Oh! You don’t have time? I don’t either!
When I ask people who don’t read much as to why they don’t and I hear them say they don’t have the time to sit through an entire book and prefer reading articles online instead. When I ask people who don’t run or work out much as to why they don’t and I hear them say that they don’t have the time as their work takes up long hours. Why, ask yourself about the things you think you should but don’t and read on if your answer is that you don’t have the time.
While one aspect of not having time can be attributed to the task at hand not being an immediate priority, that is not the whole story. We end up not doing some things because the other thing that we do end up doing might be more rewarding at that moment. Like getting that one additional hour of sleep rather than go for a run. The other aspect, although hand in hand with the immediate prioritization issue, is one of patience.
A wealth of resources are available online to us, for free, and yet the drop-offs in online courses is huge, like this computer course offered by an Ivy League University that had a 99% drop-off. The drop-off rate for new music that people come across online is equally high. And so it is for articles, books, youtube videos, etc. It is even true for relationships on Tinder.
With a vast amount of resources available, we tend to skip to the next if the one we’re evaluating fails to hold our attention for a few seconds. How many songs have you skipped after the first few seconds? How many articles have you skipped after reading the title? How many books have you skipped after reading the description at the back?
The same phenomenon is at play while picking up a new habit. When we have been telling ourselves that we don’t have the time to do something and one day we make the time, likely because someone coerced us to (it can be someone online as well or some article that we read), we evaluate the returns on that first experience. That first play you watch feels so different and makes you feel that you’d rather stick to the familiarity of Netflix. Or the first dance class makes you feel that you’re better off avoiding the dance floor. Or that first long cycle ride makes you ache all over and give up on cycling.
And when the first experience isn’t at the highest level, isn’t awesome, which it is unlikely to be by sheer probability, we end up confirming our original thought that we don’t have the time for this.
Over the past few years, I have picked up several habits and have given up on several habits. And it hasn’t always been easy doing that. Like giving up playing football regularly after doing it on a daily basis for several years.
When you feel like you don’t have the time for things you think you ought to be doing, it is not enough to just make time for the first trial, but it is equally important to have the patience to objectively evaluate it. It shouldn’t be the equivalent of listening to a new song for a few seconds before deciding it’s not worth your time.