Many people wish that they had more time to do the things they want to. But how do we prioritize what we need to do and what’s important to us? According to Laura Vanderkam, language may be the key.
In her Wall Street Journal article, she suggests that instead of saying, “I don’t have the time to _______,” say, “It’s not a priority to _______.”
So if you say something like, “It’s not a priority to go shopping with you right now,” and it makes you feel comfortable, you’ve made the right choice.
But instead of saying, “I don’t have the time to go to the doctor,” you tell yourself, “It’s not a priority to go to the doctor,” and you fee uncomfortable saying it, then you know that it’s time to make time.
Vanderkam’s trick really demonstrates how language affects the patterns of our behavior. Using the negative “don’t” and the word “time” feeds into our narratives of stress, overwork, and impatience. And when we’re caught in the middle juggling multiple commitments, this narrative is a dangerous one to fall into. So we use our narrative of overwork to make excuses for not doing the things that are most important to us. These important tasks then fall unseen between the piles of work that we have, until they resurface a few weeks or months later in the form of guilt.
When you use the word ‘priority’, your mind immediately focuses on what’s important to you. That’s when you see the activity in question as falling into a hierarchy of things that matter. And that’s why Vanderkam’s trick works – because you understand whether or not that activity is all that important to you.
Sometimes the simplest change of words can have a profound impact on the way we think about ourselves. When you translate this into influencing customers and stakeholders, the power of words becomes even more apparent.
Comments or questions are welcome.