Modern living: A Not So Modern Problem
It seems we are constantly being told that today’s modern living is more stressful and more busy than ever before; but it seems this is nothing new. In fact in Victorian England (1910) a journalist and author called Arnold Bennet wrote a book called “How to Live 24 Hours in a Day”. You can read it here for free, it shouldn’t take your more than half an hour and I’d say it’s worth half an hour of your time.
Bennet wasn’t really writing about time management or productivity, he was more concerned that workers where stuck in a daily grind of work and sleep i.e. they were existing not living; but his principals can be applied to us all.
Bennet suggested that the workers start by taking 90 minutes of their evening 3 times a week to better themselves; either through learning an art, reading the great masters, meditating on a subject, or practising mental focus. We’ll talk about mental focus later but his first point is to start small, 90 minutes 3 times a week is a (hopefully) small enough target for anyone to achieve rather than trying to do 2 or 3 hours every night, which could learn to burnout and frustration.
We can apply to this principle to any project, in fact in Dragons Den star James Caan’s book on business start ups he says exactly the same; to start with a realistic goal and build up from there.
Bennet’s tips for developing mental focus are quite practical and beneficial in surprising ways. He says that when you leave your house (are between places) you should focus your mind on a single topic and every time your mind strays from this topic to refocus your mind back onto it.
Not only will this train your mind for immense focus in your work and life it will also sharpen your mind as it is the basic technique of deep meditation outlined by Yogani in his book with the exception that Yogani uses a word or Mantra, not a subject. So you could also get all the health benefits from that.
Ultimately Bennet is offering his reader a habitual system to help to make their lives easier, and even though this book is over a hundred years old this idea is returning to the forefront of modern thinking. In a recent article entrepreneur and behavioural scientist James Clear argues that setting goals only projects the happiness we attain from achieving those goals into the future, and we should in fact employ a system where the object is my progress towards your goal every day or week instead of achieving it some time in the future.
“Goals are about the short-term result. Systems are about the long-term process,” Clear uses the example that he wouldn’t be bothered if he didn’t lift a certain weight that day because he knows that if he doesn’t miss a workout he’ll lift bigger weights in the long run.