Here’s a simple reminder for the week. Every moment matters.
Time passes. We simply need to make sure we live our lives every single day…every single moment. How do we do this?
1- Breathe. All the time.
2- Notice life happening. The sun, the birds, the people around you.
3- Just be with yourself.
Make sure you do what matters. We are busy. Make sure what you are doing matters. All day every day
Embrace our mortality. We live more when we understand and accept that the life we live is not ours forever, and that someday we will peris. We can learn to value things more and make every moment we spend in our lives count.
Be present today.
Each small moment matters. They add up, slowly but surely defining the kind of life you build. What will yours look like?
The Illusion of Time Management
Ancient Lessons on Living a Meaningful Life
By: J.W. Bertolotti | Published on September 9, 2021
Much has been written throughout history about time. In one of Seneca’s letters, he explained that it’s not that we have a short amount of time, but that we waste much of it.
This piece explores the connection between time and living a meaningful life.
The Productivity Trap
The Oxford dictionary defines time-management as — “the ability to use one’s time effectively or productively.”
I ask then, what tasks constitute an “effective or productive” use of time? How do we know when we have finally achieved the elusive goal of effectively utilizing our time?
In the new book, 4,000 Weeks Oliver Burkeman explains: “Productivity is a trap, becoming more efficient just makes you more rushed, and trying to clear the decks simply makes them fill up again faster.”
Most advice on productivity promises that it will help you get everything important done — but that’s not realistic. Burkeman suggests, it’s better to begin from the assumption that tough choices are inevitable and focus on making them wisely.
Henry David Thoreau asked this critical question:
“It is not enough to be busy. The question is: What are we busy about?”
Avoiding the busyness of life may not be avoidable. But ensuring our busyness aligns with what truly matters is within our grasp. The legendary coach John Wooden would say, “never mistake activity for achievement.”
The Shortness of Life
There is no debate on the passing of time. “Time is a sort of river of passing events,” wrote Marcus Aurelius, “no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place…”
In On the Shortness of Life, Seneca stressed, “The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control and abandoning what lies in yours.”
The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.
Similar to Seneca’s point, Burkeman writes: “The average human lifespan is absurdly, terrifyingly, insultingly short. But that isn’t a reason for ongoing despair… It’s a cause for relief. You get to give up on something that was always impossible — the quest to become the optimized, infinitely capable person you’re officially supposed to be. Then you get to roll up your sleeves and start work on what’s gloriously possible instead.”
This more profound realization of your finite time has the power to re-direct your focus towards what truly matters.
It Goes On
“As a day well-spent brings a happy sleep, a life well-lived brings a happy death.” — Leonardo Da Vinci
Later in life, the poet Robert Frost said: “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
The philosopher Montaigne suggested,
“To begin depriving death of its greatest advantage over us. adopt a way clean contrary to that common one; let us deprive death of its strangeness, let us frequent it, let us get used to it; let us have nothing more often in mind than death. We do not know where death awaits us: so let us wait for it everywhere.”
To practice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.
The practice of Memento Mori (or remembering you will die) is universal wisdom across ancient philosophies and spiritual traditions. According to William B. Irvine, the author of The Guide to the Good Life, the Stoics contemplate death periodically to get the most out of life. To clearly understand, their days are uncertain. Consequently, when it comes time to die, they will not feel cheated. On the contrary, since they have spent their days pursuing a life worth attaining, in the words of Musonius Rufus, they are “set free from the fear of death.”
There is no escaping the truths that life goes on, and at some point, we will all face our dance of death. However, we can let these truths shape our thoughts and actions as they did for Seneca:
Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.
“Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” Kierkegaard
- Becoming more productive with your time is not the goal. The point is to spend your time on the tasks that truly matter.
- Our lives are short; let that focus your attention on the present moment. As Seneca wrote, what hangs on tomorrow loses today.
- By embracing our mortality, we can begin to live in the uncertainty of life.
To quote Arthur Schopenhauer, “Ordinary people think merely of spending time, great people think of using it.”
How can you start using your time today?