The Most Insane Excuse: Finding time vs making time

Many years ago, I had a client who gave me the most insane excuse I’ve ever heard. Brace yourselves, because it’s a doozy.

They had started voice training with me whilst they were working a normal job. At some point they had decided to change career, but for a period of time chose not to work. So they were free as a bird from a normal 9-5 job. No job, not employed, no kids, some household responsibilities, but nothing contractually obligating them every hour of the day. About as free as one can get is my point.

A bit of context

Before we get into the story, a bit of background about how sessions work. The way sessions work is that I will start someone with a warmup exercise, and how this sits in their voice tells me where their voice is at on that day. This then helps direct me to the next appropriate vocal exercise, and so on. I generally have a strong imprint of where people are at vocally from one session to the next, but what I hear on that specific day is a big part of good training.

If someone’s voice has really moved forward since the last session (generally due to effective practice) then I can move ahead to more advanced tools and improve their voice quicker.

In contrast, if someone’s voice has not moved all that far (sometimes due to lack of practice, but can often be due to the general difficulty of physiological adaptation) then we often have to re-tread ground and refine the work.

The latter is totally fine, but that brings us neatly back to our story.

Back to the story

So this client was coming in every few weeks for four or five consecutive sessions, and their voice had not improved or changed one iota.

Such was their lack of change, no matter what I did in their sessions, we’d always get to the exact same points in their range, with exactly the same exercises being necessary… and we’d make no progress.

They clearly had done no practice, of any kind at all. Now I asked them if this was the case, and they confirmed it… then they gave me the world’s most insane excuse.

The difficulty is, it’s really hard to find the time when you’re unemployed“.

I sincerely hope that those of you reading these will empathise with my negative internal reaction to such a ridiculous statement. But of course, being the paragon of professionalism that I am, I didn’t fall about laughing.

Here’s the point I want to make…

We don’t find time, we make time

I have told this story to countless clients over the years, and you know which clients laugh the loudest? It’s the ones who work long shifts 6 days a week and have still diarised in 10-15 minutes to practice most days. It’s the ones who are directors of sometimes multiple companies, who still fit it in. Sometimes on their drive to work, or even whilst cooking in the kitchen. What’s that old adage, that “if you want something doing, give it to a busy person“?

This person really did have all the time in the world, yet they apparently couldn’t “find the time“. When it comes to doing things like practice, exercise, or cooking healthy meals… even with all that free time, you still don’t just find time lying around for given tasks, you have to MAKE the time. We have to set it aside and apportion it. This requires discipline at setting achievable goals, scheduling time in the diary, and sticking to those obligations. This is what builds strong and effective habits.

For example, for myself and the gym, I know I make more progress when I see a personal trainer consistently, so I see one every week Monday at 9am – whether I want to or not. Because I know I am seeing my trainer every week, and that it’s regular contact time with someone who knows what they are doing that drives progress, it takes the load off of me to do lots of “practice” in my own time. As such, I only need to schedule in one or two more self-managed sessions the rest of the week. Job done!

Instead, people often like to try and wing it, and hope (pray?) time appears for them. This is when we try to frame what is really a lack of discipline in making the time, as “I couldn’t find the time“. Truthfully, we’ve all done it, and it protects our egos from too much pain.

The “finding time” mentality implies that somehow you’ll just stumble on free time perfectly made for your purpose, like it’s sticking out of the earth, as if the universe itself knew you needed to fit this thing in. Sadly, any of us who have lived in reality for some time will realise, this isn’t how the world works.

It’s up to you

Whether one is employed, unemployed, or over-employed with multiple side gigs; part-time, full-time, retired, between jobs, or maybe fortunate enough to have a remarkably flexible job, it is up to each of us to make the time. Merely hoping that time appears isn’t a successful strategy, and of course this applies to all things, not just voice.

Whatever it is that strikes you after reading this, go and schedule it in. Build that habit and you’ll reap the rewards!

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