By John I. Kennedy Jr, MD

Well Be Wisdom

Every year the holiday season seems to sneak up on me, and I find myself scrambling at the last minute to check off all those items on my to-do list. The contemporary American author, Ryan Holiday, recently addressed this common struggle with procrastination that afflicts many of us. In a tweetorial, @RyanHoliday sums up the problem, quoting the Stoic philosopher Senaca:

Procrastinating "is the biggest waste of life…it snatches away each day...and denies us the present by promising the future."

Holiday offers a list of ways to address procrastination, adding to each item a brief connection to the writings of the ancient Stoics. Here are my five favorites:

1. Take it action by action

"Don’t let your imagination be crushed by life as a whole," Marcus Aurelius wrote. “Remember,” he adds, “everything is built action by action.” Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, said, “Well-being is realized by small steps, but is truly no small thing.”

2. Create a routine

“Life without a design is erratic,” Seneca wrote, and full of uncertainty. Procrastination feeds on uncertainty. Routine eliminates that uncertainty. We know what we do and when we do it. Procrastination is boxed out—by the order and clarity you built.

3. Cut out the inessential

It was Marcus Aurelius’ simple recipe for productivity and for happiness. “If you seek tranquility,” he said, “do less.” And then he clarifies. Not nothing, less. Do only what’s essential. “Which brings a double satisfaction: to do less, better.”

4. Find the right company

The ancient proverb is: “If you dwell with a lame man, you will learn how to limp.” So it's key, Epictetus said, "to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best."

5. Get one small win

One of the best pieces of advice from Seneca was actually pretty simple. “Each day,” he said, you should “acquire something that will fortify you against poverty, against death, indeed against other misfortunes, as well.” One gain per day. That’s it.

I plan to embrace the philosophy of Zeno (“Well-being is realized by small steps, but is truly no small thing,”) and start chipping away at applying these recommendations. I will strive to adopt one of the strategies each week for the next five weeks. Care to join me?

Don’t wait for the New Year to start this resolution!

December 9, 2022