A Schedule: The Ultimate Life Hack

The original life hacker.

The original life hacker…and overachiever.

Ben Franklin had the concept of “accomplishment” figured out.

Founding father, inventor, scientist, printer, publisher, postmaster, world renowned diplomat and celebrity…and we’ll stop there and leave off about 10 other occupations he absolutely crushed as well.  A true Renaissance man.

In Walter Isaacson’s biography, he describes Franklin as “the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become.”

So…yeah, he was kind of a big deal.

The quality that I most admire in Franklin (and believe was the foundation for all of his success) was his focus on personal development.

I mean, he really was the original life hacker.

He developed a system to work on his virtues in order to become a more effective, well rounded human.

He popularized the “2 column” pros / cons list many of us still use to help us make difficult decisions today.

But the hidden gem that I think gave him all this power is something millions of Americans overlook every single day.

Franklin had a schedule.

He had a PLAN for his days, and subsequently his life.  He let no day go to waste because he believed, “You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.”

When we have a schedule, we can wield heavy influence in how we create the future by making productive choices as to how we direct our days.

If you think about it, the quality of your present life is the sum total of the quality of every decision you’ve ever made.

To be sure, some people are born with a better beginning than others…but no one can control the qualities of your decisions, except you.

Have you ever pondered how many people don’t make conscious choices to direct their daily activities?  They just float along. They get caught up in idle pursuits all day long, every day, and before you know it 5-10 years has passed them by and they’ve gone nowhere…or things have gotten worse.

They would never expect a ship to complete a sailing trip successfully without first charting a course and having someone at the helm manning the wheel…but then they’ll go ahead and do exactly that with their own life.  #smh

On the flip side, people that follow a schedule find that it brings order and direction to their lives.

Following a schedule allows them to be more efficient, accomplishing more tasks than their peers.

Then somehow through the success that naturally accumulates to one who is known as a person who gets things done, the schedule helps them continue to accomplish even more as time goes by.

So if you agree, how should you build a schedule?

We might as well start by looking at one that obviously worked.

Here is a copy of Franklin’s schedule.  We’re going to break it down into 3 parts:

The Beginning

He’s up at 5 and he does a few things to kick off his day.

He begins the day with an important question on his mind: “What good shall I do this day?”

Then he does the following:

Wash – Clearly a solid choice.

Pray – “Powerful Goodness” was Franklin’s reference to God.  He commonly prayed for wisdom. He prayed for the strength to carry out what the wisdom led him to do. He asked for his actions to be the offering for the blessings he had already been given.  Talk about amping up the gratitude.

Contrive the day’s business – This is where he built and reviewed the day’s agenda.  Let’s just stop here and marvel at how intentional he was about planning his days.  Conversely, how many people today are rushing out the door with a cup of coffee in hand and maybe a piece of toast hanging out of their mouth not 20 minutes after they’ve woken up?

Take the resolution of the day – We can call this reviewing your goals.  Franklin had a goal to focus on and improve one of his virtues at a time and he reminded himself of it daily.

Prosecute the present study – He was always learning, reading something, and growing as a person.

Breakfast – The most important meal of the day…

The rest of his schedule is of course important too, but just stop for a moment and think of what kind of intensity and effectiveness you would work with all day if you made this agenda yours each morning.

You don’t even have to spend 3 hours!  What if you spent just 30-40 minutes doing this?

You’d see a remarkable boost in your work habits and your results.

The Middle

Work, Lunch (and reading of course!), and then more work.   Man he must have read a lot.

Other than that, he doesn’t specify too much about his work.  Although this is probably because he did build an agenda at the beginning of the day.  Interesting concept isn’t it that having a pre planned agenda for the day might make the flow of the day a little smoother?

If you’ve read the Walter Isaacson biography (which I highly recommend), you know that Franklin had quite a few strategies for getting work done, and even a little extra psychological study about how to build a reputation among others for being viewed as industrious.

The End

A lot of people criticize the notion that Franklin’s schedule is still applicable today.  We’ve got to make dinners, give kids baths, maybe hit the gym, go to cub scouts, football practice etc.

Of course there are quite a few more evening complications in the world of today…probably mostly due to the advent of electricity (also something Franklin contributed to the development of…naturally).

I really believe Franklin’s schedule still does cover all of these activities.  How so?  The first item on his evening agenda.

“Put things in their places.”  – There probably couldn’t be a more loaded phrase.  This can refer to countless things, but a real easy question to ask yourself, regardless of your evening’s agenda, is: “Do I always end my days by putting things in their places?”  You know the answer.

Do you ever start a day feeling behind even as you’re just beginning?  What would happen if you put things in their places at the end of every single day?  You know the answer to this as well.

Supper, Music, Diversion, or Conversation.  – Sounds like a wonderful evening, but don’t miss the bookend in there.

He starts the day the same way he finishes it; by thinking.

He examines his day. – “What good have I done today?”  This daily bookended focus on doing SOMETHING with the day is a huge driver of success.

This reminds me of Jim Rohn’s famous admonishment:

“Take charge of your own life.  Starting with taking charge of your own day; don’t have days like most people have.  You wind up broke and poor.  Pennies, no treasures; trinkets, no values.”

Ben Franklin, Jim Rohn, and countless other successful people have maximized the value of their time by understanding the power of a schedule.  Why not you?

“Early to bed and early to rise,

makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

– Ben Franklin

Good question for this intelligent readership:

What if that quote is true?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.