I Don’t Have the Time

If there’s one phrase I would like to eradicate from our language it is this.

From Patrick Rhone

Tl;dr: We all work with the same 24 hour day. The difference? How we choose to spend that day, how many we have, and how our use aligns with what we truly value.

Your friends and mine, the Stoics, have strong opinions on this topic.

To start, Seneca‘s many writings [US] [JP-en] [JP-ja] go deeper than I do here :

“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.”

Those who have a hard time disconnecting, this message is perhaps for you.

I love this quote:

“We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.”

The sentiment is so true. I know I spend too much time debating over small things that end up costing me more in the time I spent and the other things I could have done. It was Robert Burton who said,

Penny wise and pound foolish

In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius [US] [JP-en] [JP-ja] has many things to say on the subject:

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” (10.16)

What is he saying? Basically, stop wasting time thinking about being a better person and just start being better. I think this touches on the idea of perfect being the enemy of the good enough.

Likewise:

“Be not a man of superfluous words or superfluous deeds.” (3.5)

We all, myself included, go on and on. Get to the point so as not to waste your or others’ time.

Elsewhere he says:

“Away with your books!  Be no longer drawn aside by them: it is not allowed.” (2.2)

Essentially I read this as an admonition against workaholism, unless you’re like Jack Donaghy.: “I wish I’d worked more,” he confessed, near-deathbed.

And again,

“But away with your thirst for books, that you may die not murmuring but with good grace” (2.3)

Most importantly, while striving to make the most of your time make sure you get some quality “Me” time:

“Do the external things which befall you distract you? Give yourself leisure to learn something new and good, and cease to be whirled around. But then you must also avoid being carried about the other way. For those too are triflers who have wearied themselves in life by their activity, and yet have no object to which to direct every movement, and, in a word, all their thoughts.” (2.7)

Everyone needs time away from the distractions of responsibility. The goal is that they are valuable to you, relatively healthy, and give a true break.

It’s astounding how our brains process data even at rest and store the data for later. For example, I know a high-powered executive who travels the world working on multiple large client accounts. He spends his “Me” time watching reality TV on airplanes and in hotels. Even though he says he “switches [his] brain off,” he passively learned about human behavior and popular culture. It was a happy accident his “guilty” (to him) downtime pleasure provided him unexpected benefits.

As Frank Herbert said in Dune [US] [JP-en] [JP-ja]:

“Every experience carries its lesson.”

Thoughts?

Other References:

Various bits above are from Donald Robertson.

Various references are from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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