“I am too busy at the moment. I don’t have time for this. I have a lot going on. I am not good at including such activities.”
I often hear some version of this response in conversations with people, especially mothers when we talk about reading a book, joining a program, making space for a new or long-lost hobby, female friendships, or rather anything that doesn’t involve the family or can’t go directly on the resume.
And, I deeply understand the tension and have been in many seasons myself where a single new soulful or nourishing activity can feel overwhelming to my nervous system even though that may be the precise season to meditate or move more. And more importantly, there are seasons when you are so deep into caregiving for a sick child or parent or navigating a life-threatening condition yourself, processing a layoff, or managing a cross-country move that even the first few lines of this post can feel insensitive.
And I fully respect that. If you are in that season, you are welcome to delete this email right now or switch to reading something else.
However, if you are not in that season and notice that there may be a pattern where something piques your interest and you default to “not having time”, this post could be meaningful to you…
When we say we don’t have time for something, it also means that “thing” is not a priority right now. And we are often so quick to dismiss anything that can nourish ourselves because we have been conditioned that our primary responsibility is giving to everyone at all costs or else we are not worthy. So many of us are conditioned to believe that our worth is all about what we do on the outside not what we are on the inside so making time for anything that connects us back to ourselves, deepens our self-awareness, or makes room for joy and play is an indulgence. It’s a luxury reserved for a select few or rather we have to earn it (cue: retirement)
But it doesn’t have to be that way. When we take some space to create room to nurture and nourish our own presence as humans, as mothers, and as leaders, we have a greater capacity to be more effective in all that we do in simple but powerful ways. It is not often simple or easy and takes a lot of conscious effort not just in terms of making time but uncovering what unhelpful beliefs or narratives we may be carrying about time, our worthiness, and our reasons for existence on this planet.
I am offering a three-part framework for looking at this more clearly for yourself.
- How is your time being spent in integrity with your values & priorities?
The next time, you are drawn to something, say trying a new exercise class or reading a book a friend recommended and you find yourself saying that you don’t have time, take a moment to ask yourself
- What’s important about the book, exercise, or activity you are considering? What value are you honoring by staying curious about it? What is the real resistance and what stories (if any) are you (or your inner critic) making about this activity?
- Then look at your to-do list, and your calendar for the week, and think about what on your list isn’t aligning with your values. Is there something that can be swapped out that isn’t adding meaning to your day?
- How much of your time is spent on the “shoulds” or on “autopilot”?
Another common pattern that I find is there are hidden pockets of time spent on the shoulds. Think about something that you do that feels exhausting or depleting. Notice if there is a belief that a “good mother” always does X because you have internalized a belief carried by your own mother, a mother you respect, or others in your community but are now realizing that it doesn’t fully serve you.
Or perhaps, you had signed up for running a meeting at work a while back but it likely no longer serves its intended purpose but things are just running on autopilot. Where are you noticing patterns of auto-pilot that can benefit from some intentional energy?
- How is perfection coming in the way?
And finally, are you having a voice that says you are only allowed to try or commit if you can show up as your 110%? If you can’t finish a book in a week or month, you are not allowed to pick it up. If you can’t show up to an exercise class 3 times a week, why bother?
Are there areas where showing up is still worthy of celebration regardless of the milestones, timeline, and frequency?
The next time you feel drawn to something, I hope you will pause and ask yourself some of these questions before defaulting to not having enough time. What is the smallest expression of that longing that you can make room for in a current season? How can you value yourself and give permission to honor your curiosity and not let self-sabotaging stories around worthiness hold you back?