I Didn’t Have Time! (Is This The Real Issue?)

Time Management

Is “I Didn’t Have Time” the Real Issue When People Say They Didn’t Have Time to Complete Work Tasks?

In the fast-paced and demanding world of work, time management is often a crucial skill for success. As executives and managers strive to balance their responsibilities and meet deadlines, it’s not uncommon for me to hear the phrase, “I didn’t have time” from executives and managers who have not achieved their quarterly priorities.

This seemingly straightforward easy response suggests that individuals are overwhelmed by their workload and are unable to take on additional tasks. However, is this a genuine constraint or a convenient excuse? Is “I didn’t have time” the real issue when people say they did not complete work tasks?

We all have the same amount of available time in our lives –

Time is our most precious resource.

You can’t control Time …. but you can control Yourself …. And what you do with each moment of time.

The questions then, that need to be addressed are

  • What are you being paid to do?
  • How can you release as much discretionary time as possible?

To explore these questions, it’s important to delve into the root causes that contribute to this phrase being used so frequently. Time, after all, is a finite resource that everyone possesses in equal measure. So, what causes some individuals to feel that they lack the time necessary to complete their work effectively?

1. Poor Time Management

One of the primary reasons people might claim not to have time is poor time management. Procrastination, inefficient task prioritisation, and failure to set realistic goals can all lead to a sense of being overwhelmed and “running out of time.” In these cases, it is not a matter of having too few hours in the day, but rather a lack of effective planning and organisation.

2. Overloaded Schedules

Another common cause of the “I don’t have time” dilemma is an overloaded schedule. In today’s fast-paced work environment, it’s not uncommon for professionals to be juggling multiple projects, attending meetings, and dealing with a constant influx of emails and messages. This hectic pace can make it genuinely challenging to find additional time for new tasks, even if they are important.

3. Lack of Prioritisation

Sometimes, team members genuinely have a heavy workload, but they struggle to prioritise tasks effectively. They may spend excessive time on low-priority activities or get caught up in unproductive meetings or distractions. In such cases, it’s not that they don’t have time, but rather they struggle to allocate their time wisely.

4. Fear of Failure

It’s essential to consider the psychological factors that come into play when people say they don’t have time. Fear of failure or a lack of confidence in one’s abilities can be significant underlying reasons. By claiming a lack of time, individuals may avoid taking on new tasks or projects where they feel uncertain or inadequate, thus protecting themselves from potential failure.

5. Unrealistic Expectations

Finally, individuals may use the “I don’t have time” phrase to manage others’ expectations or to create a perception of being overloaded. They might fear that declining a task due to lack of time will be seen as a lack of commitment or dedication. By attributing their refusal to time constraints, they hope to avoid negative judgments or consequences.

While it is true that some individuals genuinely struggle with time constraints, it is equally important to acknowledge the role of personal responsibility and effective time management in addressing this issue. By examining and addressing the underlying causes mentioned above, individuals can overcome the barrier of “I don’t have time” and improve their productivity.

To address the issue, executives and managers should consider the following strategies:

1. Prioritise Tasks

Identifying and focusing on high-priority tasks can help team members allocate their time more effectively. This involves setting clear goals, understanding deadlines, and breaking larger tasks into manageable subtasks.

2. Improve Time Management Skills

Developing effective time management skills is crucial. Techniques such as creating schedules, setting time limits for specific tasks, and avoiding multitasking can enhance productivity and free up valuable time.

3. Delegate and Collaborate

Sometimes, the perception of not having time arises from a reluctance to delegate tasks or seek assistance. Learning to delegate and collaborate effectively can lighten individual workloads and create more time for important tasks.

4. Eliminate Time-wasting Activities

Identifying and eliminating time-wasting activities such as excessive social media use or unnecessary meetings can help individuals reclaim valuable time for more meaningful work.

5. Communicate and Set Boundaries

Open and honest communication with supervisors and colleagues is essential in managing workload effectively. Setting realistic expectations and boundaries can help individuals negotiate their time commitments and avoid overloading themselves with tasks.

I would assume that most of you (and certainly I have in previous CEO/Executive roles) attended ‘Effective Time Management’ courses that run for one half or a full day. You sit there taking copious notes on actions you intend to take when you get back to work. But what generally happens the next day at work – is you get sucked into the whirlwind, with little time to work out the root causes and very little counter measures implemented.

Our unique ‘Managing Your Time’ Process takes you through logging every one of your tasks for a period, categorizing them and then mapping out a current state (this is how you work out the root cause, before getting into solution mode) and then using the following frameworks; 4 part framework of eliminate, reduce, increase, & create, Love & Loathe framework, and 35 Time Bandit Busters to create and map out a future state. Then rinse and repeat every 6 months.

Here is a learning that I have picked up in many years of helping companies & executives – when executives have responded to a direct report that says “I didn’t have time!” to completing their priorities – and the executive or myself suggests that the direct report undertakes our ‘Managing Your Time’ exercise – around 20% of the direct reports (without doing the exercise) never bring up the lack of time issue again.

While it is tempting to accept the phrase “I didn’t have time” at face value, it is crucial to examine the underlying causes (many of those mentioned above) and develop counter measures. By taking responsibility for effective time management, team members can overcome this hurdle and improve their productivity, ultimately leading to greater professional success.

To Scale Up your business! Take our Scaling Up/Four Decisions Needs Assessment to discover how your business measures against other Scaled Up companies. We’ll contact you.

Strategy and Execution Business Advisors and Scaling Up Coaches in Brisbane & Australia


Need assistance to help your team achieve your objectives to grow your business? Contact me at tedb@strategyandexecution.com.au to schedule a free 30-minute discovery meeting.


We have been providing organisations and their leaders with facilitation support and executive education focused on strategy development and strategy execution for more than 20 years. Using business models such as Scaling Up, Exponential Organizations, E-Myth Mastery, Outthinker etc, we support organisations seeking to create or refine excellent strategies and execute them quickly and effectively.

Our expertise is based on a mixture of wide business experience, effective tools as well as a great deal of consulting and executive education. Our approach to working with clients is as unique as our specialist focus. We always seek to challenge our clients’ thinking – but equally are unafraid to roll up our sleeves and help execute the ideas we help generate. Learn more about us here or view our upcoming workshops and events.

If you are preparing for strategy development and/or a strategy implementation challenge and are committed to creating value for your organisation, we look forward to hearing from you. Contact us now