Seneca’s Reminder to Get Stuff Done

As I was waking up this morning and getting my coffee going, I was thinking about some things that I have recently needed to do, but have not worked on. I’m usually not too much of a procrastinator, but a few things have slipped by the last couple of weeks. A quote from Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic returned to me this morning with perfect timing.

 

Seneca wrote, “Lay hold of today’s task, and you will not need to depend so much upon tomorrow’s. While we are postponing, life speeds by.” There are a couple of things I would like to work on, but that I have not managed to prioritize in my life. I continuously end up feeling more pressure as I delay what I intend to do and waste time with things that I like but that I know are not as valuable. Seneca’s quote, I hope, will help me refocus where my attention is and what my priorities are.

 

Seneca is one of the Big Three in Stoicism which generally focuses on being present in the moment through building our self-awareness. When we take a moment to really think about where we are, what our situation is, what we are doing, how we are feeling, and what pressures we or others have placed on ourselves, we can understand ourselves and approach the world more objectively. This type of self-awareness can become a feedback loop that helps us set our priorities and identify what is working well and what is not working well in our lives. Self-awareness and a well grounded sense of presence can help us separate from the story we tell about who we are and refocus on the daily actions we can take to move forward in the best way possible.

 

Seneca’s advice is not anything special, but if you consider his advice within the larger stoic context of self-awareness and presence, you can see that he is correct. We continuously have less  time left in our lives to do the things we want or to make the world a better place. We can spend our time doing easy and self-serving activities, or we can take advantage of the time we have now to do the things that matter to make our lives and the lives of others better. The choice is ours and with some attention and focus we can make the most of the situation we find ourselves in.

5 thoughts on “Seneca’s Reminder to Get Stuff Done

    1. I would agree that everything is important and worthy of consideration, but in our lives we only have a limited amount of time, attention, and energy to devote to the things around us. If we fail to take stock of what is going on in our lives and in our world, we will not be able to aim ourselves in a direction to have a meaningful impact. Seneca’s advice is to deeply consider what it is that motivates you and what you are aiming toward and whether your actions align with those stated aims.

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  1. I don’t much go with stated aims – I think they are so often impossible to achieve, though you can try. I know what I want, though it took some time to get to a point of admitting that in myself (to write). I’m writing anyway. It might be nice to be published. I would like to reach people. But that might not happen, no matter how hard I work nor how much I try to aim myself in any particular direction. Sometimes, also, taking a step away from things can give you more insight than banging away at something in a manner that might look disciplined but isn’t.

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    1. Right, there is a great quote that is often attributed I think to General Eisenhower that goes along the lines of “planning is essential but plans are useless.” The idea behind the post is a focus on your broad priorities and not the specific steps within our plans.

      If you find that there are a lot of things that you would like to do or at least to work toward (regardless as to whether you ever get there) you will be much better off with a careful evaluation of your priorities. If you fail to take stock of where you are and what you spend your time doing, you will likely find that you are talking the talk but not actually walking the walk. If you wish to be a writer, you will have to look at your life and ask if you are actually making writing a priority over things like watching movies, checking Facebook, or doing other things. To make real progress on our goals and actually achieve them we have to make them real priorities in our lives and let go of things that are of less importance for us. That is what the focus of the post is about.

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      1. I’m going to let this go because you seem to be right into the idea of goals, aims, plans. These things have their place, but so does stepping away and letting time pass by. One form of activity is not necessarily better or more productive than another. I have enjoyed what you have said about your reading, however. By the way, I’m not on Facebook. I have my priorities straight. I make progress that is real.

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