Seneca On The Ancient Art of Slowing Down Time

“Alive time”vs “dead time”

Thomas Oppong
Personal Growth
Published in
4 min readOct 28, 2021


Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art/Wikimedia Commons

How we spend our time is indeed how we spend our short lives.

Life offers a limited time for everyone: optimising your present time and using your precious time wisely should be at the top of the list of productive things to do.

But people are too busy and occupied with the affairs of an elusive future to notice they are wasting their precious and limited time.

When you are in a hurry, life is fleeting.

“We are not given a short life but we make it short; we are not ill-supplied with time but wasteful of it,” argues Seneca in his 2,000-year-old book, On the Shortness of Life.

Seneca was a Roman philosopher. Between 4 BCE and 65 CE, he was a senator and political advisor.

In his book, he cautions that people fail to fully appreciate the preciousness of our least renewable asset: time.

There’s a reason millions of people have many regrets at the end of their lives: people don’t pay enough attention to what they need for a meaningful life — they focus on what they want for a good life.

When you actively choose what to do, focus on meaningful experiences and slow down, time feels like it’s slowing down in your favour.

The irony of life is that many people are quick to protect their money and property but not their time.

Instead of guarding their time, inefficient people squander their limited time and complain of the shortness of life.

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested,” Seneca.

Life can feel long or short, depending on how you use time. Not many people work out the value of their time or how best to use it until they witness direct a direct threat to their lives: a pandemic, illness or death.

Seneca observes, “They exclaim that they were fools because they have not really lived, and that if only they can recover from this illness they will live in leisure. Then they reflect how pointlessly they…



Thomas Oppong
Personal Growth

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