6 Stoic Techniques of Time Management for Entrepreneurs
Practical advice from one of the most influential philosophers
“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.” ― Seneca
One of the things that you hear most entrepreneurs saying is that they don’t have time. They are always running and figuring out how to get things done. When we stop to analyze what we’ve been doing and how we spend our time, we can find ways to improve it. The Stoic philosophy has been helping me a lot with that.
For the past couple of years, I have been studying the works of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus, who are the three great Stoic philosophers, in addition to reading the books of Ryan Holiday, who is a great student of this fantastic philosophy. Because of these studies, my thoughts about being an entrepreneur have changed a lot.
By improving how you spend your time, you can find ways to live a better and happier life. Below are some of the techniques that Seneca used to make the most of his time. Entrepreneurs can also use them.
#1 Remember that you will die
“This is our big mistake: to think we look forward to death. Most of death is already gone. Whatever time has passed is owned by death.” — Seneca
I started to think more about death when I turned 30. That made me rethink everything that I’ve been doing for the past couple of years. Do I really want to continue doing the same thing for the rest of my life? What is the life that I want for myself? How can I change?
I always thought that I should create a life around my company. But today, I understand that it must be the opposite. I need to know the kind of life that I want for myself and then create a company that allows that. Even that will make you get out of your comfort zone. It was that realization that influenced me to leave my own company two years ago. If I hadn’t done that there, I wouldn’t be writing here now.
#2 Value your time more than your possessions
“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.” — Seneca
One of my reasons for building a company was for me to become a billionaire and buy whatever I want. It didn’t matter to me that I had to spend my time with many things that I didn’t appreciate. Instead of enjoying the moment, I was expecting anxiously for it to pass so I could move on. That ended up just leading me to burnout.
I still want to make a lot of money, but today I learned how to value my time more. Whatever I am doing, how can I enjoy this time the most? It is not worth the trouble to complain. Even if you have something challenging to do, how can you enjoy this moment? Learning how to value my time more than my possessions helped me be more at peace. It also helped me to be more productive.
#3 Be ruthless to the things that don’t matter
“How many have laid waste to your life when you weren’t aware of what you were losing, how much was wasted in pointless grief, foolish joy, greedy desire, and social amusements — how little of your own was left to you. You will realize you are dying before your time!” — Seneca
As an entrepreneur, one of the things that you must learn is how to focus. You don’t have time to pursue all of your fancy ideas. I tried that when I started my first company, but that didn’t work. I was working hard, trying to finish many different things but not achieving significant results.
When my three partners left the company because of the bad results we had, I decided to focus on one thing. One year later, I had a profitable company. I kept growing, and one more year later, I raised US$1 million. During all this time, a lot of new opportunities appear in my way. I had to say NO to most of them. Otherwise, I would be chasing things that don’t matter and wouldn’t help the company.
#4 Put your day up for review
“Of all the people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only they truly live.” — Seneca
I am a very calm person nowadays, but I wasn’t always like this. I was very stressed and worried about the things left that I had to do. It didn’t matter that I have finished a lot of stuff. My focus was on the things that I still had to, and that just made me stressed.
I ended up learning how to live one day at a time. We will always have work to do. We need to know what we can do today and focus on finishing that. That’s your goal for the day. You will keep up with the rest of the work tomorrow. That’s why it is crucial to prioritize your tasks so you will be working on the most important things. When the day is over, I started to stop to see everything that I have done and being content with that. Nothing is built in a day. If you work productively regularly, you will accomplish many things in the long term.
#5 Do it now
“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.” — Seneca
It doesn’t help if you prioritize your work but don’t do what needs to be done. People usually postpone work because they think they are not ready or are looking for something perfect. That will never exist. Start with what you have, where you are now.
One of the things that I learned with my therapist is that action precedes motivation. You might want to wait to be motivated to do something, but that moment may never come. For example, I usually don’t feel like working out, but every time I got to the gym and start to warm up, I got excited about the training and felt great that I didn’t decide to stay at home. It’s always better to do something small than nothing.
#6 What time off is for
“Leisure without study is death — a tomb for the living person.” — Seneca
For a long time, I thought that I didn’t need to take a vacation and that I should always be working. That isn’t something healthy, though. It’s essential to take some time off for you to reenergize. If you really like what you do, you will probably come up with new and fresh ideas.
Sadly, when most people take vacations, they are running away from their jobs as they didn’t like them. As an entrepreneur, it’s difficult for us to take time off. You probably will still think about your company. That’s ok. Enjoy the present the best way you can and don’t worry about things that you can’t control at the moment. You will be stronger when you come back.
These six Stoic techniques have been helping me a lot through the past couple of years. Without them, I would still be living a stressful life and chasing unnecessary things. They are simple to put into practice and can help you too if you really want to improve your time management.
You can always make more money, but you can’t buy time back. Choose wisely how and with you spend your days. Time management is something vital for the life of an entrepreneur. If you don’t learn how to do it, you will be dragged into a chaotic life of solving worthless problems.