Women: How to balance work and play (1917)

A few hints on balance true for work and play

by Lilian Lauferty

No one ever yet made a success of any job to which he did not bring all the best there was in him. You have to have your whole heart in your work or your play to make a success of either.

But to go right back to the case of the Immortal Jack — all work and no play doesn’t sharpen the edges of ability!

If Marie likes dancing better than trying to advance herself in her chosen profession, she is pretty likely to find school teaching a dull job. You haven’t much to bring to teaching the young idea how to shoot straight, if you have been zig-zagging around the ballroom floor until four o’clock the night before.

One of the most brilliant woman writers of our day told me recently that she had to be in bed by eleven five nights out of seven if she meant to do any kind of work at all. “I allow myself two evenings of real larking. Restaurants after the theatre and dances that greet the dawn see me twice a week some weeks!

“But I know that ideas won’t flow the next morning, and I don’t let it worry me that they don’t. It would be pretty awful to excite myself with the thought that perhaps I had ‘gone stale’ when the energy I had spent Tuesday night didn’t come bounding back ready to spend itself all over again on Wednesday morning.”

The need of rest

A writer, however conscientious about her work, is not a routine worker. A magazine gives her a commission to produce one story a month, and it is no one’s concern but her own just how much of each day she gives to producing it. But the girl who has to be in a school room or an office at a given hour every morning simply cannot afford to let Tuesday night encroach on Wednesday morning’s supply of energy.

All living things refresh and renew themselves, but the processes of building up must keep a little in advance of those of breaking down, if we are to be healthy, efficient individuals. When you are so tired that you fall asleep over your job, you have been robbing the Peter of working capacity to pay the Paul of social endeavor.

The grim determination with which some people pursue a good time is rather pathetic. Their friends excuse them by saying that the poor dears have nothing else to do and that they have to fill their lives somehow, don’t they? No, not just “somehow.”

The situation, however, has a much more practical aspect than this. Consider yourself a reservoir of energy which in its ideal state would contain 100 percent each of ability, ambition and strength the reserve of power. Each day you have to expend on your work the full amount of your ability, the full amount of vour ambition and 50 percent of your power. The renewing strength within you fills the reservoirs again with exactly the amount you have spent in ambition and energy.

But the power comes back again by a slower process. Seventy-five percent is the most you get back each day, and as you let it grow by spending a little less than you get back, so the ambition and energy which it feeds have a chance to grow, too.

Now remember that these various percentages take place on different planes. After you perfect yourself as a stenographer, you may become a secretary, than secretary to the president, then yourself an official with a secretary.

How it dwindles

If your power keeps growing and you have an excess hundred percent which you have accumulated in your reservoir, you are ready to climb from one plane to the next.

But, suppose instead of giving 100 percent or all your energy and ambition for the day to your work, you give it seventy-five, and twenty-five of it goes into play — that, too, may make you perfectly satisfactory in your own plane.

Suppose next that you strain yourself by calling on your power to reproduce energy for you a little faster than you naturally restore it. In other words, you try to steal a little of Tuesday’s 100 percent so that you may put seventy five percent of energy into your play.

Tuesday, you have only fifty percent left, so you steal from Wednsday, and presently you arrive at the stage whereby spending 110 percent a day, you have to come to an utterly bankrupt day.

By always spending your energy faster than your power to restore it, you lay up no accumulation of power to help you rise out of your plane into the one above it, and the energy left from the day’s regular tasks won’t be great enough to lift you.

Each individual has to figure out the problem for himself. The longer anyone puts it off, the longer he is getting from one plane of endeavor to the next above it.

The kiddies in school who are promoted in the middle of the term or allowed to skip a class have been doing work which is 150 percent efficient for their own class — 3A. This would probably be fully 100 percent efficient in 3B, and is worth trying out in 4A, because it will start out by being 75 percent efficient and can be worked up to real efficiency.

Suppose you sit down with yourself and a sheet of paper and a pencil and figure the thing out. How do you reach your highest efficiency? Everybody needs a little diversion. Does going to the movies two nights a week, taking a walk two nights a week, going to one dance and one lecture and reading one night a week give you the best results? Or do you need quantities of sleep and two evenings of diversion? Or does reading and trying to improve yourself give you the best results? Figure it out. See what expenditure of your energy gives you the best returns.

100 percent for your ambition

As for your ambition, always give a full hundred percent of that to your success. It is full and entire expenditure of high ambition that will make you sit down and figure just how much of your energy you need to give to play in order to have the biggest returns from what goes into your work. And only by getting full returns from your work and play energy can you hope to grow in power.

And “more power to you” dear reader, say I.