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.

Like the rest of us, he only had 24 hours in every day. So how did he manage to achieve so many of the things that mattered most to him?

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

Benjamin Franklin started each day by rising, washing, and addressing what he called “powerful goodness”. This might have included centring, grounding, and connecting deeply with what was most important to him. And it probably included reviewing his purpose, his values, and what it would take for him to live a worthwhile life.

Then he summarised all 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 before reflecting, refocusing on what he wanted to achieve, and working on it for another four hours.

Each evening he made time for creativity and conversation.

And before bed he asked himself a second question:

What good have I done this day?

Here it is in his own words:

Benjamin Franklin's daily schedule

The Churning, Inner Leadership recommends doing all these things as ways to expand our capacity to master change and become antifragile. And we also recommend one more thing that Benjamin Franklin doesn’t mention: a daily routine of meditation, exercise, and/or spending time in nature.

If we add this to the list then the daily schedule that enabled Benjamin Franklin to achieve so much of what mattered most 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. Decide what good you want to do today and block your calendar
  5. Break properly for lunch
  6. Remind yourself of your purpose and goals before engaging with the afternoon
  7. Each evening do something creative or spend time in nature
  8. Finish each day by asking yourself, “What went well today?”

Would adopting any of these habits help you to achieve more of what matters most to you? Which would bring you the greatest benefit most easily?


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

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Benjamin Franklin image source: Wikipedia

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