The art of using time aright is so to live that we may in our short life do as much g6od work as we can, and neglect no opportunity of improving ourselves intellectually and morally. In this way we may expect to be happy ourselves and make others happy.
The rules to be laid down for the proper use of time can best be expressed negatively. They take the form of warnings against the various ways in which we are tempted to waste our time.
One of the most important of these rules is that we should avoid unpunctuality. It was wittily said of a certain English Prime Minister that he lost half an hour every morning and ran after it all the day without being able to overtake it.
The unpunctual business man who has several appointments to keep in the course of the day, is likely, if he is late for the first appointment, to be late for all the subsequent ones.
And his being late for even one appointment may involve great waste of time, as in many cases the punctual man who has come in time will not wait for the late comer, so that both of them lose the time they have taken to come to the meeting place.
A fault resembling unpunctuality is procrastination, which has well been called the thief of time. Procrastination is the habit of putting off till tomorrow what we can do today. One great danger of this lies in the uncertainty of the future. By to-morrow circumstances may have changed, and it may be then out of our power to do what we intended.
Even though the material circumstances have not changed, yet each to-morrow, when it comes, is converted into to-day, and then there is another to-morrow to which we are likely once more to postpone our neglected duty. The evil of procrastination is an obstacle to moral progress.
The way to hell is said to be paved with good intentions, because the good resolutions we make to reform ourselves in the future are so often broken.
If we are really determined to cure ourselves of any bad habit, we ought, in the words of the poet Longfellow, to “act in the living present,” and at once begin to amend our course.
Besides these general tendencies resulting in waste of time that we have been considering, we have to be constantly on our guard against special temptations to idle amusements. Many waste a large amount of valuable time in reading sensational novels, which are so exciting that they cannot easily be laid aside.
Others spend many hours of the week skimming through the columns of newspapers and reading petty details of personal gossip, that it is impossible and useless to remember.
Others exhaust their energies by sitting up, night after night, in hot theatres, from which they return home so late that in the morning they are unfit for their daily work. Others spend too much time in conversation with their friends when they ought to be working.
All these ways of passing the time are perfectly harmless if used in moderation as means of refreshing our weary faculties.
It is absolutely necessary that we should have intervals of leisure from work, and it is quite possible to go to the other extreme and waste time by unseasonable activity when we ought to be resting, or by attempting work which is useless or beyond our powers. But the opposite fault is far more common.
Human beings on the whole are more apt to be idle when they should work, than to work when they require rest. Therefore, those who teach us to make the best use of our time are right in especially insisting upon the danger of spending too much time in our favourite pastimes.