Buchbesprechung · Media History · Wissenschaftsalltag · Work-Life Balance

24 Hours a Day

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“Your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life!” (A. Bennett, 1910. Photo: Nic Leonhardt)

When reading Cal Newport’s book Deep Work, I came across a handful of references he worked with, which sounded quite intriguing to me. I jotted down the most interesting titles and loaned them from the library. (yes, please call me old-fashioned ;-))
One of these references is Arnold Bennett‘s book How to live on 24 Hours a Day. A book targeting primarily the so called “white-collar workers“, and providing recommendations of how to make the most of a working day.

What is remarkable here is that Bennett’s little ‘guidebook‘ came out in 1910 (i.e. one hundred seven years ago!), – yet that it deals with the same themes like contemporary guidebooks and seminars: You would think that “work-life balance” is a case in point of the 21st century only, but Bennett’s book proves: It is not! Studying How to Live on 24 Hours a Day, I was surprised how similar the problems he addresses, and the advices he offers are to the ones we try to cope with nowadays on a daily basis.

I can only recommend to read the whole book, but for the hasty ones among you: here are some of Bennett’s recommendations in a nutshell. Enjoy!

bennett 24 hours 1910 (1)

You wake up in the morning, and 24 hours are all yours (well, most of them)

„The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it. You wake up in the morning, and lo! Your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life! It is yours. It is the most precious of possessions. A highly singular commodity, showered upon you in a manner as singular as the commodity itself! For remark! No one can take it from you. It is unstealable. And no one receives either more or less than you receive.“ (p. 16f)

Enjoy the moment, the Here & Now!

“[Y]ou cannot draw on the future. Impossible to get into debt! You can only waste the passing moment. You cannot waste to-morrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you.” (p. 17)

You have all the time there is

[Y]ou are constantly haunted by suppressed dissatisfaction with your own arrangement of your daily life; […] the primal cause of that inconvenient dissatisfaction is the feeling that you are every day leaving undone something which you would like to do, and which, indeed, you are always hoping to do when you have “more time”; [yet the] glaring, dazzling truth [is] that you never will have “more time,” since you already have all the time there is” (p. 25)

Be patient. Allow for human nature, especially your own 🙂

“Beware of undertaking too much at the start. Be content with quite a little. Allow for accidents, Allow for human nature, especially your own.” (p. 28)

Controlling your Mind (an Exercise)

“When you leave your house, concentrate your mind on a subject (no matter what, to begin with). You will not have gone ten yards before your mind has skipped away under your very eyes and is larking round the corner with another subject. Bring it back by the scruff of the neck. Ere you have reached the station you will have brought it back about forty times. Do not despair. Continue. […] By the regular practice of concentration (as to which there is no secret – save the secret of perseverance) you can tyrannise over your mind (which is not the highest part of you) every hour of the day, and in no matter what place.” (p. 47f)

(Arnold Bennett: How to Live on 24 Hours a Day. New York: George H. Doran Company 1910)

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