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Stop Wasting Time: A Philosopher's Guide

"On the Shortness of Life" is a moral essay by Seneca, a Roman philosopher. His insights gave me a deep appreciation for my time in this world, and has changed my perspective in life.


Check out these eye-opening and life-changing quotations, and how you can use them to protect your 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."


"People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy."


"You are living as if destined to live forever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply — though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire… How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end! How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!"


Try this:

  • Do not squander time! Protect it. It is your most valuable resource.
  • Audit your life to gain clarity. Think about the things that matter and the things that don't -- do the former and forget the latter.
  • Set goals and prioritize.


"No activity can be successfully pursued by an individual who is preoccupied … since the mind when distracted absorbs nothing deeply, but rejects everything which is, so to speak, crammed into it. Living is the least important activity of the preoccupied man; yet there is nothing which is harder to learn… Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die."


"Everyone hustles his life along, and is troubled by a longing for the future and weariness of the present. But the man who organizes every day as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day… Nothing can be taken from this life, and you can only add to it as if giving to a man who is already full and satisfied food which he does not want but can hold."


"So you must not think a man has lived long because he has white hair and wrinkles: he has not lived long, just existed long. For suppose you should think that a man had had a long voyage who had been caught in a raging storm as he left harbor, and carried hither and thither and driven round and round in a circle by the rage of opposing winds? He did not have a long voyage, just a long tossing about."


Try this:

  • Stay focused and avoid distractions.
  • Put your phone down. When someone is talking, listen.
  • Leave the past behind, worry not about the future, and live in the present.


"It is inevitable that life will be not just very short but very miserable for those who acquire by great toil what they must keep by greater toil. They achieve what they want laboriously; they possess what they have achieved anxiously; and meanwhile they take no account of time that will never more return. New preoccupations take the place of the old, hope excites more hope and ambition more ambition. They do not look for an end to their misery, but simply change the reason for it."


"Indeed the state of all who are preoccupied is wretched, but the most wretched are those who are toiling not even at their own preoccupations, but must regulate their sleep by another’s, and their walk by another’s pace, and obey orders in those freest of all things, loving and hating. If such people want to know how short their lives are, let them reflect how small a portion is their own."


Try this:

  • Don't be materialistic. Don't work to accumulate things.
  • Avoid debt. Do not borrow money to buy (unimportant) things you cannot afford.
  • Find purpose in your work -- do what you love, and if you don't have that privilege, love what you do! 


"Nobody works out the value of time: men use it lavishly as if it cost nothing… We have to be more careful in preserving what will cease at an unknown point."


"No one will bring back the years; no one will restore you to yourself. Life will follow the path it began to take, and will neither reverse nor check its course. It will cause no commotion to remind you of its swiftness, but glide on quietly. It will not lengthen itself for a king’s command or a people’s favor. As it started out on its first day, so it will run on, nowhere pausing or turning aside. What will be the outcome? You have been preoccupied while life hastens on. Meanwhile death will arrive, and you have no choice in making yourself available for that."


Try this:

  • Make every moment count.
  • Be self-aware. Catch yourself when you are wasting time.


"Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. 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. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately."


Try this:

  • Set goals and prioritize.
  • Stop procrastinating. Stop waiting for the right time or the right mood. The best time to start is now!


"Of all people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only those are really alive. For they not only keep a good watch over their own lifetimes, but they annex every age to theirs. All the years that have passed before them are added to their own. Unless we are very ungrateful, all those distinguished founders of holy creeds were born for us and prepared for us a way of life. By the toil of others we are led into the presence of things which have been brought from darkness into light."


Try this:

  • Read, read, read!
  • Learn from other people's mistakes and successes.


It's okay to slow down and take breaks. Life is not about grinding day and night... it's about doing what matters most.


I hope this helps you re-adjust your sails! Remember: life is long, if you know how to use it. #succeedtoday

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