Contemplating Seneca #74: Loss Due to Carelessness

Do I really have the time?

Four weeks of not working flew by way too fast. Every day I was able to accomplish projects that would normally take me weeks. Not being regulated by a schedule that involves 10 hours a day dedicated to working a day job really allowed my personal productivity to skyrocket. Not being regulated by a schedule also meant that I became a little more careless in my other activities.

I am all for a little downtime. It is good to be able to relax, spend more time with family, and work on personal projects. But having too much downtime. I was not prepared for that. I thought I was more disciplined, but I wasn’t. I spent too many late nights reading. I spent more time sleeping, when I was finally able to shut the brain down and go to sleep. I even started playing a few games on my phone, which is something I have not done in a long time.

There wasn’t any whole days that I wasted. But the little snatches here and there? Those got away from me. And in truth, there were way too many. I am reminded of the words of Napoleon Bonaparte, “Space I can recover. Time, never.” The free time I thought I had wasn’t really free. It was costing me dearly. It was something that once passed could not be recovered.

In thinking about squandered time, there is something I need to keep in mind. I can’t go back, but I can do things differently in the future. I can review yesterday and address the tasks of today. I can remember where I dropped the ball and do everything in my power to not repeat the same mistakes.

Make yourself believe the truth of my words—that certain moments are torn from us, that some are gently removed, and that others glide beyond our reach. The most disgraceful kind of loss, however, is that due to carelessness. Furthermore, if you will pay close heed to the problem, you will find that the largest portion of our life passes while we are doing ill, a goodly share while we are doing nothing, and the whole while we are doing that which is not to the purposeLay hold of today’s task, and you will not need to depend so much upon tomorrow’s. While we are postponing, life speeds by. –Seneca (On Saving Time)

Lacking Sense

 

There was a time when those that wanted food had to go out and get it themselves. If they didn’t grow it, they had to catch it. If they didn’t do either one, they had to have something of value to trade for it. The more you wanted for you and your family, the harder you had to work for it. Even better if you worked your own land, instead of someone else’s.

It is much easier to get food these days. But if you want more than a miniscule ration, or if you want better quality, you are going to have to work for it. Maybe it is hearkening back to the old days and growing/catching it yourself. Or maybe, it is doing something of value worth trading. If you are working hard, working smart, and staying focused, you will be able to eat, and eat well.

Oftentimes we find ourselves getting off track. We lose that focus and start doing other things such as:

• Spending too much time engaged in social media,

• Reading material that does not enhance your life or cause your brain to think,

• Binge-watching some television,

• Playing games for the sake of killing time,

• Or doing busy work.

Sometimes we need a little downtime. Seneca in his 14th letter writes, “I do not maintain that the body is not to be indulged at all; but I maintain that we must not be slaves to it.” By becoming a slave to your body, you lose your self-control. Without discipline, your body will tell you to relax and put off the things you should be doing. It will tell you to procrastinate. Those who procrastinate, do not eat as well as the others.

The last point, doing busy work, is a killer that is often overlooked. It is easy to engage in busyness and never accomplish your primary mission. Tim Ferriss makes an interesting statement in his book, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers:

Being busy is a form of laziness –lazy thinking and indiscriminate action. Being busy is most often used as a guide for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.

Next time you find yourself doing busy work, you should ask yourself whether or not you are moving closer to your task. I find myself falling down this rabbit hole all the time without even realizing it. When I should be writing, I start cleaning the files on my computer or looking for a picture that correlates with the writing. I start doing all kinds of things, except the ones that are most important.

Solomon said that those engaged in idle pursuits lack sense. It is something to consider the next time we go on a marathon involving social media, all the episodes in whatever drama you’re watching, or knocking out the latest romance novel in one sitting. I know this is an area that I can improve in my own life.

If it is precious, then protect it.

Today, I find myself wanting to waste time. [Even writing that first sentence was a chore.] I wanted to write over the weekend, but I never got around to doing it. I slept in both weekend days. The residual effects of last week’s flu are still lingering, and the idea of sleeping in seemed to be a good use of my time.

I did not have a plan for the weekend. I did read a lot (started Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules of Life), but I didn’t write. I completed many items on my to-do list, except the one I deemed most important. I now have a backlog of handwritten stories. All I needed to do is type them up. And now these stories, if I don’t hurry and get them completed, will become in my mind less relevant. If they don’t get finished, they will most likely get shelved. Possibly, permanently.

The weekend went by quickly, but I had the same amount of time as everyone else. I didn’t make the best use of it. There was no sense of urgency. This reminds me of Seneca’s Letter on the Shortness of Life (XLIX):

In other years time did not seem to me to go swiftly; now, it seems fast beyond belief, because I feel that the finish-line is moving closer to me, or it may be that I have begun to take heed and reckon up my losses.

When I consider the things I should have done but did not do, time is indeed moving swiftly. This is a lesson to make the most of the time alotted to us. This is a lesson to not waste time, a lesson to not let it slip away carelessly. If time is truly precious, then it is our duty to protect it. Seneca goes on to write:

Show me that the good in life does not depend upon life’s length, but upon the use we make of it; also, that it is possible, or rather usual, for a man who has lived long to have lived too little.