“Life is long enough and our allotted portion generous enough for our most ambitious projects if we invest it all carefully.”
-Seneca, “On The Shortness of Life”
Like many, I struggle with turning off the television. As early as two months ago my day comprised of going to work, returning home, watching Netflix for a few hours, perhaps binging on YouTube, and of course sleep. Too much time was spent watching Netflix and binging YouTube. This is not to say that these are necessarily bad things; binging on Stranger Things last month was very fulfilling! Rather, the problem related to the bulk of time spent on these activities.
When thinking about the best way to spend one’s time, it can be helpful to view time as a currency to be spent deliberately in the same way that one would spend money. Similar to money, time is a resource that is in finite supply. Unlike money, time is a non-renewable resource that everyone eventually runs out of. This idea of time as a currency was popularized by the Stoic Philosopher Seneca. While there is a lot of value in knowing and understanding Seneca’s views, applying this advice has its challenges.
This week I discovered a way that may improve my frugality with time – I joined a yoga studio. The initial resolution I made was to attend a class once a day for the entirety of my trial membership (that lasts 20 days). I have kept that commitment up for six days now. That said, I will be breaking this commitment one day later in the week due to other priorities. The experience has motivated me to reprioritize exercise as an essential part of each day.
In this brief experience I’ve had so far, adding yoga classes to my routine has improved my time management in a couple of ways. Each class is structured at a specific time forcing participants to plan out their free time. Each participant must register in advance and arrive on time; these constraints are helpful for defeating procrastination. Personally, I have noticed that yoga has helped me set new standards of what a typical day should look like. Personal experience tells me that if there is nothing planned on the calendar, I default to watching Netflix and YouTube. Under these conditions, if a social engagement or plan presents itself with even a modest level of intrigue, I’ll say yes instantly because “I have nothing better to do.”
Having committed to attending yoga classes, it is a lot harder to yes to new plans. Previously, on nights where there is nothing on the calendar, I would say yes to virtually anything. However, by incorporating hobby that is fulfilling into my daily routine, I am a lot more deliberative about what I do with my weeknights.
In University, a teaching assistance gave my class advice on effectively writing an essay with limited space. He instructed that “the truly great essays will be so full of good content that we will have to make sacrifices to keep within the word count.” It may be valuable to apply this to how we view our time. Packing your free time with fulfilling activities (and a fulfilling hobby) means that diverging from your routine requires a difficult choice between two things that are both awesome – this is a good problem to have.
“Stoicism – On the Shortness of Life” a YouTube video by Fight Mediocrity
“Tim Ferriss,” a podcast by Design Matters with Debbie Millman featuring Tim Ferriss
“On the Shortness of Life,” by Seneca