What Ben Franklin taught me about Time Management

I’m obsessed with productivity. So, thirty days ago I began using Benjamin Franklin’s schedule to see what would happen.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

Benjamin Franklin

The basic Franklin schedule looks like this:

  • 5-7 am Rise, wash and address Powerful Goodness! Contrive days’ business, and take the resolution of the day; prosecute the present study, and breakfast
  • 8-11 am Work.
  • 12-2pm Read, or overlook my accounts and dine
  • 2-5 pm Work.
  • 6-9 pm  Put things in their places. Supper. Music or diversion, or conversation. Examination of the day.
  • 10-4 am Sleep

I made some modifications, such as sleeping until 6am instead of 4am. Overall, I kept it simple and straightforward.

Each day he asked himself two important questions. In the morning, “what good shall I do this day?’ and in the evening, “What good have I done today”.

These are very similar to the questions I use each day, “What are you going to be proud of today?” and “What are you proud of doing for others today?” So, this habit was easy to take on as I was already doing a variation of this.

Now, I’ve used a lot of different scheduling and productivity systems over the decades.

After dalliance’s with the Pomodoro Technique and Flowtime, a lot of time with the Eisenhower Matrix, modified Scrum and RACI, and a host of other time management, productivity and project management processes. I was always partial to the Franklin Covey planners which was modeled after Benjamin Franklin’s system. And here I have come full circle and gone back to the source material.

For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.

Benjamin Franklin

Here are a few things I learned and in some cases relearned.

What I’ve re-learned is that simple is best. – While I haven’t accomplished Franklin level inventions, new books, or founding a University – I did get the most important things done each day that I needed to. Each day, I knew what needed to be done. No overwhelming to-do lists always making me feel like there was no way to accomplish it all.

Leisure is the time for doing something useful.

Benjamin Franklin

Take lunch and time away  —The two hour lunch block dedicated to light duty work allowed me to get no brainer things done. This allowed me to re-energize for the afternoon block of work so I could continue going deep with my work. This is something I’ve struggled with as I’ll work through lunch or not really take breaks. Then I really hit a wall mentally in the late afternoon. This hasn’t been the case as I’ve really embraced this system.

Rigid and Flexible – Know when to adjust and when to hold steady.

Did I perfectly follow this each and every day? Nope, not at all. The beauty of this is that while I did follow the precepts of the process, I did allow myself some adjustments when necessary. I didn’t have to be perfect.

Our daily lives are rarely perfectly controlled and fit into buckets so easily. There were times I would need to meet a client at a time outside this schedule. Or I may have to go help a friend an hour earlier than my scheduled block would accommodate.

I do have a productivity process that I use that has a combination of things that work for me. I’ll be going back to that one now, but with a couple of adjustments from the things that I learned from Ben.

Lost time is never found again.

Benjamin Franklin

Wrap it in a bow

The key for all of us is to have a system. Keep it simple. Give yourself planned time to breath and be human – this multiplies your productivity. Be flexible when necessary to fit what is needed, but know where your guiderails are and where you need to be rigid.

There isn’t enough time to do everything. But we can use our time effectively to do what we need to do with the time we have.

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