How many times have you wanted to do something only to realize that you’re probably way too busy and just don’t have time for it? If you’re a working professional, you more than likely have enough on your plate that finding an extra hour or two in your day to do something productive and fulfilling can be a real challenge.

But what if we told that it doesn’t have to be like that. What if we told you that our perceived lack of time is just another way of us saying “I don’t want to do that”? Laura Vanderkam, a successful author and time management expert, addresses this very question in her excellent TED talk video where she effectively shatters the “I don’t have time for that” myth, arguing that we can always find time to do anything, as long as we prioritize. Let’s take a look.

It’s hard to argue with Laura’s broken heater example, which she uses to illustrate the idea that time is flexible or elastic. There’s no way we can somehow make more if it, but under the right circumstances we will always find a way to carve out a few hours and adapt to the demands of the situation. In the end, it’s not really about us having no time to do something. It’s about us choosing to do something else instead.

Time is a Choice

This might sound harsh, but it needs to be said – it’s not about your lack of time, it’s about what you choose to do with it. So if you’d like to truly gain control of your free time, the first thing you’ll need to do is come to terms with the fact that what you do with it is always a choice. And to every choice there are consequences. Not all of them are as drastic as Laura’s broken water heater example of course, but they all add up to that feeling of not having any free time to do anything.

It really is that simple if you think about it. You do have time, you just need to learn how to prioritize and manage your tasks in a way that it always comes down to a conscious decision on your part – “today I’m doing X instead of Y, because X is more important”. Needless to say, you should have a very clear understanding of which things can be sacrificed in favor of others, and which shouldn’t. You can choose to stare at your phone on the subway, or you can read a chapter of that book you’ve been meaning to get to. You can spend your Friday night in front of the TV watching your favorite show, or you can update your resume. The choice is yours. And only once you start treating it as a flexible resource will you truly gain control of your time.

Just remember not to get carried away. Allow yourself some downtime to rest and unwind – sometimes going to bed an hour earlier instead of sitting down to do your taxes is a better choice. Non-stop productivity is a great thing, but only up to a certain point. And while being able to do more things with your time is a fantastic feeling, it’s not worth much if it comes at the cost of cancelled plans, constant stress and burnout.