[I]f I take the case of a Londoner who works in an office, whose office hours are from ten to six, and who spends fifty minutes morning and night in travelling between his house door and his office door, I shall have got as near to the average as facts permit. There are men who have to work longer for a living, but there are others who do not have to work so long. […] If my typical man wishes to live fully and completely he must, in his mind, arrange a day within a day. And this inner day, a Chinese box in a larger Chinese box, must begin at 6 p.m. and end at 10 a.m. It is a day of sixteen hours; and during all these sixteen hours he has nothing whatever to do but cultivate his body and his soul and his fellow men. During those sixteen hours he is free; he is not a wage-earner; he is not preoccupied with monetary cares; he is just as good as a man with a private income. This must be his attitude.
Arnold Bennett, How to Live on 24 Hours a Day, London, 1910, ch. 4
My girlfriend informs me that there’s a black widow nesting in a drainpipe near our garage. I have now been on the GTD program for several days and am a next-action machine. I say out loud to myself in a robot voice, “Processing … dot dot dot …” I head outside, already planning my next action: “Pour water down drain to send spider on river rampage to Jesus.” On the way, however, I discover a dead squirrel. Protocol interrupted. How do you dispose of a dead squirrel?
I return to the house with my bucket of water to ask the Internet. A state of California Web site informs me that I have to call the West Nile Virus Hotline. WTF?! I open a new tab and Google “West Nile deaths human California.” Only one this year. Next action: Let air out of lungs. Back to west nile.ca.gov. From the photos, I identify the decedent as a Fox squirrel. While scrolling through, I notice that its cousin the Douglas squirrel is adorable! I throw it—the words, not the squirrel—at Wikipedia. Pine squirrel located in the Pacific coastal states. Huh. I jot down “pine squirrel” for use in as-yet-unwritten funny sentence. Back to the ‘pedia. Naturalist John Muir described the Douglas squirrel as “by far the most interesting and influential of the California sciuridae.” … Sciuridae? How has that term managed to elude me for more than three decades? I click the link and learn that it’s a family of large rodents—squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, and, uh, spermophiles. I wonder how you pronounce it. sky-yer-EE-dye? SURE-i-day? Goto: Merriam-Webster Online. Damn—it’s a premium-account word. I’ll have to slum it on Dictionary.com. Aha! sigh-YUR-i-day. I say it aloud several times, nodding with a false sense of accomplishment. The black widow is still alive. The Fox squirrel is still dead. And so are 35 minutes of my life.
Chris Hardwick, ‘Diary of a Self-Help Dropout: Flirting With the 4-Hour Workweek’, Wired, vol. 17, no. 1 (January, 2009)