Benjamin Franklin’s Daily Productivity Schedule

Benjamin Franklin is best remembered as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, but he achieved much more in his lifetime.

During Franklin’s 84 years alive, he invented the lightning rod, made significant discoveries in physics and population studies, wrote best-selling books, composed music and played the violin, harp and guitar at a high level, founded many civic organizations, including the University of Pennsylvania, the United States Postal Service, and much more.

How did Franklin achieve so much more than his contemporaries – given he had the same 24 hours each day to get things done?

The answer to this question lies in Franklin’s daily schedule.

Here’s how it works, including 10 lessons that will double your productivity this week.

Benjamin Franklin’s Daily Schedule

5AM – 7AM: Use this time to rise, wash, and engage in meditation, solitude, and prayer. Take the time to think about the day’s tasks, and tend to your personal schedule and goals. Spend time reading, and studying the topic of your attention. Eat a healthy and energizing breakfast. Consider adding exercise.

8AM – 11AM: A period of deep work. No distractions.

12PM – 1PM: Read, overlook bank accounts, and realign. Eat a healthy lunch.

2PM – 5PM: The second period of deep work. 8 hours of work have been completed now.

6PM – 9PM: Reorganize after the day’s work, unwind, and take your mind off of work and into your hobbies, family, and significant other. Begin to relax and wind down.

9:00 – 10PM: In your daily journal, free write and reflect on your day. Answer the question to yourself – what good have I done today?

10PM – 5AM: Get a restful and deserved night’s sleep.

Lessons learned from Benjamin Franklin’s Routine

1. Keep it simple

There are only six time blocks scheduled for each day, and one of these blocks includes sleep—an obvious necessity.

There’s no overwhelming to-do list of things to get done. It’s simple, ruthlessly focused on the essential, and highly effective.

2. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day

One of Franklin’s most popular mantras was “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” and according to this schedule, he definitely lived up to it.

Each day, Franklin woke up early at 5am and went to bed early at 10 pm, for a total of 7 hours of sleep each night.

what matters most isn’t the time you go to bed or wake up, it’s the consistency of your sleep schedule.

3. Spend quiet time alone

Shortly after waking up, Franklin would take a shower and then “address Powerful Goodness.” In other words, he’d spend some time in prayer or meditation.

This daily habit of solitude gave Franklin the much needed clarity and focus to plan the day, follow through on his plans, and act on his vision.

4. Set your intention and plan for the day

Each morning, before going to work, Franklin would set his intention for the day with an important question: What good shall I do this day?

Then he’d pick a virtue to focus on, and begin to “contrive day’s business, and take the resolution of the day” i.e. to plan his day.

Setting an intention and creating a plan of action each morning, ensures that you stay focused on your most important task and avoid getting easily distracted by the minutia, and other people during the day.

5. Dedicate time to learning

In Franklin’s daily schedule, he sets aside some time to “prosecute the present study,” which means he’d spend time on an independent personal project separate from work.

Most likely, this would’ve been time spent reading either books or papers.

Alternatively, you could spend this time learning a language, playing an instrument or on your hobbies.

6. Create time blocks for deep and shallow work

To plan his day, Franklin created time blocks to manage his time effectively and protect his day from unexpected interruptions.

Specifically, Franklin allocated two four-hour time blocks—from 8am till 12 pm, and from 2pm till 6 pm—for deep work and uninterrupted focus on his most important tasks.

Likewise, Franklin allocated a two-hour time block—from 12 am till 2 pm—for lunch and shallow work i.e. reviewing his finances.

By creating time blocks in this manner, Franklin finished his most important tasks for the day, when he had the most energy to do so.

7. Put things back in order after work

After a long tiring day at work, it’s easy to walk away from our work space and leave things in a disorderly manner, only to return back the next morning to clean it up before getting back to work.

Even though this saves time upfront, it wastes valuable time, willpower and energy, that could’ve been spent working on important tasks straight away.

To avoid this problem, Franklin made sure to clean up his work space and put things back in order before leaving the office each day. This also provided for a necessary “stop” to the day, and gives the mind to reflect and reorganize.

8. Schedule downtime

After work each day, Franklin would clean up his work space, eat dinner, and spend the rest of the evening relaxing: listening to music and catching up with his friends.

Downtime isn’t a waste of time. It’s a powerful productivity tool for re-energizing the brain and body, in preparation for the challenges of the next day. This also budgets time to spend with the people that are the most important to you.

9. Reflect on your day in the evenings

Just before going to bed, Franklin would reflect on his day and ask himself an important question: What good have I done today?

After noting down what went well, and what didn’t go so well during the day, Franklin would look to change and improve his daily schedule.

Likewise, an evening audit of your daily productivity will help you to uncover time-wasting activities that drain your energy, and improve your daily schedule for better productivity.

10. Don’t aim for perfection

What matters most isn’t perfectionism, it’s improvement. As Franklin emphasized:

“I was surpris’d to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish.”

Celebrate your small wins and avoid beating yourself up when you fall short of your plans, because at the end of the day, it’s the growth that really matters.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedule is a simple, highly effective template for improving your productivity.

Even though it was created over 300 years ago, it contains timeless principles that will help you to avoid the distractions of the modern world, and stay focused on your most important tasks.