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What You Can Learn From Benjamin Franklin’s Daily Schedule

What You Can Learn From Benjamin Franklin’s Daily Schedule

We like to see our forefathers as these mythical superheroes who were larger than life and accomplished more than we are capable of ourselves. Fact is, they’re just simple men and women, like us, who ate, slept, pooped, and thought, just like we do. One such man, Benjamin Franklin (the old guy on the $50 bill), kept a documented daily schedule which you can view below:

Shoot, I left off, "Dispose of hooker in trunk..."

    Shoot, I left off, “Dispose of hooker in trunk…”

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    Benjamin Franklin’s schedule teaches us a lot of valuable lessons. Here are a few things you can learn from this founding father’s routine:

    1. Steady as She Goes

    This is Benjamin Franklin’s actual daily routine. This is how he lived his life every day. Whether inventing bifocals, freeing the American colonies, or negotiating with foreign diplomats, Franklin followed the same routine as often as possible. This steady regimen provided the balance necessary in his life to accomplish all of those other great things we read about, and praise.  If you aspire to have your praises sung like Benji, you need to find a balance.

    2. All About the Benjamins

    Money and time are resources you spend to accomplish things in life; you spend one, the other, or both. Understand, however, that you must budget both. Your budget needs to be tangible and in your face. Remember when deciding whether to spend time or money that it took you time to earn that money. Your time budget, or how you allocate the hours in each day, is much more important than your financial one. Plan accordingly.

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    3.Work Like It Doesn’t Matter

    You’ll notice nothing in Franklin’s schedule is job-specific; you can’t even tell what he does for a living. He drafted a simple schedule that any human being can follow. Even if you can’t hit the same hours because of work, family, and other obligations, you can simply shift the hours in the schedule. The point is to ensure a separation of work and self that’s much more important than church and State.

    4. Make Time for Yourself

    Nearly everything on Franklin’s list is selfish. The foundation of his daily schedule is himself. It’s only after he takes care of himself that he focuses on work and doing a good deed for others. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re likely not doing as much good as you think. You can’t disconnect from yourself, so make sure you keep you up and running at all times.

    5. Life Is Easy

    I know there are bills, stress, work, school, annoying bosses, coworkers, classmates, traffic, lines, and blah blah blah. I get it; it’s not like I live is some alternate reality that’s completely separate from you and your life. I’m 33, have no car, and sleep on a floor. I still smile because life really is easy. It takes hard work, but I treat my life like Ben Franklin does. By shifting my focus, I don’t think about the days I walk 20 miles or stay in bed because I don’t have much enough money to buy food. No matter what’s happening in my life, coping and succeeding are both a matter of routine.

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    6. Learning Something New Every Day Is a Goal, Not an Epiphany

    I hear a lot of people say, “you learn something new every day,” when surprised by some random new fact. This always made me chuckle, because those people don’t say that every day. In reality, they’re learning something new 3-5 days a month. Benjamin Franklin made a goal to learn something new every day, and he didn’t even have the Internet. Whether at school, home, work, or through friends, you have access to the combined knowledge of the human race at your fingertips. You should be learning 1000 new things a day, minimum.

    7. Organization Is King

    Budgeting your time and money is important, and organizing where everything goes is essential to sticking with that budget. At the end of every day, Ben Franklin put his toys back in their box, just like your mom made you do as a kid. This is because a messy work space is counterintuitive to actual work. When you keep your things organized, you feel less flustered, and you’re less likely to make impulsive decisions.

    8. Exams Are Mandatory

    Question everything; just don’t overthink yourself or you’ll end up never doing anything. Franklin asked himself every evening whether or not he accomplished his goals. By keeping track, he holds himself responsible. There are no excuses. Be accountable for your goals. The cigarette you sneak, the candy bar you don’t tell people in your Zumba class about, it’s all hurting yourself and no one else. If even you won’t listen to you, who else will?

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    9. Peter Plan

    Plans are essential to accomplishments, and Franklin’s schedule is the perfect plan. It’s detailed enough to begin following as a guide, yet basic enough to be easily adapted to a variety of situations and scenarios you’ll likely find yourself facing in real life. You never know what life will hand you. Don’t be so rigid in your plans that you do nothing, but have one like Franklin’s, so no matter what happens, you have a point to start over from.

    10. Do Good, Give Good

    Katie McCarthy has an amazing podcast called Give Good; in it, she profiles people who dedicate their lives to enriching the lives of others by seeking justice, providing charity, and helping others that need it. Listening to the podcast is a great way to see what others around the world are doing to contribute good deeds to the world. If you want to use Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedule as your own, and I highly recommend you do, find a way to do something meaningful for someone else.

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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