Ford, the automobile man, stated in his testimony before the Industrial Commission that he gets more and better work out of men at eight hours a day than at ten.
It is a law that holds good everywhere. The first duty of a worker is to keep himself fit. And an hour’s labor when he is up to the mark, bright, keen, and enthusiastic, is worth three hours’ effort when he is fagged.
“Keeping everlastingly at it brings success” is a lying motto; it rather brings poor results, slipshod products, and paresis.
Rest and recreation are the best parts of labor. They are the height to which the hammer is lifted; and the force of the blow depends on that height. To go ahead without let-up is to deliver only a succession of feeble, ineffective blows.
Get all the sleep you can. Stay abed all day occasionally. Learn to be lazy, to dawdle, to enjoy an empty mind; then, when you are called to effort, you can hit with ten times the power.
The higher the quality of your work, the more necessary it is that you approach it only when you are at your best.
This is especially true of intellectual effort. You can tell, when you read a story or an article, whether it is tainted with exhaustion; it is dull, lifeless putty.
Those who court the quality of brightness, but do not keep their bodies in trim, often resort to artificial stimulants. Stephen Crane said that the best literature could be divided into two classes: whisky and opium.
Intelligent people ought not need to be told that this is suicide. The best form of enthusiasm is the natural reaction of one’s system after a period of relaxation.
The pestiferous “work-while-you-rest” apostles are ever after us to “improve our spare time,” study French during lunch, geometry while going to sleep, and history during recess. But spare time ought to be wasted, not improved.
An hour or so at the ball-game, a contest at tennis, a long and aimless walk, a party at cards, a chess match, or a time spent in jolly talk with friends are not waste; they mean restored strength, upbuilt mental acumen, the doubling of efficiency when work is to do.
Learn to let go. Learn to relax utterly when you sit down. Learn to let every faculty lie down when you lie down, and rest whether you sleep or not.
The more thoroughly you do nothing when there is nothing to do, the better you can do something when there is something to do.
The very cream of life comes from rest. The blush, the aroma, the shine of your best work lie in the hours of idleness massed behind it. The secret of brilliant work is in throwing every atom of your reserve force into it. Perpetual exertion begets mediocrity.
That is a better rule than “Keep at it.”