“The Improvement of Time”
From Manhood: It’s Duties and Responsibilities , 1854
Time is precious in relation to the engagements of the day; in relation to the frightful loss of the past, requiring to be redeemed; in relation to its brief duration and rapid flight; and in its probationary relation to the future. It has been said, “Time is money.” It is more. It is truth, wisdom, virtue, heaven! It is a capital in which men are equal, though endowed with dissimilar fortunes. Its capacity and promise are yours. Its achievements are possible to you. Its hopes shine upon you. Spare moments are the golddust of time. And the poet has graphically said:
“Sands make the mountains, months make the year.”
Time steals from us imperceptibly in its spare moments, while perhaps jealously guarded in its allotted periods. But if we take care of the moments, the hours, days, weeks, will take care of themselves. The true use of time is a test of character, the pledge of greatness, the earnest of success. The improvement of the shortest intervals of business increases the taste and faculties for study, and promises intelligence and respect.
Assiduity and punctuality may attain success in professional, commercial, or mechanical pursuits, while negligence and procrastination entail failure and disgrace. Diligence in useful occupations precludes a thousand temptations to vice. Spare moments are the gaps through which they find readiest access to the soul. When not provided for by a judicious arrangement of time, they may commit you to spontaneous and casual engagements, and at length confirm these engagements in habits, and finally enslave and debase the soul in mere vagrancy of thought and passion.
The manner of using leisure time, then, is one of the most ominous differences in the habits of young men. As the Turks prize every scrap of paper they can gather, because the name of God may be written thereon, so do you prize every passing period, every moment, as fraught with priceless value, and radiant with golden promise.
Just now you were an infant, and sympathy was felt in your cry. But yesterday you were a child, and chided for your faults. To-day you are a youth, projecting the plans, and glowing with the aspirations of a glorious life. Improve the time, and to-morrow you may be a philosopher, or statesman, or divine, or citizen, honored for your wisdom, or goodness, or virtue.