Need to get a handle on life? Let Ben be your guide.
Spring is around the corner and you’re ready for a fresh start. Why not borrow a page from the nation’s first Postmaster General?
Benjamin Franklin kept a daily schedule that reveals an appreciation for the kind of “life hacks” that would later make Marie Kondo famous.
Here’s an example of some of his enduring wisdom:
• Keep it simple. Franklin was a busy man: In addition to co-founding a nation, he invented the lightning rod, suggested the concept of daylight saving time, was a best-selling author and helped start organizations like the University of Pennsylvania.
How’d he manage to squeeze it all in?
He broke down every day into six time blocks for peak productivity, including one set aside for sleep and others for dining.
“You may delay, but time will not,” he wrote.
• Stick to a regular schedule. Franklin woke up at 5 a.m. and went to bed at 10 p.m. for a total of seven hours of sleep each night.
By going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, he aimed to “train” his brain to fall asleep faster and improve the quality of his rest time.
Franklin often repeated a proverb: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
• Set daily goals and plan accordingly. Before going to work, Franklin wrote that he would ask himself: What good shall I do this day? Then he’d select one of the 13 virtues he lived by as his focus or theme.
This practice helped Franklin avoid the distractions of daily minutia, allowing him to concentrate on greater tasks at hand.
• Be strategic with your schedule. Franklin’s daily diary ensured he finished his most important tasks for the time of day when he had the most energy.
Specifically, he allocated two four-hour time blocks from 8 a.m.-noon and from 2-6 p.m. for uninterrupted focus on work.
But he always stopped for lunch from noon-2 p.m., and he scheduled “downtime” in the evenings.
• Conduct an evening audit. Just before going to bed, Franklin reflected upon his day and noted what went well and what didn’t.
He would then re-examine his schedule to make improvements and uncover time-wasting activities leading to energy drain.
• Don’t aim for perfection. Even Franklin struggled to stick to his regimen.
The demands of his work didn’t allow him to always follow his exact daily timetable. His goal then was to focus on improvement, not perfectionism.
“I was supris’d to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined,” he wrote. “[B]ut I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish.”