A Simple Schedule from Benjamin Franklin

Do not squander time for that is the stuff life is made of.
—Benjamin Franklin—

Time management can help you accomplish the things that matter most in life. I’ve made schedules for every stage in my life, and one mistake I consistently made in the early years was to try to shoehorn in too many details. It took me a long time to realize that it works better to schedule fewer activities, and allow generous time estimates for each. Doing so provides a margin for the unexpected (and isn’t there always something unexpected?), and can reduce stress in the day.

Time management tips from Benjamin Franklin

Autobiography and Other Writings of Benjamin Franklin
One thing that helped me learn more about scheduling is reading old autobiographies that include the writer’s personal schedule. Somehow, it seems that people in earlier times had a better grip on reality when it came to scheduling their days. One of the simplest and most inspiring time management schemes is Benjamin Franklin’s. Here in his own words is how he desired to spend his days:

The Precept of Order requiring that every Part of my Business should have its allotted Time, one Page in my little Book contain’d the following Scheme of Employment for the Twenty-four Hours of a natural Day, The Morning Question, What Good shall I do this Day? 5 6 7 Rise, wash, and address Powerful Goodness; Contrive Day’s Business and take the Resolution of the Day; prosecute the present Study: and breakfast? 8 9 Work. 10 11 12 1 Read, or overlook my Accounts, and dine. 2 3 Work. 4 5 6 7 Put Things in their Places, Supper, Music, or Diversion, or Conversation, 8 Examination of the Day. Evening Question, What Good have I done to day? 9 10 11 12 1 Sleep. 2 3 4.

The little book Franklin mentions seems to be his commonplace book, in which he records things things he is working on; things to remember; and so forth. Here is an easier-to-read version of his schedule, with my annotations.

Ben Franklin’s Schedule, Annotated

5-7

  • Morning Question: What Good shall I do this Day?
  • Rise
  • Wash
  • Address Powerful Goodness (Prayer)
  • Contrive Day’s Business (Decide on the main tasks for the day.)
  • Take the Resolution of the Day (What virtue will be the focus of my day?)
  • Prosecute the Present Study (Continue with current topic of study.)
  • Breakfast

8-9

  • Work

10-1

  • Read
  • Overlook my Accounts (Check bank statements and bills.)
  • Dine

2-3

  • Work

4-7

  • Put things in their Places
  • Supper
  • Music or Diversion or Conversation

8

  • Examination of the Day (Reflect on the day; similar to the practice of the Daily Examen.)
  • Evening Question: What Good have I done to day?

9-4

  • Sleep

You can read a bit about my own methods of time management in the Time Matters category. It’s pretty simple, because simple usually works better than complex, especially if your life has a lot of moving parts—family, homeschooling, microbusiness, homesteading, caregiving, or anything else that makes life complicated.

My takeaways from Franklin’s schedule?

  1. Have a focus for each and every day.
  2. Don’t overfill the day.
  3. Plan in things that really matter such as meals with the family, learning, or personal examination.

Benjamin Franklin lived long ago, but his schedule reflects wise priorities. As you seek to become the person you want your children to remember, Franklin’s schedule can help to remind you that doing less is sometimes the most important choice you can make. However you choose to manage your time, remember to always make time for the people and things that matter most.

Simplified Organization: Learning to Love What Must Be DoneP. S. A modern resource I am enjoying is Mystie Winkler’s Simplified Organization course. She begins from the inside out, which is where all good organization begins. You must understand the importance of time management, and understand why it is important to improve in this area before it will do any good to create a schedule. I love the “learning to love what must be done” logo Mystie created—that’s exactly what she teaches, and it’s something that’s not always easy. The nice thing is, Mystie shares her own journey as she teaches, as well as in articles for her blog. You may enjoy this resource, too.

As always, please see below (center panel of footer) for the full disclosure on affiliate links, and as always, know that I would never link to anything I don’t truly recommend. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.

1 Response

  1. July 5, 2017

    […] A simple schedule from Benjamin Franklin, who didn’t have nearly as many distractions as most moderns. […]

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