  • I’d like it: It’s nice, but I’m not going to stress our family out just to fit in in.
  • Not important: It really isn’t that important to me.
  • Long term goal: Do you have a long term goal that isn’t in your weekly schedule, but you’d like to work on it…someday? Write it down.

Go ahead. Get started right now as things are coming to mind. You’ll add things in as you think of them. Be very specific both about the things you are doing and the things you wish you had time for. You might be surprised at how many things you are doing that actually fall squarely in the “Not important” or “I’d like to” categories. There are probably minutes and days that you can free up if you really think through your activities and days like this. And you might even be surprised about a few things that are in your “wish list” that when you actually write it don’t aren’t all that important to you.

It is amazing how clarifying just putting things on paper can be. It will help you readjust your schedule to really accomplish your priorities for your family. It will help you say no to some things so you can make room for some of those things that are higher up on the priority list. It will give you direction as you fill up the calendar and your days. Be sure and stick to your guidelines to avoid over commitment. 

Whether you are a stay at home mom or a working mom this is an important step. I found that I was flitting away valuable minutes or committing to activities without even realizing that they really weren’t important to me or accomplishing my goals. Now that I am adding homeschooling to the mix this is more important than ever. I have to prioritize, or time will get away with me.

Break down projects into small steps

Now, back to that goal you have, but aren’t finding the time for. You know the one. The one that is always nagging you, but you keep shoving it back because there just isn’t time. Maybe you have several. Just pick one. Whatever the goal or project is write it down. Share it with your spouse. Maybe a friend, too, if that will motivate you.

Now write down underneath that goal 5 small steps that you can take toward reaching that goal. Make the steps very small and manageable. De-clutter one drawer, write one page, run one mile, spend 20 minutes researching. Don’t just think about it. Actually write it down.

I’m working on a couple of more involved projects right now. When I look at the big picture I usually start thinking there is no way I have time for this. But when I break it down into small steps I can usually find 15 or 20 minutes here and there to work on it.

It may seem terribly little and insignificant at the time, but those little steps add up to something pretty significant after just a short while.

Focused attention

Oh the difficulty of focusing our attention on one thing! I am trying to teach my son how to focus right now, and I find I actually have quite a lot of trouble myself. The value of writing down your priorities and then writing down a few small steps to achieve a bigger goal is so helpful to focus.

When I have only a few minutes and I see one of my small goals staring me in the face, suddenly I don’t want to waste time on Facebook or surfing the internet. I want to focus so that I can accomplish that one small thing. The busier you are, whether it is will little ones demanding your attention or outside work responsibilities, the more you need to capitalize on focused attention.

I can get quite a lot done in fifteen minutes if I’m focused. The kitchen cleaned, a load of laundry folded and put away, the bills paid, the floor vacuumed, books put on hold at the library, etc. Or, 15 minutes of focused attention toward reaching a more involved goal.

So, back to the “no time” dilemma. You don’t have time for it all. But you do have time for the most important things. It sometimes means making hard choices. It sometimes means breaking down bigger projects into small, manageable steps. And it sometimes means just turning our attention and focusing on something.

What are your best strategies for making sure you have time for the most important things?



  1. I was just thinking about this last night. My boys were trying to clean their room before the kitchen timer went off. They kept running into the kitchen and squealing when they would see how much time had gone down. “Only 2 minutes left!” Then, they would fret and run around, never actually picking up toys. I think I do the same thing some days.

  2. Great advice, Johanna!

  3. Good tips. I find prioritizing to be the biggest one. If we try to do too much we simply won’t have time to do it all! I also like to remember that productivity comes in waves and seasons. Some days look less productive than others but are equally important and productive in the long run (days spent cuddling with little ones for instance).

    • Totally agreed…days spent cuddling are some of the most productive days ever.. Productivity comes in many different shapes.

  4. Have you read Getting Things Done? I’ve been thinking back to that book a lot recently, and your post was a great reminder of some of my specific takeaways that I’ve been trying to re-implement. (I read the book with only one child–how did I think I was busy then?!?)

    Just last night Andy and I were talking, and I was mentioning a few areas in our life that still desperately need more simplification (basement storage, new craft supplies, old picture organization) and used the “no time” comment. We did realize that we might actually have a full free Saturday this week to jumpstart a few projects, Lord willing! (Though I’m holding those plans loosely as well!!) Thanks for the needed reinforcement this morning!

    • Oh, I do hope your Saturday stays free. I know what you mean… I treasure those days when there is nothing on the calendar to get a few projects going!

      I haven’t read that book, but I’ve heard of it. And, yes…I was just saying to Brian this week, “What did I do when I only had one child?” Lol–I know I thought I was so busy 😉

  5. Any tips on how to teach this to children? I’ve tried setting the timer but as Kelly pointed out above, they just seem to be stressed by that and end up making more of a mess as they throw things around in attempt to clean up or make their bed or do their schoolwork, etc. My children are young- 7, 4, 2 1/2, and 7 months(I don’t expect her to do much on her own 😉 but I was astonished this morning to realize it took us an hour to simply get dressed and eat breakfast! I lay their clothing out beforehand so it’s not a problem of them choosing- they’re just poky. I understand that they’re young but I don’t want this to be a lifelong habit for them. Thanks for the great posts. Keep em coming!

    • I use the timer for cleaning up. I haven’t tried it for anything else. I do really short times, between 4 and 7 minutes max. I also give them something specific (like clean up the blocks, then do the cars…). This seems to help them focus. We generally do it together so I can help them stay focused but I have found, too, that when it is any longer, they constantly run back to check how much time is left.

      As far as the mornings, I think we are pretty slow too. In part that is because I take a laid back approach first thing in the morning. My kids are up by 7 so I don’t feel a need to rush them getting ready. But I know what you mean about not wanting to start bad habits… Hmmm. As more kids start school that will also be more of a problem than it is now with just one.

  6. Love the prioritizing list. Something came up for this Friday that would be very fun for me, but it’s during Rose’s ballet class. I wanted to grumble, but then I remembered keeping her in strengthening classes is one of our very important/long-term goals. that’s why we fit the pool in every week too! This will help with other things I’ve been wanting to get done, too. thank you!

  7. I love the 5 priority categories. Succinct and practical.

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