I recently bought “Churchill Style | The Art Of Being Winston Churchill by Barry Singer and as I was reading, I was struck by how Winston Churchill never in his life followed what would be called a regular working time. There are countless stories of how Churchill woke up at the same time everyday, and how he always took a nap. And then there was the drinking — there was a lot of that — but there was a work schedule that was flexible, demanding and totally unstructured.
Churchill would work whenever it suited him. Sometimes that was in the morning, occasionally in the afternoon and often late in to the night. He had no concept of a regular working time. There was no Monday to Friday 9:00am to 6:00pm for him. When he had an idea for an article or a speech, he’d disappear into his office, either at home or at work, and just write. And Churchill produced an incredible body of work that is still read and studied today. Millions of words, around 74 volumes of books and thousands of articles and speeches. Never once complaining about having too much work to do. Even when he was a government minister and later Prime Minister, Churchill maintained a hectic schedule, making decisions that affected millions of people, writing memos, letters and reading reports and correspondence all with an energy and enthusiasm most of us would not be able to produce even if we tried.
Churchill also maintained a full family and social life, lunching and dining with his friends and family. Dinner was the highlight of the day. It was at dinner that Churchill entertained his friends and spent time with his family and when he was at his house, Chartwell, in the south-east of England he would spend afternoons with his children (of which he had five), painting or building walls in the garden.
And yet today, people complain. Always complain about how much work they have to do, how they don’t have time to do the things they want to do and all they want is a work life balance. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, to help get more things done and to help achieve things that people 60 years ago could only dream of. Yet we are producing less and being distracted by more. This is certainly not the fault of technology, It is our fault. We have allowed ourselves to be distracted by all the distractions around us. As I look around me on the subway, all I see are people engrossed in video games and TV shows. Very few read books or write. Most of the people who complain about not having enough time to do the things they want to do are the ones wasting their time on consuming TV shows, playing computer games and maintaining meaningless virtual relationships with people they hardly know on social media. Churchill amazingly saw this coming with the dawn of the television:
“I am no enthusiast for the TV age, in which I fear mass thought and action will be taken too much charge of by machinery, both destructive and distracting.”
Sadly, too many of us have allowed television, and now other forms of media, to take charge of our lives and this has led to the destruction of our thoughts and has caused us to be distracted so easily we find we are not doing the stuff that really matters to us.
It really is time to stop complaining about a lack of time. It is time to stop thinking you can live your life in a convenient structure of work time and leisure time. It is time to become more Churchillian and be flexible.
Everybody works differently, some do their best work in the morning, others do their best work at night. If you truly want to achieve greatness, then you should do your best work every single day what ever the time may be. You should read books to improve your knowledge, you should write or paint or draw. Create, learn and produce. Of course you need time to relax with friends and family, but complaining about not having enough time, when you are spending three or four hours a day consuming digital content is never going to give you a life of fulfilment and achievement. You have the power to make your life productive and to be fulfilled, so go on and be Churchillian and don’t let technology destroy your own inner voice and thoughts and distract you to the achievement of nothing.
Carl Pullein is the author of Your Digital Life: Everything you need to know to get your life organised and put technology to work for you, a book about how to get yourself organised in the twenty-first century