The Young Man's Guide to the Harmonious
Development of Christian Character

by Harvey Newcomb, 1847


What is worth doing at all, is worth the undivided attention; but John can never be satisfied to do but one thing at a time. By attempting to read or play while dressing, he consumes double the time that is necessary. He reads at the table, and, in consequence, keeps the table waiting for him to finish his meal. He turns his work into play, and thus his work is slighted, and frequently left half done. When he goes to his lesson, his attention is arrested by something else before he has fairly commenced, and he stops to look or listen. Or perhaps he insensibly falls into a reverie, and is engaged in building "castles in the air," until something happens to call back his spirit from the fairy land. The consequence is, the lesson is acquired but imperfectly, while twice the needful time has been spent upon it. At the same time, nothing else is accomplished. This, is what I call busy idleness.

The true way to accomplish the most, and to do it in the best manner, is to confine the attention strictly to the thing in hand, and to bend all the energies of the mind to that one object, aiming to do it in the best possible manner, in the least possible time. By adopting this principle, and acting upon it, you will be surprised to find how much more expeditiously you will accomplish what you undertake, and how much better it will be done. It is indispensable to success in any undertaking.

Closely connected with this subject, is the systematic division of time. Where there is no system, one duty will jostle another, and much time will be wasted in considering what to do next; all of which would be avoided, by having a regular routine of duties, one coming after the other in regular order, and so having a set time for each. This cannot be carried out perfectly, because there will every day be something to do that was not anticipated. But it may be so far pursued as to avoid confusion and waste of time.