"Dispatch Is The Soul Of Business"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In Chesterfield's day it was not possible to become a great statesman or a socially and politically successful person unless one cultivated to perfection the attitudes and graces of the polished gentleman. Chesterfield made every effort to train his son in these attributes; many of his admonitions are simply sound common sense and worth-while advice to anyone. Again, many of them are more applicable to the age in which he lived: great attention to manner, rigid adherence to the many social graces and forms of etiquette, and a carefully calculated and rather cold approach to social relationships. For all the careful training Chesterfield bestowed, Philip never really lived up to his father's expectations. He spent most of his life in Europe, serving the British government; plagued by ill health, he died at thirty-six. Chesterfield corresponded faithfully with him and seldom failed to give him advice. In a letter written February 5, 1750, he discusses the need to be economical, both of time and money. Quoting the saying, "Take care of the pence, and the pounds will take care of themselves," he points out that the same maxim can be equally well applied to time. The minutes we waste, says Chesterfield, do not amount to much; but if we add them up at the end of a year, it is a different story. One should neglect no opportunity to improve one's time; for example, rather than squandering an idle hour in a coffee-house, it is better to read a good book–not, he hastens to add, "frivolous and idle books, such as the absurd romances . . . where characters, that never existed, are insipidly displayed, and sentiments that were never felt, pompously described." Rather, one should stick to the best established books in any language. Chesterfield then touches on the evils of procrastination and the value of budgeting one's time:

Many people lose a great deal of their time by laziness; they loll and yawn in a great chair, tell themselves that they have not time to begin anything then, and that it will do as well another time. This is a most unfortunate disposition, and the greatest obstruction to both knowledge and business. At your age, you have no right nor claim to laziness; I have, if I please, being emeritus. You are but just listed in the world, and must be active, diligent, indefatigable. If ever you propose commanding with dignity, you must serve up to it with diligence. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
Dispatch is the soul of business; and nothing contributes more to dispatch than method. Lay down a method for everything, and stick to it inviolably, as far as unexpected incidents may allow. Fix one certain hour and day in the week for your accounts, and keep them together in their proper order; by which means they will require very little time, and you can never be much cheated. Whatever letters and papers you keep, docket and tie them up in their respective classes, so that you may instantly have recourse to any one. Lay down a method also for your reading. . . .