"In April 1870, a twenty-eight-year-old [William] James made a cautionary note to himself in his diary. 'Recollect,' he wrote, 'that only when habits of order are formed can we advance to really interesting fields of action - and consequently accumulate grain on grain of wilful choice like a very miser - never forgetting how one link dropped undoes an indefinite number.' The importance of forming such 'habits of order' later became one of James's great subjects as a psychologist. In one of the lectures he delivered to teachers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1892 - and eventually incorporated into his book Psychology: A Briefer Course
- James argued that the 'great thing' in education is to 'make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy.'
The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work. There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation.
"James was writing from personal experience - the hypothetical sufferer is, in fact, a thinly disguised description of himself. For James kept no regular schedule, was chronically indecisive, and lived a disorderly, unsettled life. As Robert D. Richardson wrote in his 2006 biography, 'James on habit, then, is not the smug advice of some martinet, but the too-late-learned too-little-self-knowing, pathetically earnest, hard-won crumbs of practical advice offered by a man who really had no habits - or who lacked the habits he most needed, having only the habit of having no habits - and whose life was itself a "buzzing blooming confusion" that was never really under control.'"
--Mason Currey: Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work.
(Alternative subtitle: How Artists Work
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