How to live on 24 hours a day

How to live on 24 hours a day

How to live on 24 hours a day is a good title, but, unfortunately, it is not mine. It belongs to Arnold Bennett (1867-1931), the English writer who, in 1910, published a book about how to manage time and one’s life with that title on the cover.  

In 1910, over one hundred years ago, mind you, people were interested in time-investing and were aware that time was flying by and slipping through their fingers, and that they had little to show for it.

Bennett explains that time is the inexplicable raw material of everything and that with it all is possible and without it, nothing is possible. Yet we fritter time away as if it were going out of style. “Oh, dear! Oh, dear! I shall be too late!” we exclaim, along with the white rabbit checking his pocket watch.

Time is like the weather: everyone talks about it, but nobody does anything about it. Day in, day out, I hear my students decry time -and their lack of it. So many things to do, so little time to accomplish them. Little time? Bennett tells us –as if we did not know- that we all have 24 hours per day. Our time-account is refilled daily with 24 hours for our use, to do as we wish. And there is little we can do to change that fact: 24 hours for everyone, rich and poor alike, geniuses and morons alike, the tall and the short, old and young. Nothing is ever more democratic and it cuts across all levels of society. However, mankind became the slave of time as soon as it invented and created the calendar and divided it into years, months, weeks, days and hours.

The calendar is a great invention; no way around that. Its advantages have brought humanity where it is now. Yet it creates stress and frustration as well, mainly because we all have turned too dependent on it and have filled our future –the time that is not yet but is to come- with tasks to fulfill, deadlines to meet, promises to keep, and hours to go before we sleep. That is stressful just because we bite more than we can reasonably chew.

Professor Ciryl Northcote Parkinson advances in his witty and wisdom-filled Parkinson’s Law, that work expands to fill the time [set] for its completion. He elaborates on this and is more precise than I am being now. Suffice to linger on the word “expand” because it suits my purpose.

Also read: Making time for the small moments in time

How to live on 24 hours a day

To contradict Parkinson I say that work does not expand, and neither does time. Time, as we know it (24 hours per day), does not expand and that is precisely the birth of the tragedy of the relationship of man with time.

But I have a solution to the time dilemma and the frustrations man has with the shortage of it. When we say “we have no time” we mean that we cannot accomplish all we want: meet all the people we have to meet, be in different places at once, make all the money we need to make, make all the love we must make, relax, sleep, eat, groom ourselves… on just 24 hours a day.

Regardless of our age, we never know how long we have left before we croak. We may plan ahead, thinking we still have 20 years to live, or maybe 35, but that is an uncertainty, perhaps wishful thinking. 24 hours a day is easier to grasp.

I propose the following in order to change our stand towards the concept of Time:

  1. Live on a daily basis. On 24 hours a day. Don’t fret over the future.
  2. Be realistic about how many tasks you can accomplish with the time you have.
  3. Make plans to accomplish tasks daily, writing down “to do” lists, no matter how lengthy.
  4. Accomplish as many tasks as reasonably possible. No fretting or hand-wringing if you can’t.
  5. Avoid frittering away time on useless and senseless tasks (learn to say no.)
  6. Shuffle tasks as needed and, again, limit them to reasonable amounts.
  7. As most people work from 9 to 5, remember that that time belongs to the company we work for.
  8. 7 hours of sleep -8 is better- is time out and should not be counted.
  9. Do not wear a watch and stop nagging others about your lack of time.
  10. Remember you have as much time as there is; not a minute more, not a minute less, just 24 hours a day.
  11. Let us catch our breath, forget Time, relax and carry on…it works miracles.

… after all, Time is just a figment of our imagination, and as a last resort, we can always put things off ad kalendas graecas.

Delfín Carbonell Basset

Delfín Carbonell is a graduate of Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh. He holds a Ph.D. in Philology from Madrid and has authored 35 books in both English and Spanish, published by McGraw-Hill, Barron’s, Larousse, Anaya and Serbal. He has taught at Pitt, F&M, Scranton and Murray St. University.