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Living like Ben Franklin for a week

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JUNE 10, 2015

This summer, while you are busy at your internship or binge-watching Netflix, we at the Clog went looking for ways to make our summer a more productive one. So we appealed to Benjamin Franklin for aid. We tried out his daily schedule to see if it would help lead to better time-management practices.

Benjamin Franklin was all about self-improvement. He was one among 17 children from a working-class family who achieved the American dream. With such a wide range of roles he fulfilled during his lifetime as inventor, scientist, politician, writer and a Founding Father of the United States, it goes to show how successful one can be by utilizing time well. He came up with a daily schedule in which he invented a “bold and arduous Project of arriving at moral Perfection,” listing 13 virtues he wished to perfect in himself. His schedule template was a way for him to improve in the virtue of Order — something he found he struggled the most in. He did not adhere to this template every day, being a traveling diplomat and being flexible for the convenience of others’ schedules, but he did spend a lot of time contriving this schedule and did his best to follow it when he was able to.

The first day we adopted Franklin’s schedule, we woke up three hours earlier than we were supposed to. We were already experiencing more difficulty than anticipated, but we got up at 5 a.m. and planned our day. For the purpose of this experiment we adopted a form of his virtue project and worked on a new virtue each day. We started with courage and then on the following days worked on honesty, resolution, humility, wisdom, order and sincerity. The first few days we were religious in following the schedule and its designated activities. Then, as the week went on, we grew more flexible with our time, getting up at 6 a.m. for the latter half of the week.

One of the greatest benefits to following Franklin’s schedule was being less stressed in the morning. Having three hours before work gave us more than enough time to prepare for the day by writing our to-do lists. We then had ample time to exercise, shower and eat breakfast without rushing. We are by no means morning people, but by the time it was 8 a.m., we were generally more cheerful, wide awake and ready to start work. During this past week, we did things we would have never done before, such as going to Sunrise Yoga at the Recreational Sports Facility at 6:45 a.m. By the second day, the schedule made it easier to achieve what we wanted to accomplish because the days seemed longer. In addition, we became more conscious of prioritizing our time by setting time limits for tasks we needed to get done.

The hardest part of this trial was rising and going to bed early. It was impossible for us to go to bed at 10 p.m. Every night we tried to do so, our brains would not shut up, and we’d have trouble turning them off. 11 p.m. feels more natural for us, so we went to bed at that hour instead. It’s not about the specific time that things are to be done on the schedule; it’s about how to best allocate the time in a 17-hour workday.

The most important lesson we learned was connecting the image of Franklin’s face on the one hundred dollar bill and his promulgation of the saying “time is money” in Richard’s Almanac. We learned to spend time like it’s money in order to be successful. Act like Franklin to make them Franklins, are we right? Planning our day with this schedule was like drafting and following a budget. We prioritized and rationed hours accordingly. We were prompted daily to invest in activities that make us better, such as reading and teaching ourselves piano, but also to give ourselves breaks during the day and worry less about the future. The point of the schedule is to get into the habit of establishing goals each day and prioritizing given tasks. Franklin’s questions — “What good shall I do today?” and “What good have I done today?” — help build self-awareness by helping us reflect on strengths and weaknesses through personal virtues. We’ve all heard some form of Franklin’s ideology of time before, but we can say that after immersing ourselves in this philosophy for seven days, it really made us realize how crucial it is to life. If we’re trying to be the best version of ourselves in the present day, there is no way that we won’t improve.

Image source: Alvin Trusty via Creative Commons

Contact Natalie Dardaine at [email protected].

JUNE 10, 2015