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5 Organizing Tips from Ben Franklin

5 Organizing Tips from Ben Franklin
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1. Make a Daily Routine

“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.”

Benjamin Franklin is often known for creating the lightning rod, inventing the bifocals, editing the first Almanac, and helping to found the United States of America. Franklin is considered to have been a polymath, or having been knowledgeable in many things. Truly, no average person can create such an extensive list of inventions, projects, and hobbies as Franklin did. However, if Franklin could somehow find the time to conquer the many tasks he had, then surely we can find a way to better manage our very own daily routines.

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The first key to organizing is to organize our time. Write down your daily routine. Here is an example of Ben Franklin’s routine. This is pretty basic, but it is one of the most important things you can do to manage your time. Seeing your daily routine on paper puts the day into perspective. We can separate our work time from our downtime and feel in control of what we are going to do.

2. Check Your Routine

Once you’ve put your routine down on paper, make sure to check it everyday. Ideally, looking at your schedule each morning helps to put the day in perspective. Overtime, you may change your routine, but it will happen naturally.

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If we let it, life can get in the way. But by writing down our routine, checking it for a minute or two each day, and continuing this habit, we can eventually find a way to not let life get in the way.

3. Write Down 13 Things to Organize

The average person has at least 13 things (often many more) that they can organize. This could be anything from your entire living room to the glove compartment in your car to your iTunes collection. Make a list of the 13 most important things that you should organize.

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Why 13?

Besides scheduling, Benjamin Franklin was also very productive. He decided that instead of working on all of his traits at the same time, he would work on one each week. By doing this, we can give our complete energy (and not just the physical energy to organize, but the mental energy to think about what were organizing) to one thing. It isn’t helpful for us to be thinking about several projects while we are also trying to work on just one project. 13 is also 25% of 52, or one quarter of a year. Which means we can create a cycle.

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4. Organize One Thing a Week

Start with organizing just one thing. Write down in your daily routine that you will devote some time each day to organizing that one thing. If it’s the living room that you want to organize, then break the room into sections and organize it day by day.

Focus on implementing a system for that one thing. If during that week you work on not only organizing, but developing a system to keep the place organized, then you shouldn’t have to worry about it as much as time progresses. A week is a perfect amount of time to organize something. It is a long enough time to organize something well and not feel stressed about it. It is also short enough to make organizing new things interesting. Organizing things week to week might actually start to become, should I dare say, fun!

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5. Repeat

Once you reach the thirteenth item on the list, start again at the first one. If you make notes while you organize, then you can look back to see how much has changed since you organized 13 weeks ago. The notes will also help you to see what you could work on to make keeping the place better organized.

This process of organizing the things in your life is simple and slow. The things in your life that need order do not organize themselves and they can’t be organized overnight. It takes patience. It’s also no use in becoming overwhelmed by how much there is to organize. Take your time and work on one thing at a time. And don’t take it from me, but from the Founding Father, Ben Franklin.

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Zachary Domes

Zachary values simplicity and shares about lifestyle and organizing tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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