How Ben Franklin Structured His Day

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So back in 1791 Ben Franklin, or at least his publishing house because he had died a year prior, published his autobiography. And in that autobiography Franklin actually laid
out his daily schedule. Now you may have seen a
picture of this schedule online before but what
I wanna do in this video is actually go through the schedule and see what we can learn from it, both in terms of what’s
useful in the schedule and what it might actually be missing that you should have in yours. Let’s get into it. Alright, so first things first, at least according to this schedule, he woke up at 5 am every single morning. Which means that he definitely
lived up to his early to bed early to rise mantra. And this is the first
thing I wanna get into because as I talked about in my video about how to wake up early you don’t actually need to
wake up early to be successful. This is something that Ben
Franklin definitely advocated but there are many different
people throughout the world who have been successful
even if they wake up at 8 am, 10 am, or whatever hour
that they feel like because we are all different. In fact, people have different chronotypes which are essentially
biologically set times at which they tend to
go to bed and get up. So figure out what yours
is and live by that not just some schedule from a
dude who lived 300 years ago. So the first real item of
business on this schedule is the morning question. What good shall I do this day? And this is setting an intention and I think it’s a great habit
to adopt in your own life because setting an intention allows you to give yourself
direction for the day and when those urgent
tasks or distractions come up later in the day you’re gonna be able to
keep you eye on the prize and avoid them. After he’d set that intention, the next items which are rise, wash, and address powerful goodness. Which was his personal word for god. And after that he would
contrive the day’s business and take the resolution of the day. Which is a big fancy,
shmancy way of saying make a daily plan. So this is another great
habit to start doing. Setting the intention gives you some direction for
the day in a general sense but sitting down and making a daily plan allows you to make it more concrete. You can break that big task,
that big important work down to the subtasks that are
a lot easier to understand and put into action. And then you can order them so you know exactly how you’re
going to tackle the day. After making his daily schedule, Franklin would prosecute
the present study. And that’s some old English that I didn’t know how to interpret but the popular interpretation is that he’s basically doing some studying on whatever he’s learning at the time. And it’s pretty safe to say
that Franklin was a voracious, life-long learner since
according to Wikipedia he was, among other
things, an author, printer, political theorist, politician,
freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. Now this is a part of his
schedule that I really like because it’s something that I do myself. I find it really helpful to have some sort of learning
project that I’m pursuing independent of my work or
a book that I’m reading at basically all times. And when I wake up in the
morning after I brush my teeth and feed my cat I read every single day
for about 20 or 30 minutes before doing anything else. And my friend Martin does the same thing with language study. He’ll get up, he’ll do some
studying in Spanish or French, and then get into the day’s work. So if you have an
independent learning project you now spend some time on that
before you get into the work that’s gonna exhaust you and deplete those willpower reserves and if you don’t, you
should probably get one. Next up we’ve got breakfast,
which is breakfast. I eat breakfast in the morning, probably a pretty good thing to do, and then we move into the
main work block of the day. And Franklin split this up
into three different tasks. First up there’s a four-hour block of work followed by a two-hour
block for eating and reading and going over accounts, and then a final four-hour block of work. And I have a few comments here. So the first thing I wanna note here is that because he mentioned
in this noon segment that he does some light
reading or goes over accounts, I interpret that as doing shallow
work during his noon hour. And if he’s doing shallow
work during the noon hour then it stands to reason that he’s at least trying to do his deep, highly-concentrated work during
those two blocks of time. So it’s a good idea to try
to schedule differences between your intense work
that’s really important and the work that doesn’t
require quite as much brain power or quite as much attention. Secondly, at least on his schedule, Franklin did not make time for breaks during his main work hours. And this is something that
you definitely want to do. I made a whole video on
why breaks are important. So I’m sure that he probably
did it in real life. I mean, I can’t go back in
a time machine to verify, but working for five hours at a time without a break is pretty tough. And you’re gonna hit a point
during that work session where your efficiency is gonna go down. So make sure you’re taking some breaks, going for walks, getting
a little bit of exercise, and breaking up those work
sessions with some relaxation. So once the work ends, the
first thing that Franklin did was to put things in their places. Essentially put things away and reset his space back to neutral. Now this reminds me of a technique a friend told me about a long time ago which is called clearing to neutral. Basically, you clear your workspace back to its neutral
clean, ready-to-go state at the end of the day once
you’re done with your work. And the reason you wanna do it then rather than before you
start the next day’s work is that it’s a shallow task. It’s really easy to do, it doesn’t take a whole lot
of willpower, and if you do it then when you come into
your work the next day the workspace is ready to go and you don’t have to
waste any time or willpower getting the space ready. You can just steamroll right into the most
challenging work of the day. Once he had everything put away the next things were supper, music, diversion, and conversation. And I’m sure that because
life is complex even back then he left a lot off the schedule
so I do think it’s telling that he put this on the schedule. That shows that he really
did value time with friends and relaxation and that he understood the importance of taking breaks and making time for recharging
in between work sessions. And that brings us to his
last true activity of the day besides sleep, which I’ll
get into in a second here, and that is the asking of the question what good have I done this day? And asking that question,
reflecting on the day’s events and what you’ve done is just as important as setting the intention in the morning. If you get yourself into the habit of reflecting on what
you’ve done during the day then you can start to
pinpoint what went right and what went wrong. And when you know what went
wrong you can start to target why it went wrong and then make changes which will help you improve the next day. Now he does have sleep
written on his schedule and he slept about seven hours a day and the only real thing I have to say here is that just because
some dude 200 years ago put seven hours of sleep on a schedule doesn’t mean that seven hours is the optimal amount of sleep. Everyone needs a different amount of sleep so when you’re creating your schedule make sure you tailor it
to the amount of sleep that your body actually needs. Remember, your sleep, your nutrition, and your exercise are the levers with which you can control
your body’s energy levels and hence your ability to get work done. So don’t overlook them. Alright, so to recap here I wanna pull a few of the best
lessons out of his schedule that I found and share ’em here. And I also wanna mention a few of the things that were missing that you should think about when you’re creating your own schedule. First, I really like how he tried to start every
single day with purpose. He set an intention for the
day and he created a daily plan to make sure that he carried it out. I also like how he made
specific time for shallow work. He had those two work blocks but then he would love over his accounts and do easier stuff over the lunch hour. And I also like how he made
it a point to schedule time for clearing his space to neutral, getting everything cleaned
up so that it was ready for the next day’s work. Now a few things I thought the schedule was
missing include exercise, taking small breaks during
those work sessions, and, through no fault of his own since he lived 200 years ago, a lot of the things that we
have to deal with in life like commuting to work or
school, cooking, et cetera. So when you’re making your own schedule take schedules like this or schedules from other
famous people you read online as inspiration not as an exact recipe. Take what’s good, add it
in, experiment with it, and figure out what works for you. Also if you find that you’re not perfect at following your schedule realize that Ben Franklin wasn’t perfect at following his either. In his autobiography right
after he wrote out the schedule Franklin wrote that, “I was
surprised to find myself “so fuller of faults than I had imagined; “but I had the satisfaction
of seeing them diminish.” So if you have one crappy day or you have an interruption that comes up that messes with your
schedule just accept it, forgive yourself, and
then wake up the next day and set that intention again. And as time goes on, because you deliberately
built a schedule for yourself you’re gonna start building
routines and habits that will make these
things happen less often and in turn you’ll be more successful. So guys thanks for watching this video. Hopefully you enjoyed it. I’m gonna link to that schedule down in the description below. And if you liked this video give it a like to support this channel and
leave a comment down below if you have an additional
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I’ll see you next week.


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