In his book, On the Shortness of Life, Seneca talks of the scarcity of our most precious resource: time.
“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.”
If we are not living life to its fullest extent then he supposes the reasons may be as follows;
1. Greedy Activity
2. Dedication to useless tasks
3. Drinking or drugs
5. Worrying what other people think of you
6. Self imposed servitude to thankless people
7. Pursuing other peoples money (making someone else rich) or worrying about your own
8. Going after no fixed goal being tossed about by ever changing plans and a shifting fickleness.
The reasons for failure it seems transcend time and culture.
Time being the ultimate resource, Seneca talks about the importance of managing where your time is spent.
- Stop being so liberal with your time
- Who are you giving your time to?
- How many people are you dividing up your time amongst?
- Be frugal with your time. If you are reading a bad book or watching a bad movie, you can simply stop and invest that time elsewhere.
When making the most of your time, you have to maintain focus. The idea of focus is a hallmark of successful people. When Bill Gates first met Warren Buffett, their host asked everyone around the table to identify what they believed was the single most important factor in their success through life. Gates and Buffett gave the same one-word answer - “Focus.”
- Seneca maintains, “The mind when distracted absorbs nothing deeply”
- You can not be preoccupied, you must engage in the task at hand.
- The greatest focus is learning how to live. This takes your whole life
Go after your big picture goals
Some final takeaways from this book;
- Most people put off things they know should be done now because they assume they will always be there.
- Live in the now. Not for retirement
- Remember mortality at all times.
- Putting things off is the biggest waste of life.
- The greatest obstacle of living is expectancy (of the future)
- Do not put off for tomorrow what you can do today.
- Live immediately and go towards your goals.
- Become Friends with the dead; Read the books of the great leaders of our time
- Think about what you did yesterday. How much of it was pointless?
- Pick your long term goal or major outcome and work towards it.
What is one thing you could do better when it comes to making the most of your time?