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Insights From How To Live On 24 Hours A Day (#28)

I read this thinking it’d have some golden tips on how to further optimize time management, but that was definitely lacking.

This is a book from 1908 by Arnold Bennett, the language is kind of dry and Victorian. There’s the casual racist or sexist remark. That may or may not have been common back then. He’d prolly get cancelled in 2020. Regardless, the prick had some wisdom in him. 

I can’t really recommend the book, it drags on a bit, especially in the middle. Still there’s some life-long wisdom, and given it’s over a century old, some of it must be timeless??

Insights From How to Live on 24 Hours A Day (12 minute read)

Life Advice

  • It is always the man who has tasted life who demands more of it
  • I appreciate intensely the moral value of a weekly rest. 
  • If a man has one imperious (dominant) desire, his righteousness is to satisfy it fully. But if a man has many mild, equal desires, his righteousness is to satisfy all of them reasonably well as circumstances permit. 
  • Me: ‘My brain is myself. How can I alter myself? I was born like that. In the first place you were not born ‘like that’, you have lapsed to that. And in the second place your brain is not yourself. It is only a part of yourself, and not the highest seat of authority. 
  • Assert yourself to be unalterable, and you assert yourself a fatalist. Assert yourself a fatalist, and you free yourself from all moral responsibility - and other people, too. 
  • Our fathers married at 20, we marry at 35. Why? Because a gross and energy-draining luxury has overtaken us. (Funny he was saying shit like this in 1908)
  • In times of high military excitement a man may be lynched for uttering opinions which everybody will accept as truisms a couple of years later, and thus the wise philosopher holds his tongue - lest it should be cut out. 
  • One man cannot tell another man where the other man wants to go. 
    • If he can’t himself decide on a goal he may as well curl up and expire, for the root of the matter is not in him.
  • The meaning of life and the most fundamentally important questions:
    • What have I got out of it?
    • What am I likely to get out of it?
    • In a word, what’s it worth?

Heart Vs Brain

  • When the reason and the heart come into conflict the heart is invariably wrong. 
  • The heart gives pennies in the street. The brain runs the Charity Organization Society. 
  • The brain always does the difficult, unselfish thing, and the heart always does the facile, showy thing. 
  • Kindliness of heart is not the greatest of human qualities - but it is the greatest of human qualities in friendship. 

Scheduling Advice & Time

  • Please do not form an elaborate program. Do not form any program. 
  • Get up earlier in the morning. Rise an hour, an hour and a half, or even 2 hours earlier; and - if you must - retire earlier when you can.
  • You will accomplish as much in one morning hour as in 2 evening hours.
  • Employ an hour and a half every other evening in some important and consecutive cultivation of the mind. You’ll still be left with 3 evenings for friends, hobbies, and a bunch of other stuff. You still have the terrific wealth of 45 hours between 2pm Saturday and 10am Monday.
  • Those 90 minutes 3 times a week must be the most important minutes in the 1,080
  • Confine your formal program to 6 days a week. If you find yourself wishing to extend it, but only in proportion to your wish. 
  • If you mean to read or think 30 minutes a day, arrange for an hour. 
  • Allow much more than an hour and a half in which to do the work of an hour and a half.
  • Time is a great deal more than money. If you have time you can obtain money - usually. 
  • Genius is never rewarded by even an extra hour a day.
  • Another danger is the danger of developing a policy of rush, of being gradually more and more obsessed by what one has to do next. 
  • We shall never have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is. 
  • You must say, “...but I have to work.” This, I admit, is intensely difficult to say to others.

News Consumption

  • Newspapers are produced with rapidity, to be read with rapidity. There is no place in my daily program for newspapers. I read them as I may in odd moments. 

“Why Men Buy Women Clothes and Men Used To Dress Nice” 

  • In the old days, the 2 attributes which man held in the highest esteem were wealth and idleness. To be poor was shameful, and to work for a living was shameful. Man, therefore had to demonstrate publicly that he was neither needy nor industriousness (hard-working)
  • The time came when man ceased to be proud of his own idleness, and his costume altered accordingly. Then the duty of demonstrating wealth and idleness by means of costume fell on woman. Man could not do the demonstration on his own person - he was too busy - and hence he employed the lady to be expensive on his behalf. 

Ordinary Men

  • Our leading advertisers have richly proved that the public will believe anything if they are told of it often enough. 
  • The man who begins to go to bed 40 minutes before he open his bedroom door is bored; that is to say, he is not living. 
  • Many people pursue a regular and uninterrupted course of idleness
  • The majority of men do not desire success. 
  • The average man dreams vaguely, upon occasion, he dreams how nice it would be to famous and rich. 
  • The man whose hobby is his brain will gradually settle down into a daily routine, with which routine he will start the day. The idea at the back of the mind of the ordinary man is almost always this:
    • There are several things at present hanging over me - worries, unfulfilled ambitions, unrealised desires. As soon as these things are definitely settled, then I shall begin to live and enjoy myself. That is the ordinary man’s usual idea. 
    • He is invariably waiting for something to happen before he really begins to live. 
  • I have to live and be happy and to refrain from causing unhappiness in other people. It is the business of my brain to make use of this material. 
  • Not to-morrow! Not next year! Not when I have my fortune! Not for anything! But now!
  • Now the great and profound mistake which my typical man makes in regard to his day is a mistake of general attitude, a mistake which weakens two-thirds of his energies and interests. In the majority of instances he does not precisely feel a passion for his business; at best he does not dislike it. 
  • One of the chief things which my typical man has to learn is that the mental faculties are capable of a continuous hard activity; they do not tire like an arm or a leg. All they want is change - not rest, except in sleep. 

Concentration & Memory Tips

  • The brain must be mastered by will-power. 
  • When you leave your house, concentrate your mind on a subject (no matter what, to begin with).
  • By the regular practice of concentration you can tyrannise over your mind, every hour of the day, and in no matter what place. 
    • I do not care what you concentrate on, so long as you concentrate. It is the mere discipling of the thinking machine that counts. 
  • Read a chapter of Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus  - and so short they are, the chapters - in the evening and concentrate on it the next morning. 
  • Without the power to dictate to the brain its task and to ensure obedience - true life is impossible. Mind control is the first element of a full existence. 
  • I am entirely convinced that what is more than anything else lacking in the life of the average well-intentioned man of today is the reflective mood. 
  • There are few mental exercises better than learning great poetry or prose by heart. 20 lines a week for 6 months.
  • The most important preliminary to self-development is the faculty of concentrating at will. Another excellent exercise is to read a page of no-matter-what, and then immediately to write down - in one’s own words or in the author’s - one full recollection of it. 15 minutes a day.
  • Mental efficiency can be gained by constant practice in meditation - by concentrating the mind, say, for but 10 minutes daily, but with absolute regularity


  • A lot us don’t reflect on:
    • The problem of our happiness
    • The main direction in which we are going
    • What life is giving to us
    • The share which reason has (or has not) in determining our actions
    • The relation between our principles and our conduct
  • Not reading of books will take the place of a daily, candid, honest examination of what one has recently done, and what one is about to do
  • When shall this important business be accomplished? The solitude of the evening journey home appears to me to be suitable for it. 
  • Unless you give at least 45 minutes to careful, fatiguing reflection (it is an awful bore at first) upon what you are reading, your 90 minutes of a night are chiefly wasted. 
  • The study of cause and effect, while it lessens the painfulness of life, adds to life's picturesqueness

Feelings Of Superiority

  • Certain dangers which lie in wait for the sincere aspirant towards life.
    • 1st is the terrible danger of becoming that most odious and least supportable of persons - a fellow gives himself airs of superior wisdom and has lost his sense of humor
    • Unconsciously to become a “prig” is an easy and a fatal thing. 
  • As well not to chatter too much about what one is doing and not to betray a too-pained sadness at the spectacle of a whole world deliberately wasting so many hours out of every day, and therefore never really living. 

Starting Slow

  • Beware of undertaking too much at the start. Be content with quite a little. Allow for accidents. Allow for human nature, especially your own.
  • Most people who are ruined are ruined by attempting too much.
  • The risk of a failure at the commencement of the enterprise
  • Let the pace of the first lap be even absurdly slow, but let it be as regular as possible.
  • Having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it at all costs of tedium and distaste.

Blame, Criticism, or Temper

  • All blame, uttered or unexpressed, is wrong. 
  • We are all of us the same in essence; what separates us is merely differences in our respective stages of evolution. Constant reflection upon this fact must produce that universal sympathy which alone can produce a positive content. It must do away with such ridiculous feelings as blame, irritation, anger, resentment. It must establish in the mind an all-embracing tolerance. 
  • I must admit that in the seclusion of my mind, though I say not a word, I am constantly blaming others because I am not happy. 
  • The man who loses his temper often thinks he is doing something rather fine and majestic.
  • The way in which a man of uncertain temper is treated by his friends proves that they despise him, for they do not treat him as a reasonable being. How should they treat him as a reasonable being when the tenure of his reason is so insecure? And if only he could hear what is said of him behind his back!...
  • One of the central secrets of efficient daily living is to leave our daily companions alone a great deal more than we do, and attend to ourselves. 
    • If a daily companion is conducting his life upon principles which you know to be false, and with results which you feel to be unpleasant, the safe rule is to keep your mouth shut. 
  • Criticize less, even in the secrecy of your chamber. And do not blame at all. 
  • When once a man, having passed an unhappy day because his clumsy, negligent brain forgot to control his instincts at a critical moment, has said to his brain: “I will force you, by concentrating you on that particular point, to act efficiently the next time similar circumstances arise”.

Seeking Truth

  • In the ordinary house-hold the amount of machine horse-power expended in fighting for the truth is really quite absurd. 
  • Truth is indestructible. Truth will out. Truth is never in a hurry. If it doesn’t come out today it will come out tomorrow or next year. It can take care of itself. 
  • By our excessive anxiety for the spread of truth, we give a very great deal too much attention to the state of other people’s machines. 


  • I suppose that for the majority of men the suspension of income for a single month would mean bankruptcy
  • A whole secret of relative freedom from financial anxiety lies not in income, but in expenditure. 
  • It’s far easier to lessen one’s expenditure than to increase one’s income without increasing one’s expenditure. 

Advice on Books

  • Don’t read bad books, you struggle to get thru them. Good books keep you moving forward and you wanna keep reading them. 
  • A library must be, primarily, the expression of the owner’s personality. 
  • In buying a book, be influenced by 2 considerations only. 
    • Are you reasonably sure that is a good book?
    • Have you a desire to possess it? Do not be influenced by the probability or the improbability of your reading it. After all, one does read a certain proportion of what one buys.
  • Imaginative poetry is the highest form of literature.


  • I feel that is as dangerous to tell the truth about success as it is to tell the truth about the United States. (Remember this is an English guy writing this in 1908!)
  • The very central idea of success is separation from the multitude of plain men; it is perhaps the only idea common to all the various sorts of success - differentiation from the crowd. 

4 Signifiers of Success

  • Distinction in the sciences
  • Distinction in the arts
  • Direct influence and power over the material lives of other men - that is to say distinction in politics, national, or local
  • Success in amassing money. This last is the commonest and easiest.

Characteristics of Successful People

  • Men destined for success flourish and find their ease in an atmosphere of collision and disturbance. 
  • The extremely few individuals whose instincts mark them out to take part in the struggle for success can be identified at once. 
    • The 1st thing they do is leave the town.  The air of the town is bracing enough for them. Their nostrils dilate for something keener. 
  • No one is a worse guide to success than your typical successful man. He seldom understands the reasons of his own success and is rarely natural and sincere. 
  • It’s got to a continual, insatiable wish to succeed, being preoccupied with the idea of succeeding. We dream of success, but we have not the passion for success. We don’t lie awake at nights pondering upon it. 
  • They’re always on the look-out for new opportunities. 


  • Strong desires generally betoken much energy, and they are definite desires. 
  • Nobody will consume energy in action unless he desires to perform the action, either for itself or as a means to a desired end. 
  • The desire which indicates great energy is always there, worrying. It is an obsession, it is a nuisance, it is a whip and a scorpion; it has no mercy. 
  • It is necessary to conquer the human objection to hard labor of any sort. It is not a paradox to assert that man often dislikes the work which he likes. For myself, every day anew, I hate to start work. 

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