I Learned This From Benjamin Franklin

A well-deserved "me time" that can improve your daily productivity.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is a fascinating read and I will go back to it in a future post. Today, however, I’ll skip the historical commentary on his multiple accomplishments in printing, politics, and the betterment of society, and focus on what I learned from his "plan for self-examination."

With great interest in self-improvement, Franklin designed his own system to ensure that his days were productive and his time wisely spent. In his autobiography, he illustrates his method of tracking the habits he sought to cultivate as well as his daily schedule. His own bullet journal! I must admit that I find this incredibly fascinating.

In my next Productivity blog post, I will write about the 13 virtues he considered essential to achieving his goal of "arriving at moral perfection." But for now, I'll focus on one of his strategies for self-improvement: daily reflection.

Franklin wrote "…every part of my business should have its allotted time…" and he went on to illustrate his schedule for the day. There he included two simple but essential questions: "What good should I do this day?" and "What good have I done to-day?" By asking himself those two questions every day, he planned and assessed how fruitful his day had been. Please let’s not forget that this was written in 1784! Am I the only one who’s amazed by his vision?

Having the privilege of working from home, I have the flexibility to shape my schedule as needed. In spite of having been a night owl all my life, a few months ago I decided to try the opposite and became an early bird. Just like that, cold turkey.

Start your day with 5 to 10 minutes of quiet reflection.

5:00am. That's the time I wake up every weekday now. Why? I wanted insight into how reflecting for 10 minutes -before my world started buzzing and my smartphone started flashing- would shape my attitude toward the day ahead. I've been waking up at 5:00am Monday to Friday for six months now, and I love it every time. There is a certain peacefulness so early in the morning that does not exist at any other time of the day. It's the promise of a new day, the anticipation of what's ahead, the sparkle of a new beginning.

Allocating this time for reflection has helped me think about my goals and reassert my purpose for the next 16 or 17 hours. It's also the perfect time to meditate -when I'm in the mood for that- or to read or write. It's precious time that's mine alone to spend as I please. I make time to reflect again at the end of the day, but this time with my journal at hand. What did I do right? What should I change? What are the (many) things I'm grateful for today?

It wasn't fast or easy. Daily reflection is a practice that took me some time to turn into a habit. I had to train myself to do it. I didn't know where to start; I wasn't used to quiet thinking time. Yet, with time, morning and evening reflection became the pillars of my day. And all thanks to Mr. Benjamin Franklin. Go figure!

Are you curious about learning more about the practice of daily reflection? There are two blog posts I like that can help you get started: 5 Powerful Reasons to Make Reflection a Daily Habit and How to Do It by Leo Babauta, and Reflection by Ryder Carroll, the creator of the Bullet Journal. You may want to check them out and see if this is something you would like to pursue.

Have you mastered the practice of daily reflection? Tell me why you like it. Was it easy for you? What motivated you to start? I feel that my days are more productive since I started, Does that apply to you too? I would love to read your comments!

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