Too much time on her hands

“Where do you find the time to do that?” That’s what I often hear from people when I talk about blogging, social networking, or anything outside their current habits. I’ve also heard this as “I don’t have the time to even learn about that,” or even “In order to follow that advice, you have to have a REALLY good job where you don’t have to do any real work.” They’re all variations on the “Too much spare time on his hands” put-down dissected by Cory Doctorow in his excellent blog post.

Too much time on my hands. I’ve heard that a lot. People use it as a convenient excuse to dismiss what I’m saying, to not take action, to not think about what they’re currently doing and what they can do better. And that’s okay–as long as they’re being intellectually honest about their excuse.

When I handle this question at my presentations, I usually show that all the activities I talk about can be salami-sliced into things that people are already doing. Spent two hours searching for how to solve a problem? Spend another two or three minutes posting the solution on your blog so that you can remember it and so that you can teach others. Reviewing the previous week and planning the next one? Blog about it as a way of sharing your progress.

People who understand the principle of relentless improvement (kaizen) and are interested in something will almost automatically find those slices. People who want to learn something but who don’t know how to get started will find those slice suggestions useful. People who think it’s a waste of time will shake their heads and say things like “She has too much time on her hands.”

Clay Shirky made an excellent point about spare time and what people choose to do with them. Here’s an excerpt from one of his presentations about Wikipedia and cognitive surplus:

[The television producer] heard this story [about Wikipedia] and she shook her head and said, “Where do people find the time?” That was her question. And I just kind of snapped. And I said, “No one who works in TV gets to ask that question. You know where the time comes from. It comes from the cognitive surplus you’ve been masking for 50 years.”

Clay Shirky, Gin, Television, and Social Surplus

Too much spare time on my hands? =) We all have moments when we don’t have to do anything. People can spend that time watching television or indulging vices, or people can do something that helps them and helps other people. As long as people are happy with the way they spend their time and the consequences of their choices, then they’re fine. But if they use “I don’t have the time for that” as an excuse to avoid thinking about how they spend their time, then that’s their decision.

It’s not about having time. It’s about choosing how to spend time. I’m still learning how to do so, and I think I’ll always need to learn more and more about the best use of my time. But I’m pretty happy with the way I spend time – there’s always more to do, but I’m pretty good at doing good things. When I hear other people say, “She has too much time on her hands”, I hear it as less of a statement about me and more of a statement about them.

How about you? How do you feel about time?

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