How did Ben Franklin get so much done? His daily schedule explained


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A close up of Benjamin Franklin as he is featured on the one hundred dollar bill (Shutterstock).

Ben Franklin was an industrious man. In his 84 years, he found time to be a scientist, publisher, author, revolutionary, freemason, postmaster, governor, ambassador, political theorist, inventor, musician, and the leading citizen of Philadelphia.

While much of this can be attributed to his brilliance, talent without application is of little value. Nobody knew this better than Franklin, who inspired the book on the Protestant work ethic. To help organize his busy life and better live up to the virtue of order, he created a framework to structure his daily schedule around. It is included in his autobiography.

The schedule

Franklin's daily schedule
Franklin’s schedule as shown in his autobiography. While the details would change from day to day, he tried to make his daily routine follow this outline (Public Domain).

The first thing you might notice is that he woke up each day at 5. It seems like he really believed that “early to bed and early to rise” business. He then spent three hours getting ready for the day.

One part of this was to ask himself, “What good shall I do this day?” Not only did this refer to what work he needed to do and what he hoped to accomplish, but also to how he would live up to his virtue of the week.

Quick! Can you solve this puzzle?

He then turned to his morning rituals, which he listed as rise, wash, and address Powerfull Goodness! Contrive day’s business, and take the resolution of the day: prosecute the present study, and breakfast.”

What does all this mean? It’s too old-timey to understand.

“Powerfull Goodness!” was his term for God, so that bit means prayer. “Contrive day’s business, and take the resolution of the day” means that he then drew up his daily schedule and determined how to carry out that good he dedicated himself to earlier that morning.

“Prosecute the present study” refers to his habit of dedicating time to studying something often unrelated to the rest of the work he had to do that day, like learning a new language.

The Pursuit of Discipline Pierre-Laurent Aimard

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The Pursuit of Discipline

Pierre-Laurent Aimard

Classical…

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