“When you get to the end, you will understand that you were very busy doing nothing,” Seneca warned many centuries ago. The Stoic philosopher was clear that time is the most precious asset we have, but we waste it without thinking too much about it.
Despite the weight of mortality that continually hangs over our heads, we live as if we were immortal. We prefer not to think about the end to exorcise our most atavistic fears. However, if we want to make good use of time and something meaningful in our life, we must keep in mind the famous Latin phrase that reminds us of our mortality: memento mori.
1. Do it now, don't let life go by
“Postponing things is the biggest waste of our life: it takes away us every day as soon as it arrives and denies us the present, promising us the future”, wrote Seneca. And he added: “as we waste our time doubting and procrastinating, life accelerates”.
We've all procrastinated at some point. But when it becomes the norm, when we continually put off important plans that could change our lives for the better, we have a problem because life doesn't wait.
Procrastination may be due to laziness, but in most cases it is rooted in fear of uncertainty. This is why Seneca reminds us that "luck has a habit of behaving as it wants", so waiting does not usually increase our chances of success, but only serves to accumulate more obstacles along the way.
The solution is to eliminate from our vocabulary the phrase: "I'll do it tomorrow" to get to work immediately. We just have to take the first step. Break the inertia. As Seneca advised: "hold on to today's tasks and you won't have to depend so much on tomorrow's tasks".
2. Value your time more than your possessions
If we saw a person burning money, we would think he is crazy. However, every day we waste minutes and hours, but we don't think we're crazy, even if time is our most precious asset.
Unlike money, which can be spent and recovered, time is a precious resource that we can never recover. Seneca said: “People are frugal in protecting their personal property; but when it comes to wasting time, they are the ones who waste the most the only thing worth being greedy for ”.
Redefine the value of time aware of its finitude is the first step to use it intelligently, manage it better and, above all, dedicate it to those things that are really worth or are significant in our life. One strategy to start evaluating time versus goods is to ask ourselves: how much time of my life should I devote to a job I don't like to buy this or that?
3. Reduce unnecessary worries
“A worried person cannot carry out any business successfully… For a worried man, living is the least important activity. However, there is nothing more important and difficult to learn than to live, ”said Seneca.
His words take on particular relevance today, at a time when we are subjected to an incessant flow of external stimuli that require our attention. Constantly pending from social commitments, screens, news, messages, work ... our agenda is full and we don't have a spare minute.
This creates the feeling that we are constantly busy doing very important things, but when at the end of the day we do the math, we find that we have done little that makes us happy or brings us closer to our goals.
The daily frenzy can trap us for years, while life eludes us. This is why it is important to rethink our daily life, trying to eliminate all unnecessary distractions and occupations that do not bring us anything to give space in our agenda to those activities that really contribute to our well-being or make us feel more full and alive.
4. Be relentless with what brings you nothing
If you want to make the most of your time, you need to learn to say "no". Seneca warned: “How devastated you have devastated your life because you did not know what you were missing, wasting it on senseless pains, stupid pleasures, greedy desires and social distractions. You will realize that you were dying ahead of time! ”.
To make good use of time we must learn to set ourselves limits. Some of these limits are aimed at others, at all those people who believe they have the right to use our time, charging us with responsibilities that do not belong to us. So, this means saying "no" to many of the things we are doing for others that they might be doing for themselves, as well as all those meaningless commitments, invitations and obligations.
But we must also learn to say "no" to ourselves. Establish limits so as not to waste precious time. It involves saying "no" to those emotional states that harm us and take away happy moments while we let ourselves be consumed by guilt, anger or resentment. If we are not careful, both social impositions and those emotional states will eventually expand to consume much of our life.
5. Don't make happiness conditional on achieving your goals
“It is inevitable that life is not only very short, but also very unhappy for those who acquire with great effort what they have to keep with even greater effort. They laboriously achieve what they want; they anxiously own what they have accomplished; and meanwhile they miss a time that will never come back. New concerns take the place of old ones, expectations raise more expectations and ambition more ambition ”, said Seneca.
In a culture that rewards constant effort and ever more ambitious goals, this stoic message can seem contradictory. But continuously pursuing new goals, never satisfied with the results achieved, only leads to a state of permanent anxiety and unhappiness.
One of Seneca's tips for making the most of your time is not to be too ambitious. As we pursue the new goals, time slips away. One goal always leads to another and leads us to think that happiness is in the achievement of each of them, in the result and not in the path. The solution is to readjust our expectations and ask ourselves how we can lead a more meaningful life in the here and now as we work towards achieving certain goals.
In any case, Seneca also warned that “we must not think that a man has lived for a long time because he has white hair and wrinkles: he has not lived long, he has only existed for a long time… the part of life we really live is small. Because all the rest of existence is not life, but simply time ”. The key to making good use of time is to turn empty minutes into meaningful minutes.