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What Does 'I Don't Have Time to Try This' Really Mean?

A few days ago I was reading Will Richardson’s post The Next Generation of Teachers on how often “yeah, but” excuses can be heard from young, still to-be teachers when it comes to the usage of educational technologies. I think this isn’t common just among educators (young or old), but it’s something we often have to deal with when presenting a new technology/service/tool to somebody. One of the very popular excuses in these cases sounds something like this: “Yeah, it sounds great, BUT I don’t have time to try this right now”. How often did you heard that reply? From colleagues, friends, family that you were just trying to help by presenting this really amazing new tool that you find soooo useful and is making part of your life easier, more enjoyable or more efficient. Sure, sometimes we just are too busy to even know our own name, but I often get the feeling that not-having-enough-time is just a handy excuse to avoid the usage of a new tool. Being busy is always an acceptable way out, right?
So, I often wonder what “I don’t have time to try this” really means - especially when the presented tool isn’t so demanding that it would require weeks of intensive training, but perhaps just an hour of a person’s time, and especially when the tool at hand is really intended to save time (for example RSS feeds). Let me share with you three (in my opinion and experience) of the most popular hidden meanings of not-having-enough-time and some ideas on how to avoid getting the “I don’t have time” excuse or on how to deal with it:

When I say that I don’t have time to try the tool you’re presenting, I in fact…

… don’t understand why I should use this tool.
Translation: The person you are talking to doesn’t see a personal benefit in using the tool you’re presenting; therefore he/she sees the tool as a waste of his/her time.

Possible solutions: When trying to get somebody hooked up on a new tool because you just know he/she could greatly benefit from it, use some empathy. Get to know the person, his/her needs, problems with similar existing solutions and use that knowledge during your presentation. Show the features that are relevant to the person you’re presenting to. (example: If somebody presented Second Life to me as just a new game, I wouldn’t be interested in checking it out - instead I decided to join because I read articles and personal reports from educators about how SL can be used for education.) When presenting listen to small clues (often hidden in questions) that might show that you’re not presenting the tool in a relevant way.

… think I understand what this tool is about, but it seems so hard to use.
Translation: The person can see some of the benefits of the tool you’re presenting, but to him/her the tool just seems too difficult to use; he/she thinks he/she doesn’t have the appropriate skills to be able to use it or that getting to know the tool would require a lot of training - therefore a lot more time the person is willing to dedicate to get the benefits of the tool.

Possible solutions: When presenting the tool also present the steps required to get started with the tool. Show the person simple (and if possible support) tutorials that can be used for beginners. If possible offer personal tutoring and support for the initial steps (example: “I’ll help you create an account on Flickr and we’ll upload your picture together”), but try to make the person comfortable in using the tool on his/her own or you might get called each time the person will need the tool ;) (example: “See, it’s easy. Now you can try this on your own. I’ll help you if needed.”)

… don’t want to change the way I’m doing things at the moment!
Translation: The person is most bothered by the change the new tool might cause in his/her life. One of the fears might also be that the new tool will demand more of a person’s attention; therefore it seems easier to say one doesn’t have time to try doing things another way. Why change if the way I’m doing things works just fine?

Possible solutions: This case is perhaps the most difficult to solve. You might be dealing with a person that just doesn’t like change - period. In some cases resistance to change might be a symptom of insecurities. In this case you could always try to present the tool in a relevant way and offer your help (just as described above), but that might not always work. In these cases it is perhaps better to retreat. After all, not every exciting new tool is meant to be accepted by everyone. But if the time comes when the tool you failed to present successfully becomes so popular that it can’t be avoided anymore, you can always come back to the person and use the strategies presented above to help the person make the change.

In my opinion the keywords when dealing with new tools are relevance and support. Try to find what the person really needs and shape your presentation according to the person’s needs. We aren’t very good at changing our habits because somebody tells us to, but we are willing and capable of great change when we decide the change is needed and know exactly how to make it happen.

Finally, I would really like to hear your opinion on the not-having-enough-time excuse. How do you deal with it when you can tell it’s just an excuse with a hidden meaning? What are in your opinion other common hidden meanings of this excuse? And what do you do to help people find the time to try something new?

Originally published at http://ialja.blogspot.com/2007/03/what-does-i-dont-have-time-to-try-this.html