Whatever you think about the dirty tricks or generous gifts Fate has bestowed on you, there is one thing you enjoy on precisely the same terms as everyone else: It Is Time.
You have the same allocation of seconds, minutes, and hours to enjoy each twenty-four hours as the most successful do-er or the most feckless do-nothing. Yet it is pretty certain that you resent the march of time, as if its tempo applied only to you.
That is a natural human reaction. The restless spirit of man would dearly love to control time in the same way that we have annihilated distance. As this is impossible outside the fictional pages of works such as H. G. Wells’s Time Machine, the only feasible solution is to extract every benefit from the time we have.
Few people do so, and those few are the happy and successful human beings who are admired and envied; They never complain that they have simply no time to do what they intended, and do not go to the other extreme by getting bored because time hangs so heavily.
As No. 1 priority in getting your life on the right lines, check what you do with the time at your disposal. A few calculations will indicate what is, perhaps, the surprising fact that only a proportion of the twenty-four hours in each day is used for constructive activities of the kind which will produce that god-given serenity of knowing that you are really achieving something worthwhile with your life.
First, about nine hours will be spent resting or sleeping. Basically this period is liable to very little modification. The human machine needs this regular bout of repair and recuperation. Sleep in regular doses cannot be modified into less regular but longer periods. In other words, you waste time and prejudice your health and alertness if you cut sleep to three hours per night for three nights and then try to compensate by lying in bed for twelve of fifteen hours. Regularity in sleep, as in other facets of your life, is the ideal. There is really no substitute for it.
The duration of sleep is a personal matter. ‘Eight hours for an adult, ten for a child, and twelve for a fool’ has an element of truth in it. because energetic adults seem to require less sleep than those without much ambition or the will to work towards a goal.
Many people sleep—or lie in bed—longer than health requirements justify. Custom and convention send them to bed before midnight, and the next day’s duties demand that they get up before eight o’clock.
There is no real justification for regarding the hours just before and after midnight as natural times for sleeping (primitive man may well have been a nocturnal animal), and no evidence that eight hours are the essential minimum.
Many successful people have deliberately disciplined themselves to sleep for only five or six hours a night. Neither their health nor their life span are evidently harmed by this, and of course, they have a bonus of two or three hours of wakefulness in order to get on with the job of successful living.
First thing, therefore, in analyzing what you are doing with your time allocation is to check whether you are wasting some of it doing nothing in the belief that you need this idle interval in each cycle of twenty- four hours.
You will have noted that the estimate of nine hours per day includes resting as well as sleeping. The former is probably the most insidious time-waster of all. Consider how frequently every day you sit or lie doing nothing. Five minutes before and after meals, ten minutes hanging around until it is time for something to happen. a quarter of an hour wondering whether to stretch and go to bed, and as long putting off the action of getting up. If you want more time to do things, here is an hour or more for the taking, and you won’t notice the lack of recuperative rest.
For the majority of people actual work in order to earn a living occupies only an average of six hours per day. Competition and discipline will probably ensure that these six hours are ostensibly busy ones, and for most of us there is nothing to be done about them. But it is worth thinking whether each minute of those six hours is usefully employed from a personal viewpoint, or whether many of them are wasted in devising ways of evading activity. This may be a mildly satisfying kind of fraud on one’s employer, but it neither aids one’s own progress nor bolsters one’s self-esteem.
Three hours are involved in necessary movements, ranging from dressing, washing, walking around the home, and travel to and from place of work and social destinations. If more than three hours are frittered away on these activities, then your time is being wasted.
The most likely large-scale waste will be on travel to and from work. Past and future generations would be amused and amazed that, having invented methods of high-speed travel, twentieth man then moved ten, twenty, thirty miles from his place of work and shuffled to and fro at an overall speed lower than that of a rider on horseback. Millions of people spend the equivalent of four years of their lives sitting in traffic jams or standing in trains because they live in one place and Work in another. It will benefit your health and your pocket to live nearer your job.
There are still six hours out of the twenty-four to account for; two of them are usually spent on routine activities, such as eating meals, doing odd jobs around the house, correspondence, and so on. The remaining four are devoted to some form of recreation.
The first two are probably not exploited as they should be. Meals, for instance. This is one activity where time should not be cut. Civilized people sit around a table instead of retiring to a cubby hole with their food because eating is a social event as well as a nourishment ritual. Discussion and conversation will feed the mind, while gulping down the food in sullen silence will increase nervous tension and aggravate weariness. When the meal has been digested there is little benefit in sitting around in taciturn misery while the coffee or tea gets cold and the cigarette bums down to its tip. If you don’t feel like resuming activity, at least put your brain to some constructive use.
Now the four hours remaining for recreation. To any lively, active person it is appalling to know that millions of British people watch TV for more than four hours per day. There is obviously nothing wrong, and much right, about TV as a home entertainment, but nothing can conceivably be transmitted which will merit watching for nearly 1,500 hours a year.
Those four hours of independence from duties and necessary tasks every day should be used in a variety of activities which will lend spice to life. Hobbies can broaden the mind and provide a contrast to one’s job; entertainment away from home can meet every human being’s need to be gregarious, and will stimulate new cultural interests; evening classes or personal study can pave the way to a better or more suitable job, and will certainly open the gate to a fuller life; walking, gardening, and sports will produce a healthy body, and therefore improve the health df the mind inside it.
Nobody needs to run his life to a strict timetable. Extremists who plan their day to the minute and draw up plans of activities for weeks and months ahead are usually heading for neurotic troubles. They really loathe what they are doing, and can only do it by cruelly disciplining themselves with ruthless regimentation. In any event, they are so busy observing their own rules that they get little done easily, quickly, or efficiently.
A flexible scheme of day-to-day living, with all the extraneous trivia and bouts of supine laziness cut out, after a period of frank self-examination, can transform both the present situation and the future prospects.
Let’s work through a typical day and see how much time we can gain. First, why not get up fifteen minutes earlier? Almost always the chronic stay-abed person is suffering from psychological malaise, not a physical one of tiredness. Few girls lie in on their wedding morning; no man expecting a big cheque from a pools firm is under the blankets when the postman comes. Remember how ready you were to get up on that glorious morning on last summer’s holiday? Or your eagerness to get active when the kids were impatient to have their Christmas presents?
Contrast this reaction to that on a wintry Monday morning when another dreary working week is beginning, or your lethargy when wakefulness meant resumption of a quarrel with a relative.
Yet on both good and bad mornings the amount of sleep and the duration of rest were much the same. Physically there was no difference. Mentally you either longed for the day ahead or you dreaded it.
Whatever the day holds in store—and as Time is moving at its usual pace there is no evading the day’s events—getting up fifteen minutes earlier than is your usual habit will enable you to start this cycle of living right. For one thing it will eradicate the need for rush, and haste is at the bottom of the nervous tension and frustration causing you to feel that nothing is going as it should. Getting up with fifteen glorious minutes in hand can be a pleasant, health-giving activity. You can stretch, take the trouble with your toilet and dressing which your self-esteem merits, enjoy instead of gobbling your breakfast, walk briskly instead of running to the bus stop or station. By then you will be back to your old schedule, but with fifteen minutes well spent on preparing yourself for it.
Best of all, you will not be late. Punctuality is a virtue of princes ordinary folk ought to emulate. We all know people who seem unable ever to keep a date, catch a train, or be on time.
The more ridiculous of these ‘laters’ deceive them selves into believing that failure to keep an appointment or catch a train makes them appear busy and important. The average unpunctual person is a misery, arriving tense, worried, and ashamed, usually disheveled.
‘It’s been such a hectic morning,’ they moan; or, ‘I’ve been so terribly busy time seemed to fly.’ They omit to explain why the morning was so hectic or what they have been so busy doing because they know that the explanation would sound trivial. The truth is that they have been rushing around making mountains out of molehills and busy spending time on minor activities which they ought to have dealt with as incidental People who get through a fantastic amount of work always seem to have the time for it and are ready dead on schedule for the next task. If you really need help, go to someone whose reputation in providing the kind of service you require is so great that he is up to his eyes in work. He will always find time for you, on time, and for the minimum amount of time needed to deal with your problem.
He is not the type who moans about never having a minute. He knows he has sixteen waking hours a day—960 minutes to use as he wants.
As he wants. Those words are important. He will not cram the day with the work which is his means of livelihood or vocation. There will be contrast, relaxation, other interests. Probably the activity with which he has made his reputation occupies quite a small part of the day compared with the routine of those who rush around for as long as their strength allows in the belief that being busy for long periods means getting somewhere. It doesn’t, except in circles.
The successful person plans his day’s work, restricting it to what he knows there is time to deal with adequately, and while he is engaged on it, refusing to be diverted into by-ways of chit-chat, day dreaming, and frustrating tasks which are beyond his powers or impossible in the time available.
The last point is vital for peace of mind. ‘Sufficient for the day is the labour thereof’ and it is frustrating to go to your rest with hopes unfulfilled and tasks unaccomplished. Nature, in her wisdom, has divided our year into 365 installments, and our lives into seventy or so years. To a great extent each day, like each year, is a complete life cycle and is complete in itself. Failure to realize the hopes for the day or the ambitions for the year gives a sense of frustration and incompleteness, just as completion of what you set out to do brings relief and satisfaction.
People who apparently thrive under well-nigh in tolerable burdens or manage to persist in a Herculean task which occupies half a lifetime know this.
The head of a country would become a gibbering wreck of a man if he tried to tackle all the problems of state at once. He flourishes under his burden, despite the fact that he is often of an age when lesser men are putting themselves out to grass, because he deals with the job immediately in hand with 100 percent energy and attention and mentally files all the others in the pending tray.
Scientists probing across unknown frontiers of knowledge ease forward a few equations or experiments at a time; the world’s greatest books are created a few hundred words per day; a sports champion builds up his prowess by months of carefully planned training undertaken in brief installments.
None of these triumphs of mind and muscle could ever be achieved if they were rushed or forced into a time span too short for their achievement. Equally none would be possible without some planning.
Nobody can know what tomorrow will bring, but no one need let tomorrow take care of itself completely. While each day is complete in itself it obviously affects the next one and the one after that for a long, long time ahead. Sometime today you need to take a breather while you cogitate on tomorrow’s activities. If you make a few preparations for these tasks they will be all the more easier on the morrow. The simple instances are of the busy housewife who lays the breakfast-table overnight, the girl who chooses what clothes she will wear the night before she will wear them; the man who fills his brief-case with all he expects to need at the office next day.
Better than these visible examples of planning are the mental resolutions made on what you would like to achieve next day, modified by what you feel it will be feasible to do. Given its evening briefing, your mind will utilize its unconscious powers to get things ship shape while you are asleep. ‘I’ll sleep on that problem’ is a common and sensible observation by people who cannot see a solution right away. Things look better in the morning, not because they are any better, but because the wonderful resilience and resourcefulness of the human mind produce solutions where previously none seemed to exist.
In getting your daily activities for the day and the’ planning for tomorrow’s tasks on a practical, methodical basis don’t let yourself become a slave of time and routine. Some people think better early in the day, and some are at their peak of mental energy in the evening. Some are refreshed by going early to bed and rising early; some burn the midnight oil to their great! profit and recharge their batteries by steeping far into the morning. It is bad luck that the majority of us are restricted by employers’ rules and domestic commitments to adopt conventional periods of work, play, rest, and sleep. If you are not so restricted and find you achieve more by following an unconventional timetable go ahead and do so. Others will soon be envying both your freedom and your success.
Whatever your routine there is one certainty; you will benefit by regular periods of relaxation, taken from that allocation of four hours for recreation. Industrial output usually drops when tea breaks are abolished. The lunch hour is a better investment than the luncheon half hour. Sunday as a day of rest is not just a religious notion but a vital recuperative period enabling seven days’ work to be easily achieved in six.
Probably there is little likelihood of your adopting that midday siesta which is still the practice of more than a third of humanity, and you have no chance of taking a day off when you feel it would be of genuine benefit in order to refresh your mind and body. But everyone can relax for a few minutes at a time on several occasions every day. Do so whenever you feel tense. Check whether your hands are clenched, jaw rigid, foot going to sleep through lack of movement, eyes aching, breathing quick and shallow. If you are experiencing these physical clues to tension it is odds on that your mind is nagging you with worries and you are feeling frustrated.
If you sit at a desk or factory bench stand up and walk around, stretch, and consciously flex the muscles of face, hands, arms, and legs. If you stand or move around in your job take the weight off your feet, and preferably don’t transfer it to your bottom; lie down.
Relax your eyes by opening and closing them rapidly. Ease away that frown and tautness by talking to somebody or laughing at something. Cleanse away the grime of the world and the cobwebs around your mind by a wash and brush-up——not just a dabbing of the face and soaping of the hands but a real ablution, removing some of your outer clothes if possible.
Don’t worry about criticism if some of these things have to be done in the face of witty comments from friends and colleagues. You’ll be more vigorous and happier than they are at the end of the day. And a lot more successful at the end of the year.
It may take you weeks to harness the potentialities you have been given to make every day worth while. But long before then you will find your attitude to life changing. It will no longer be a sort of prison sentence you have to carry out, but an adventure for which you are given renewed installments of energy and zest every morning.
There’s another vital factor to deal with once you have decided to make your daily life meaningful. It will not help you to achieve success simply by model ling yourself on some admired, famous, or successful person. You may have a different sort of personality from your chosen ideal. So it is essential to know what kind of person you are.