What can we learn from Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedules?
Benjamin Franklin, born on 17 January 1706, played an enormous role in America’s independence and the creation of the United States. He was also a talented writer, scientist, inventor, printer, post office official, moralist, statesman and social activist. Among other things he invented the lightning conductor, reading glasses and the glass harmonica.
You’d think such a multi-faceted man would have to divide up his time efficiently. His autobiography contains an overview of his personal scheduling. And what do we learn? He was a nine-to-five man, he took time for his lunch (two hours), took time in the evenings to sort out his affairs, and adhered strictly to getting seven hours’ sleep a night.
Five things to remember
- Greet the day: At the start of every day, Franklin asks himself what good things he intends to do that day. In short, he takes the time to reflect on the matters he’s going to tackle that day. With a great deal of enthusiasm and appetite, he launches into his day. This is a good way to take control of your day, rather than simply getting through it. Seize the day!
- Take a long lunch: Every afternoon Franklin set aside two hours for his lunch and ‘me-time’. In most jobs today that’s half an hour, perhaps an hour at most. And that’s often pretty tight. Because Franklin consciously allowed himself a long break every afternoon, he had less stress in having to eat in a very tight time, and he could work through any personal issues. His lunch was in fact genuine leisure time. A moment in the middle of the day to unwind and to gather his thoughts. A moment to recharge briefly for the rest of the day.
- Leave it at work: At the end of every working day Franklin ‘put everything in its place’ before taking the time to relax, to listen to music or to converse with others. You literally can put things in their place. But you can also approach ‘putting things in their place’ in a figurative sense. Put the day’s stresses and concerns in their place, laying them aside for tomorrow. However it’s done, in putting things in their place either literally or figuratively, he emphasises the end of the working day.
- Say farewell to the day: Just before Franklin would go to bed, according to his schedule he would give some final thought to his day. Just as he faced the day with enthusiasm, he would now consider the day’s successes and challenges. In this way he ‘seized’ the day.
- The importance of sleep! Consistent nightly rest is essential for staying energetic and healthy, and Franklin realised this only too well. That’s why he adhered strictly to getting seven hours’ sleep each night afresh. (Note that many adolescents and adults sleep a lot less these days). Because Franklin consciously assigned his night’s sleep a place in his schedule, it became a lot more difficult to simply postpone it.