REMEMBER HUMAN NATURE
From: How to Live on 24 Hours a Day
I have incidentally mentioned the vast expanse of forty-four hours
between leaving business at 2 p.m. on Saturday and returning to
business at 10 a.m. on Monday. And here I must touch on the point
whether the week should consist of six days or of seven. For many
years--in fact, until I was approaching forty--my own week consisted
of seven days. I was constantly being informed by older and wiser
people that more work, more genuine living, could be got out of six
days than out of seven.
And it is certainly true that now, with one day in seven in which I
follow no programme and make no effort save what the caprice of the
moment dictates, I appreciate intensely the moral value of a weekly
rest. Nevertheless, had I my life to arrange over again, I would do
again as I have done. Only those who have lived at the full stretch
seven days a week for a long time can appreciate the full beauty of
a regular recurring idleness. Moreover, I am ageing. And it is a
question of age. In cases of abounding youth and exceptional energy
and desire for effort I should say unhesitatingly: Keep going, day
in, day out.
But in the average case I should say: Confine your formal programme
(super-programme, I mean) to six days a week. If you find yourself
wishing to extend it, extend it, but only in proportion to your
wish; and count the time extra as a windfall, not as regular income,
so that you can return to a six-day programme without the sensation
of being poorer, of being a backslider.
Let us now see where we stand. So far we have marked for saving out
of the waste of days, half an hour at least on six mornings a week,
and one hour and a half on three evenings a week. Total, seven
hours and a half a week.
I propose to be content with that seven hours and a half for the
present. "What?" you cry. "You pretend to show us how to live, and
you only deal with seven hours and a half out of a hundred and
sixty-eight! Are you going to perform a miracle with your seven
hours and a half?" Well, not to mince the matter, I am--if you will
kindly let me! That is to say, I am going to ask you to attempt an
experience which, while perfectly natural and explicable, has all
the air of a miracle. My contention is that the full use of those
seven-and-a-half hours will quicken the whole life of the week, add
zest to it, and increase the interest which you feel in even the
most banal occupations. You practise physical exercises for a mere
ten minutes morning and evening, and yet you are not astonished when
your physical health and strength are beneficially affected every
hour of the day, and your whole physical outlook changed. Why
should you be astonished that an average of over an hour a day given
to the mind should permanently and completely enliven the whole
activity of the mind?
More time might assuredly be given to the cultivation of one's self.
And in proportion as the time was longer the results would be
greater. But I prefer to begin with what looks like a trifling
It is not really a trifling effort, as those will discover who have
yet to essay it. To "clear" even seven hours and a half from the
jungle is passably difficult. For some sacrifice has to be made.
One may have spent one's time badly, but one did spend it; one did
do something with it, however ill-advised that something may have
been. To do something else means a change of habits.
And habits are the very dickens to change! Further, any change,
even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and
discomforts. If you imagine that you will be able to devote seven
hours and a half a week to serious, continuous effort, and still
live your old life, you are mistaken. I repeat that some sacrifice,
and an immense deal of volition, will be necessary. And it is
because I know the difficulty, it is because I know the almost
disastrous effect of failure in such an enterprise, that I earnestly
advise a very humble beginning. You must safeguard your self-
respect. Self-respect is at the root of all purposefulness, and a
failure in an enterprise deliberately planned deals a desperate
wound at one's self-respect. Hence I iterate and reiterate: Start
When you have conscientiously given seven hours and a half a week to
the cultivation of your vitality for three months--then you may
begin to sing louder and tell yourself what wondrous things you are
capable of doing.
Before coming to the method of using the indicated hours, I have one
final suggestion to make. That is, as regards the evenings, to
allow much more than an hour and a half in which to do the work of
an hour and a half. Remember the chance of accidents. Remember
human nature. And give yourself, say, from 9 to 11.30 for your task
of ninety minutes.
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