Picture this hypothetical scenario:
You wake up in the morning full of energy to go win the world. The day is already planned in advance:
- Go to office and work
- Go for a run after coming back
- Eat some healthy dinner
- Study/Paint/Write/Work on your startup (or fill it up with something else you like to do)
- Read before bed
- Sleep early
Here's what actually happened:
You reached office full of energy and with a smile on your face. But then you had an altercation at work with someone. One of your tasks got stuck because of someone else’s inefficiency. You felt lazy yourself to finish your work. On your way back from office you got traffucked.
You probably do not come back right away. You go out with friends for drinks to get wasted. Or if you come back home directly, you feel exhausted mentally and physically. It was a bad day - you deserve a break, don’t you? You think of watching a movie. Actually, 'think' is too strong a word. Thoughtlessly, you choose to drown your inner voices, almost subconsciously, by watching a movie or maybe the fancy new TV series that has just released its new episode. And then, you bore yourself to sleep checking your Facebook feed on your phone while lying in bed. All those plans of being more productive and creating something go down the drain.
This hypothetical day has become my reality way too many times. But, I hate feeling unproductive - it permeates into other aspects of my life (love, work, health) and makes them miserable too. Thus, I picked up this short book called How to Live on 24 Hours a Day by Arnold Bennett.
In this book, Bennett puts forth many techniques of hacking your day towards more productivity. The most important of which I found is this:
If my typical man wishes to live fully and completely he must, in his mind, arrange a day within a day. And this inner day, a Chinese box in a larger Chinese box, must begin at 6 p.m. and end at 10 a.m. It is a day of sixteen hours; and during all these sixteen hours he has nothing whatever to do but cultivate his body and his soul and his fellow men.
Treat 6.30 pm after your return from work as the first light of the day, the beginning. And now you get to schedule your day however it is you like it. What would you do if your day began at 6 in the evening and you had the next 16 hours all to yourself? How would you fill it up? What if your day was a blank slate or as Leo Babauta says an empty container, what things would you fill it up with?
We like to believe that we are tired after work and cannot actually do something useful. But, that is just your mind rationalising and trying to distract you away from doing the hard things. You are not tired. Your mind can do much more than you think it can.
It is more a mind hack than an actual technique but it still works - I’ve been trying it for the last couple of weeks to remarkable results. In fact, these very lines have been written using this same technique (I could have chosen the easier option of watching a movie instead). So, if you’ve ever felt like a vegetable, incapable of moving your limbs to doing anything productive to save your life, then this is the book you should read.
Seriously, go buy it right now. I’ll wait for you. It is cheap. I’ll even give you the link. Here. No excuses now.
Hope you have. Even if you did not, here are my highlights and notes from the book to convince you to do so.
#NOTES FROM THE BOOK
(quotes from the book in italics, my notes below that)
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. The chief beauty about the constant supply of time is that you cannot waste it in advance. The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you, as perfect, as unspoilt, as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your career.
Instead of worrying about the wasted years, months and day, look ahead. You haven’t yet wasted the coming day.
We never shall have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is.
There can never be enough time. Let’s just agree on that. 24 hours is all that you, I and everyone else you envy get. And 24 hours in a day is all every great man had to achieve what they did.
Most people who are ruined are ruined by attempting too much. Let us avoid at any cost the risk of an early failure. Let the pace of the first lap be even absurdly slow, but let it be as regular as possible.
Start small. Instead of 30 minutes exercise everyday, start with 5 minutes. 2 pushups instead of 20. Write 10 word instead of 1000 words. Nothing defeats like failure. And fewer things motivate more than success, no matter how small. Give yourself the validation of being able to stick to your promises.
If a man makes two-thirds of his existence subservient to one-third, for which admittedly he has no absolutely feverish zest, how can he hope to live fully and completely?
The one-third is your day job. He argues that energy begets energy. If you laze around at office, you cannot expect energy for your passion projects. I discovered this some time back myself and documented it in this post called Doing is a State of Being.
Newspapers are produced with rapidity, to be read with rapidity. There is no place in my daily programme for newspapers.
On changing newspaper reading habits. Read them in passing - don’t devour them.
You don't spend three-quarters of an hour in "thinking about" going to bed. You go.
Stop wasting time preparing or thinking about doing something. Either do it or don't
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. 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.
These boxes of time are your own to use. Don't give them up for anyone or anything else. It seems a small amount but much can be achieved in it.
Your inability to perform "The Maiden's Prayer" on a piano need not prevent you from making yourself familiar with the construction of the orchestra to which you listen a couple of nights a week during a couple of months!
The simple joy of learning about the world around you should not be ignored by you - especially the items in which you involve yourself regularly in. The more you know about it, the better you are equipped to appreciate it.