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What We Can Learn From Benjamin Franklin’s Schedule

Topics: Career Advice

Benjamin Franklin’s self-imposed schedule was famously rigorous. It’s also stood the test of time. Today’s workers could adopt Ben’s schedule and use their own days a little more effectively.

Benjamin Franklin is one of the most beloved founding fathers of the U.S., and for good reason. He was an inventor, publisher, diplomat, writer and polymath. There is so much we can learn from what he did, the things he said and the way he lived his life.

Thankfully, he kept a fairly meticulous schedule for himself and posterity. What can we learn from it?

Ben Franklin's schedule
Via nickbilton/Flickr

1. Wake up early

Benjamin Franklin’s schedule indicated that he planned to wake up at 5 a.m. every morning. There are so many benefits to getting up and getting to work early. It can help you to feel more in control.

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An early start allows you to map out your day and get a leg up on things before the official workday begins. As Franklin said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” There are a few things you can try if you’d like to jump start your own early-bird habits.

2. Ask, “What good shall I do this day?”

At the beginning of the day, each day, Franklin’s schedule prompted him to consider the question: “What good shall I do this day?” He dubbed this, “the morning question.” How might your day change if it began with this type of altruistic focus?

3. Reflect in the evening

Franklin doubled back to his service-oriented question at the end of the day. Before sleep, he scheduled in the “evening question”: “What good have I done today?”

This accountability and self-reflection allow for a different kind of steady progress. Consider asking yourself how well you achieved your goals at the end of the day. Perhaps even take a page out of Franklin’s book and reflect upon how much, and how well, you helped others.

4. You should still be flexible

Despite the meticulous and rigorous nature of his schedule, Franklin remarked in his autobiography that he sometimes completed tasks out of order. This flexibility allowed him to be more accommodating of others.

“My scheme of ORDER gave me the most trouble ; and I found that, tho’ it might be practicable where a man’s business was such as to leave him the disposition of his time, that of a journeyman printer, for instance, it was not possible to be exactly observed by a master, who must mix with the world, and often receive people of business at their own hours,” Franklin wrote, according to The Atlantic.

5. Schedule deliberate stretches of work and rest

Benjamin Franklin's schedule
The White House Historical Association, via Wikimedia Commons

Franklin scheduled in a long morning block for “work” and he scheduled another, perhaps slightly shorter stretch for the same purpose in the afternoon. He set an hour or two in the early afternoon aside for light work and rest.

“Read or overlook my accounts, and dine” is scheduled between the work blocks. It seems that the wise founding father knew what many workers today are just beginning to discover for themselves — periods of deliberate rest increase creativity and productivity.

If it’s good enough for Benjamin Franklin, it might be worth a try. A little intentional downtime between periods of focused work can go a long way.

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