Living on 24 hours

On Sunday, I drove out to Amboy Crater in the desert between Barstow and Needles. More on that later. On the drive out I listened to the LibriVox recording of How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day, a book written in 1912 by Arnold Bennett. It’s a delightful book with tips not about time management per se, but more about how to enjoy living your life in the hours available. His tips include:

  • Get up earlier in the morning. You don’t really need as much sleep as you’re getting, and it keeps you from more interesting mental activity. “Most people sleep themselves stupid,” he quotes.
  • Difficult tasks are good for you. He lauds the “necessity for the tense bracing of the will before anything worth doing can be done,” indicating that this is what separates him from the cat on the hearth. Well, he has a point; the deliberate choice of difficult endeavors is not something a cat regularly attempts.
  • You aren’t really tired when you get home from work. “Mental faculties are capable of a continuous hard activity […] all they want is change, not rest.”
  • His prescription: use the morning commute to train your mind to focus on something, anything, of interest, and keep it there for the whole time. Use the evening commute to learn about your self: analyze your behaviors, desires, goals, and really get to know what makes you happy. Use 3 evenings a week to, basically, improve yourself: e.g., pick an art you like (music, ballet, theater, etc.) and learn about how it is produced, its details, its history, and your enjoyment of such performances will be greatly heightened. Or do some “serious reading”, by which he means, specifically, “difficult reading.” He recommends “imaginative poetry” as the most difficult sort, and therefore best for you. He recommends starting with “Aurora Leigh” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, which I am now intrigued by and have placed on my to-read list.
  • Reading time should be split half and half between reading and reflecting on what you have read. I find this an interesting proposition. He notes that you will make slower progress, but it will be richer progress. This seems likely to be true, yet could I force myself to spend so much time on reflection and analysis? A good challenge!

Overall, I found the book thought-provoking and very entertaining as a reading (listening) experience alone. It’s only 1.5 hours long spoken, so I imagine it’s an even quicker read… consuming a minimal amount of your 24 hours.

1 of 1 people learned something from this entry.

  1. Susan said,

    January 6, 2009 at 3:11 am

    (Learned something new!)

    This seems like a fascinating book! I shall put it on my reading list. I’m currently reading _Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance_, and it’s definitely a read-then-reflect sort of book. I also find that writing my thoughts up for GoodReads constitutes some reflection, but not the quantity he’s describing here.

    I’m not sure about needing less sleep than I’m getting, though I do find that if I get up to an alarm, I’m often sharper earlier in the morning. Which is sad b/c I hate alarms.

  2. wkiri said,

    January 6, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance almost made my head explode. I totally agree that it’s a read-then-reflect, if only to keep your brain from oozing out your ears. Thanks for the reminder; I may need to pick it up again (it’s been years!).

    I originally started writing short reviews of the books I was reading to combat that feeling of reading and reading and then not retaining much. Like you, it helps me get some element of reflection into my reading life. But you’re right, he’s talking about a bit more than that. He actually encourages you to develop your own philosophies and opinions, beyond just reading about others’. :)

  3. jim said,

    January 6, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    What is quality?

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