“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.” – Benjamin Franklin
If you were a big fan of Ben Franklin before, after reading this, you’ll become a HUGE Ben fan. As you know, Benjamin Franklin was a renowned polymath, author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, diplomat and loved to fly kites. What was Ben’s secret to his success? Well, he developed a unique system I want to share with you that enabled him to gain the skills that made him amazing. His belief was, making effective use of time is not about working hard. It’s about knowing how to invest your time. So he developed a system to help him make the best use of his time.
Instead of waking up and going straight to work, Ben would take time to think about what to focus on for the day. By the time he started working at 8 a.m. he had eaten breakfast and prepared for the day’s work. He believed a regular morning routine that helps you get focused is essential for purposeful leadership. This routine effectively ensured that Franklin had a three hour head start over everyone else. He realized what you do from the time you wake up until you begin to work can make or break your day. So develop a morning routine that prepares you for your day. Before you do any work (email/phone calls) take time to mentally plan your day.
The other component of Benjamin Franklin’s system was to end the day well. The end of the day was a time that Franklin used to review his day. He would make notes, and reflect on his progress. The focus of his reflection at the end of the day was on what good he did. This was in support of his lofty goal to try to achieve moral perfection and to live as virtuous a life as possible. Your personal goals might not be so lofty but still consider taking some time at the end of your day and reflect on whether you accomplished the tasks you set out for yourself that morning.
Another part of Franklin’s system that is shared by many notable achievers such as Bill Gates, is to take one hour each day and devote it to learning. While an hour a day now sounds like too much and that you won’t be able to get your normal work done, bear in mind that Franklin’s belief was that “over time, the smartest and most successful people are the ones who are constant and deliberate learners.” To be effective, you need to map out your learning – what you want to learn and why you want to learn it. Create a plan and a roadmap. To make sure your learning pays off, take time to ruminate and gain perspective on lessons learned. Eventually you will develop slow hunches that lead to creative breakthroughs.
Finally, another powerful part of Franklin’s system was to have a network of conversation partners. I’m a very big believer in this. Everyone should join or get involved in a professional partnership or networking group of like-minded business owners to stimulate the creative process. Listening to others and even listening to your own words can really help shape new thoughts and new ideas. The really subtle internal work necessary to drive innovation takes time – you need to create some empty space in order to think and reflect. Networking and conversation partners are the best sounding board you can get for running new ideas up the flagpole.
Benjamin Franklin practiced his system and kept a scorecard on each particular item he thought important to his personal and professional growth. Start a journal. Keep score. Don’t take your time for granted. Maximize every moment.