I Don’t Have Time…Most of the Time

October 26, 2012

Have you ever said “I don’t have time for XYZ”? If you said no you are liar or a very special person. I have said this many times, to myself, my co-workers and my wife. What does “I don’t have time” really mean? I think it means either “I don’t care about that right now” or “I’m not doing that”.

I use “I don’t have time” when my wife asks me to cut the lawn or empty the dishwasher or paint the bathroom or [INSERT CHORE HERE]. I also used this excuse at the last SEP start up weekend. A teammate of mine suggested that I merge his changes with my copy of the code. I said “Kyle I DON’T HAVE TIME to rebase!” What I really meant was “That’s nice! But I am in the middle of something right now. Stop bothering me.” (sorry Kyle). “I don’t have time” seemed like a nicer way of saying that.

However, when I run out of fresh homebrew I always have time to brew a fresh batch. I also find time to watch my favorite TV shows such as Big Bang Theory and Vegas. Kind of funny how that works. I find time to do things that are fun but run out of time when asked to do things that are not so fun.
What are the consequences of not having time? When I put off my chores around the house then they pile up and it takes me longer to do each chore. For example if I put off cutting the lawn and it grows really long. Then I will need to cut it twice to get it to a reasonable length. If I put off cleaning the bathroom then it gets dirtier and tougher to clean, therefore it will take me longer. At startup weekend when I put off merging my changes with Kyle, two other guys and I spent an hour trying to figure out how to merge his changes with mine. Putting something off that is painful or not fun compounds the pain.

What can I do about this? One solution is to take the pain as it comes. At startup weekend I should have merged the changes as soon as after Kyle had suggested it. This would have saved us a bunch of time in the long run, even if I did think it was an inconvenience at the time.

Another approach I use is scheduling time to complete the pain/task. At the beginning of the week I make a list of the chores I want to complete during the work week. Then set a goal of spending 1 hour per day to complete my chores. Before the weekend I make goals of what chores to complete and give myself a 2-4 hour window of time in the morning to work on them. After the window is up, I finish up what I am doing and continue the rest of my day doing fun things. The chores that do not get done get pushed off until the following week. When the next week starts are reprioritize what needs to be done and repeat the process.

I encourage you to try my approaches to dealing with painful tasks at home or at work. Delaying the pain always compounds it. Using a systematic approach for dealing with pain makes it more manageable.