In his short but insightful book “How to Live on 24 Hours a Day”, Arnold Bennett discusses how one can effectively manage their time on a daily basis. Though some of the material in the book is a bit outdated (it was written in 1910), much of Bennett’s advice is still very helpful and useful for people today.
It is right at the beginning of his book that Bennett gives a simple yet profound insight as to what ‘time’ is:
“Philosophers have explained space. They have not explained time. It is the inexplicable raw material of everything. With it, all is possible; without it, nothing. The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it. You wake up in the morning, and lo! your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life! It is yours. It is the most precious of possessions. A highly singular commodity, showered upon you in a manner as singular as the commodity itself!
For remark! No one can take it from you. It is unstealable. And no one receives either more or less than you receive.”
How often do we overlook this gift of time in our daily lives? How frequently do we neglect, as Bennett calls it, this ‘daily miracle’ for what it truly is: the foundation for everything that we can and should do? The idea of time is so essential to life and existence itself (at least our existence) that we tend to forget its very presence. This gift from God is part of the explanation of anything and everything in our known universe. It is only with this gift that we can even exist much less do anything of value and purpose. At the same time it also serves as a source of humility, forcing us to recognize our limitations in the presence of a timeless, eternal God.
And yet, like any gift that God gives us we tend to abuse it for our own personal endeavors, most usually in favor of something significantly less than its full potential; whether we are binge-watching YouTube videos when we should be studying, or if we are procrastinating on completing that house-chore that has been on our to-do list for months, or even if we do study/complete that house-chore we may not always do it in a way that is most respectful of our time (i.e. do we allow needless distractions to occur while we complete such activities?).
Bennett makes the very same observation:
“Which of us lives on twenty-four hours a day? And when I say ‘lives,’ I do not mean exists, nor ‘muddles through.’ Which of us is free from that uneasy feeling that the ‘great spending departments’ of his daily life are not managed as they ought to be? Which of us is quite sure that his fine suit is not surmounted by a shameful hat, or that in attending to the crockery, he has forgotten the quality of the food? Which of us is not saying to himself—which of us has not been saying to himself all his life: ‘I shall alter that when I have a little more time’?”
We have all done this before and will continue to do it throughout our lives; it is just one more effect of our sinful nature. Whether we intend to or not, we will never be able to make the best use of the time that has been given to us. That is why we oftentimes wish that we simply had ‘a little more time’ to complete this or do that. Who has not at some point in their lives desired to have more time to be able to do, learn, and finish the things we want or need to complete? Such an idea is all too common in our struggle to use our time well.
Though he personally understands such tempting thoughts, Bennett recognizes their one simple flaw:
“We never shall have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is.”
Indeed, the idea of receiving ‘more time’ is ludicrous because there is no more time to receive. Most people intuitively know this and yet wish for it all the same; it is far easier to hope for something to happen then to work towards making it happen.
Yet with God’s grace it is the only way to make better use of our time, to learn how to expend it in a proper way. I will not attempt to go through that here (that task is better left to people like Bennett). It is good enough to begin by reminding ourselves that the time we have is, like anything else, a gift from God, and we owe it to Him and to ourselves to learn how to manage it more effectively, most of all when it concerns how we live our vocation as saints and servants of Christ.