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 one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

How did he manage to be so productive in achieving so many of the things that 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 his time that matters.

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 have lived a worthwhile life… and he summarised all this into one question:

What good shall I do this day?

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

For lunch he took a full two hours.

Then he reflected and refocused, and worked for another four hours.

And at the end of each day he then made time for creativity and conversation.

Before bed he made sure he reviewed what had gone well that day. This developed the ‘attitude of serendipity’ that would help him to achieve more the following day.

Benjamin Franklin's daily schedule

All these things are recommended as part of Inner Leadership. The only thing we suggest that Benjamin Franklin doesn’t mention is a daily routine of meditation and exercise or time in nature.

Franklin’s daily schedule then becomes:

  1. Seven 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 and then repeat the process: remind yourself of your overall goals before engaging with the afternoon
  6. Each evening, do something creative or spend time in nature
  7. Finish each day with five minutes’ reflection on what went well today

Do you achieve as much as you want to each day? Is there anything you can learn from Benjamin Franklin?


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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