Benjamin Franklin Time Management System: How To Be Successful While Only Working 8 Hours

Written by Domantas Vanagas

January 3, 2022

The Benjamin Franklin time management system remains an important model that inspires modern time management systems. However, if you’ve never read about his technique or his unique way of planning his day, it is vital to understand how it could help you. Below, you’ll get an insight into Franklin’s daily schedule and eight crucial lessons it can teach you.

How Did Benjamin Franklin Manage His Time Daily?

Benjamin Franklin’s incredible innovation and success were due to his high intelligence and steady work schedule. However, Benjamin Franklin’s system was not incredibly complex but with great time management principles. Unlike many modern methods, it was startlingly simple and even basic. Breaking it down (based on his informative autobiography) showcases this fantastic simplicity.

benjamin franklin reading

Benjamin Franklin started his day at five am every day and spent the first three hours washing, planning for the day, and eating breakfast. These three hours helped him gather his thoughts and wake up, minimizing poor work quality issues. Then, he would work from 8 to 12 on whatever he’d planned for the day.

The Simplicity of Benjamin Franklin Time Management

Modern time management systems followers may wonder how he broke up his work and what time management skills he had. For example, did he use iterations like agile, or was he a multitasker? Here’s the amazing thing: Franklin just labeled this period “Work” without breaking it up into tiny and detailed tasks.

Instead, he kept his plan flexible and straightforward, allowing himself to work on whatever needed to be done during this time. Then, he would take a two-hour break from 12 to 2, during which he’d eat, read, overlook his accounts, and handle any other prep for the next few work hours.

Benjamin Franklin knew people needed a break to avoid overworking themselves. His two-hour lunch period was considered excessive by his fellow patriots of the time. However, it has inspired the modern lunch hour and how it breaks up workdays.

Benjamin Franklin Ending His Day

After this break, Franklin would work from 2 to 6, accounting for eight total work hours for the day. After six, he would clean up, eat supper, play music, spend time with friends, and enjoy himself. One of the most successful Americans did not work 10-12 hours every day: just eight.

close up shot of benjamin franklin

Of course, the modern world differs greatly from Franklin’s time and remains more complex. However, Franklin’s productivity remains an inspiration, and the time management system of Benjamin Franklin is worth considering, especially if too much work has bogged you down.

What Can We Learn From Benjamin Franklin’s Time Management Method?

Even though Benjamin Franklin’s time management system is over 200 years old, it can still provide many lessons. Some things are immortal, and many of Franklin’s best sayings and teachings remain as crucial as ever. Here are eight things you can learn when using this method.

1. Simple is Better

If you look at Benjamin Franklin’s time management method, it’s startling to see its fundamental nature. He only includes a handful of different work blocks and doesn’t break them into complex, micromanaged tasks. Instead, he trusts that he’ll be able to handle his work during these times.

So keep your day streamlined and straightforward, focused on just a handful of daily tasks. For example, you may schedule a similar block of four-hour work periods and use that time on just one or two tasks. Don’t strain yourself too much by micromanaging your affairs excessively.

2. Consistency is Key

The amazing thing about Benjamin Franklin’s time management method is its consistency. Franklin followed this schedule every day without deviation. This consistency allowed him to focus on important tasks without getting overwhelmed or uncomfortable with his duties.

Try to create a schedule that is as consistent as possible to minimize issues. Though it may be hard, try to plan the same work blocks, take breaks simultaneously (no matter what you’re doing) and keep your day flowing consistently. Doing so helps cut back on agitation and poor work quality.

3. Don’t Forget Your Sleep

In today’s success-driven world, it’s not uncommon for people to work 16 hours daily on their dreams and sleep fitfully. Franklin did not fall victim to this mistake. Instead, he went to bed every day at 10 pm and woke up at 5 am. That gave him seven hours of sleep every day.

person sleeping in bed with feet uncovered

Benjamin Franklin understood that sleep helped the mind recover and better his work. So rather than rolling out of bed and working poorly for a few hours before waking up fully, he’d get his seven hours of sleep and spend a few hours every morning preparing for the day.

Benjamin Franklin’s Quotes About Time Management

Benjamin Franklin’s time management quotes are legendary and remain some of the best business advice, even today:

“lost time is never found again,”

“you may delay, but time never will,”

“don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today”

Remain just as relevant today as they were when he said them.

You can find many more time management quotes here.


4. Breaks Are Important

It wasn’t uncommon for farmers and other laborers to work 10 hours a day, with almost no breaks beyond a few minutes for a simple meal during Franklin’s time. Franklin’s two-hour lunch break revealed the fallacy of this approach, as it gives the brain time to relax and recover.

When taking your breaks, genuinely separate yourself from work. Don’t keep working on minor tasks or stay engaged when you should be resting. Instead, read, watch a video, chat with co-workers, or let your mind unwind. Doing so helps to prepare you for the next four hours of work.

5. Quiet Time Helps the Day

Do you get out of bed every day and work without taking time to recover from the night’s rest? You might do yourself a grave disservice. Franklin spent three hours quietly eating his breakfast and “addressing Powerful Goodness,” which meant prayer or meditation.

Even if you’re not religious, taking a few hours to still your mind and enjoy the quiet of the early morning may prepare you for your day. It also gives you time to create your daily intentions or goals, giving you time to handle vital early morning planning.

6. Each Day Needs Specific Goals

man standing next to a done list

Benjamin Franklin started his day planning his intentions to ensure he knew what he was doing for the day. It would help if you did the same every day. Don’t just improvise your workload; I hope you finish it on time. Set your intention and try to reach it by the end of the day.

For example, if you’re working on an iteration of your agile work schedule, focus on the tasks needed to finish at least part of that iteration. By focusing on essential and straightforward tasks, Benjamin Franklin could complete larger tasks more quickly and efficiently: and so can you.

7. Never Stop Learning

When reading the limited text in Franklin’s schedule, you come upon terms like “prosecute the present study,” which (in modern terms) means pursuing independent learning processes. Franklin remained an incredible polymath and genius because he kept learning and pursuing information for its own sake.

Be the same in your day-to-day task. During your break, read about something that interests you. Practice your guitar or piano before going to bed. In other words: turn off the television (or limit yourself to only an hour a day) and expand your mind.

8. Prioritizing Tasks is Vital

Though we’ve emphasized that Franklin took a break for two hours in the middle of every day, we should point out that he still performed some simple tasks during this time. These were what he called “shallow” duties. He’d do these simple tasks during lunch and save his “deep” jobs for his work blocks.

Franklin prioritized his work, focused on the most critical tasks first, and put aside a little daily time for less urgent duties. While you don’t have to work through your lunch like Franklin, prioritizing your tasks will make them easier to finish.

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