A Time-Management Tip from the 1st Century
Time-management is a challenge for many of us.
Day after day I hear the lament from clients, colleagues, family, and friends about the struggle to fit in all the things they are committed to, want to, or more often than not, feel obliged to do.
As much as we try to structure and control the things around us, two things we really have no control over are:
- The passing of time
- The length of our lives.
Whether we like it or not, each day will come and go at the same pace, and none of us knows which day in the self-regulating cycle will be our last one.
We know this—but somehow these self-evident facts escape us. We still fill our days with “to-do lists” and activities that often have no meaning to us. We busy ourselves with the “shoulds” we create or learn, worry about things that in the end are insignificant, and in the midst of all of this doing, we complain that there just isn’t enough time.
We just don’t have enough time.
“If only we could manage the time we have more effectively”, we lament. We look for tips and techniques to do so.
We rationalize this state of affairs as the product of our complex times, the need to make a living, and all the advanced technology we have created for ourselves.
These might be good excuses—until we look back in time at the same issue. If we go all the way back to the first century AD– the Roman philosopher and tutor of emperor Nero, Seneca, wrote extensively on this very dilemma and topic. (That was over 2000 years ago—mind you.)
In his long essay “On the Shortness of Life”, Seneca writes the following:
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing.
So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”
So what was Seneca’s time-management advice back then?
“You must match time’s swiftness with your speed in using it, and you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flow…
Just as travelers are beguiled by conversation or reading or some profound meditation, and find they have arrived at their destination before they knew they were approaching it; so it is with this unceasing and extremely fast-moving journey of life, which waking or sleeping we make at the same pace — the preoccupied become aware of it only when it is over.”
In a nutshell—he points out how much time we waste involved in and doing meaningless things.
He reminds us that our time is a precious commodity, and how we spend each and every moment counts. He urges us to find what is really meaningful to us—and make those endeavors the priorities of our existence.
As I rediscovered his writings last week, I was reminded that time is not a series of tomorrows, but is about what is happening right now. Time management is not a list of techniques, but is rather a series of choices that only you can make for yourself. No-one’s tips will slow time down, and no-one’s advice will define how you decide to spend your moments.
So today’s post is not about giving more time-management tips—but rather to a pose a few questions to remind us all to pause and think about the choices we are making with our most precious, fleeting, and limited resource.
How are you using the moments of this one precious life you have?
Are your priorities in alignment with what is most meaningful to you?
What changes do you need to make today?
Send me a note with your thoughts and comments. I love hearing them…