How to have a productive day

Benjamin Franklin was a successful inventor, printer, author, scientist, postmaster, humorist, civic activist, statesman, diplomat, and politician. He was also a Founding Father of the United States.

How did he manage to achieve so much of what mattered him?

His autobiography shows that it wasn’t rocket science: he worked just eight hours a day. So it must be how he spent that time that made the difference.

Benjamin Franklin started each day by centring, grounding, and connecting deeply with what was most important to him. This might have included reviewing his purpose, his values, or what it would take for him to live a worthwhile life. And he summarised all of this into one key question:

What good shall I do this day?

Then he focused on what he wanted to achieve and worked on it for four hours.

Then he took a full two hour lunch break.

At the end of that, he reflected and refocused and worked for another four hours.

And each evening he made time for creativity and conversation.

And before bed he reviewed what had gone well that day, developing the attitude of ‘serendipity’ that would help him to achieve more the following day.

Benjamin Franklin's daily schedule

We recommend all these things as part of Inner Leadership.

And we add one thing that Benjamin Franklin doesn’t mention: a daily routine of meditation and/or exercise and/or spending time in nature.

If we add this to the list, then the daily schedule which enabled Benjamin Franklin to achieve so much of what was important to him becomes:

  1. Ten to 30 minutes of mediation and/or exercise
  2. A healthy breakfast
  3. Review your purpose, values, and what it is going to take for you to have lived a worthwhile life
  4. Pick three wins for the day and block your calendar — start times and end times
  5. Break properly for lunch
  6. Remind yourself of your overall goals before engaging with the afternoon
  7. Each evening, do something creative or spend time in nature
  8. Finish each day with five minutes’ reflection on what has gone well today

What can you learn from this to help you achieve more of what matters most to you?


Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also need to practice.)


Benjamin Franklin image source: Wikipedia

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