Key Highlights

  • “You may delay, but time will not.” Benjamin Franklin
  • “Fix one thing at a time and then proceed to another.” Benjamin Franklin
  • If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

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Benjamin Franklin accomplished more in his one life (invented the lightening rod, discovered multiple physics and population informational data points, wrote multiple best-selling books, composed music, played well the harp, guitar & violin, founded multiple civic organizations and institutions including the University of Pennsylvania) than many of us could even imagine.

How did Franklin do it? First, he created a list of 13 Virtues to help guide his daily-ness and then he created his Daily Schedule for Peak Productivity. Let’s zero in on Franklin’s Daily Schedule

Franklin’s Daily Schedule for Peak Productivity

  1. Keep it simple.
    1. Franklin scheduled six time blocks for each day including one for sleep.
    2. To help prevent his being overwhelmed, Franklin focused on the essentials.
  2. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
    1. Franklin was up at 5AM and went to bed at 10PM every day.
    2. He believed that it was the consistency of sleep that mattered rather than the number of hours.
    3. Consistent sleep patterns help train the brain to fall asleep quickly and also help improve the quality of sleep.
  3. Spend quiet time alone after getting up and taking a shower.
    1. Franklin believed a daily habit of solitude or meditation helped generate clarity and focus in order to plan the day and then follow through on his daily plans.
  4. Set intention and plan for the day.
    1. Before going to work, Franklin always asked himself, “What good shall I do today?”
    2. Franklin picked one of his virtues (temperance, order, industry, sincerity, etc.) to focus on to begin his day’s business and then “…take to the resolution of the day.”
    3. By setting his intention around one essential virtue such as industry or always being focused on something that is “useful,” Franklin believed he could help ensure that he stay focused on the most important task of each day and avoid distraction.
  5. Dedicate time to learning.
    1. Franklin spent time on independent personal projects separate from daily work such as music composition.
  6. Create time blocks for both “deep” and “shallow” work.
    1. Franklin created two 4-hour time blocks for deep work and uninterrupted focus for his most important tasks of the day.
    2. Franklin also created a 2-hour time block from 12PM – 2PM for lunch and ”shallow” work.
    3. Franklin was able to finish most of his high priority tasks when he had the energy to do so from 8AM – 12PM and from 2PM – 6PM.
  7. Put things back “in order” after work every day.
    1. By cleaning up “today’s work,” Franklin did not waste time, will power or energy by having to clean up “yesterday’s work” the morning of the next day.
    2. Know that Franklin had a hard time cleaning up what he called “his messes.” It took discipline for him to clean up “today’s work” each and every day.
  1. Schedule down time.
    1. Clean up your workspace, have dinner, relax, listen to music, catch up with friends, etc.
    2. Franklin saw down time as restorative, re-energizing time and a tool for the body and mind to prepare for the next day’s challenges.
  2. Reflect on each day each evening.
    1. Just prior to going to bed, Franklin would ask himself, “What good have I done today?”
    2. Franklin wrote down what went well that day and what didn’t and would then adapt and improve his daily schedule for the next day.
    3. Franklin’s “evening audit” of his daily productivity helped him uncover time wasting activities that drained his energy so he could improve his daily-ness for better productivity.
  3. Do not aim for perfection.
    1. Franklin believed that what mattered most was not perfection but improvement.
    2. Franklin celebrated “small wins” to help avoid beating himself up.
    3. Franklin firmly believed, “It is not the contents of the plan, it is the decision to make a plan.”


Thanks to The Ladders’ Mayo Oshin.

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