This section is from the book "Applications of Psychology to the Problems of Personal and Business Efficiency", by Warren Hilton. Also available from Amazon: Psychology and Achievement - Applied Psychology 12 Volume Set.
The fact is that to be a truly busy man you must be never in a hurry. You must work systematically. You must economize effort. You must permit no distractions and do your work leisurely. You must take time to think things over in a natural way. You must waste no thoughts in business hours on social or pleasurable pursuits that would dissipate your mental capital. You must work when you work, and you may play when you play, but your business must be the most fascinating of games and the only one you play during business hours.
Another thing you need is poise. One trouble with you now is that you waste your priceless powers in useless anxiety.
The minute business falls off you begin to worry. You fritter your mental energies in fretting until you are incapable of real thought, and being unable to think your way out you get excited.
Remember it is all just a game, and you are in it only for the fun of the thing. You will never win out if you persist in tearing your hair.
Before he crossed the Rubicon Julius Caesar was staggered at the greatness of the undertaking before him. The more he reflected and took counsel of his friends, the greater loomed the difficulties of the attempt and the more appalling the calamities his passage of that river would bring upon the Roman world. But when at last with the cry, "The die is cast!" he plunged into the river, there was an end for him to mental dissension, a freedom to plan and execute, an expansion of courage and power.
So it will be with you. With doubt and uncertainty the pressure may be high in the gauge, but the engine does not move. Make up your mind, and you release energies previously wasted in conflicts between opposing thought complexes struggling for supremacy.
A fine illustration of this is shown in the religious experience known as conversion. To the convert, conversion means the profound acceptance of a mighty spiritual truth. It means positive knowledge taking the place of doubt or indifference. Conflicting ideas are no longer present in his consciousness. Pent-up energies are released. He wants to do things. His soul is fired with overmastering impulses to action. He wants to go forth and preach the gospel of his faith. He is lifted to a high plane of exhilaration. He experiences the "peace that passeth understanding."
"Christian Science," "Truth," "The New Thought," and similar movements all achieve their really marvelous results in much the same way. All proclaim doctrines of exuberant optimism, having a tendency to banish fear-thoughts and self-consciousness and self-depreciation, and to set up in their stead ideas of courage and of achievement and of individual power. If these teachings are successful - that is to say, if they inherently possess the right appeal for the particular individual -they have the happy effect of begetting a stoical indifference to petty physical disorders and social vexations and bringing about a concentration upon the main business of life of the mental energies thus previously wasted.
Decide the matter that is troubling you. Make an end of hesitation and uncertainty and fear. Your very act of decision will release large stores of pent-up mental power and add immeasurably to your effectiveness.
So long as you are in doubt and perplexity conflicting ideas and impulses balance each other. You are not then a man of action; you are a wavering coward. You are afflicted with paralysis of will and mental stagnation.
Decide the matter - that is to say, let one mental picture assume a greater vividness than the other until it possesses your soul - and forthwith the banked fires of your mental energy will burst into flame.
Another thing: Stop wasting your time.
How much time do you spend in rest and relaxation? How much should you spend? Can you answer these questions accurately?
Thomas A. Edison has contended for years that four hours' sleep a day was sufficient for any man. He has conducted experiments with a large number of men, giving careful attention to matters of diet and exercise, and the results have seemed in a measure to support his theory.
Dr. Fred W. Eastman reports that owing to pressure of work he was recently unable to get more than three or four hours' sleep out of the twenty-four during a period of many months, and that so far from being hurt by it he gained five pounds. He says: "If restoration during sleep is a task so relatively small, the question arises whether, in order to complete restoration, it is necessary for us to spend so much time in sleep as we do. Perhaps on account of popular opinion and personal habit, we waste much time in this jelly-fish condition that could more profitably be spent in active pursuit of our ambitions. The answer, of course, depends upon the nature of our occupations. If there is muscular effort involved, with a correspondingly large amount of waste in the cells and blood, eight hours or more are probably necessary. But if the work is of a sedentary nature, and mainly of the brain, there is naturally a smaller quantity of accumulated waste, and less time is required for removal. Many are the instances of great men, past and present, who have lived healthily and worked unceasingly and strenuously on only four or five hours of sleep, or half the laborer's portion. Surely we do not suppose that these men were or are physically different from others, but rather that by inclination or necessity they have developed a habit of sleeping intensely for a short period, with resulting gain of time and efficiency."
So far as this matter of relaxation, rest and sleep is concerned, the rule to follow is obviously this: Determine accurately by experiment the proper relation between periods of work and periods of rest in your own case, then increase your efficiency by maintaining this relation.
In Denmark they feed cows scientifically. Day by day they increase the allowance of cream-producing food. Day by day the percentage of cream increases. At last there comes a day when analysis shows that there is no longer any increase in the proportion of cream. They then dilute the food till the output of cream diminishes. So they determine the normal.
So with you and your hours of work and leisure. Give more and more time to your business each day until there comes an impairment in the quality of your work. Stop short of this. You have found your norm of efficiency.