Benjamin Franklin is without a doubt one of the most prolific creators in history. A successful businessman, public servant, statesman, patriot, inventor and thinker, his accomplishments are legendary.
How was Franklin able to accomplish so much? His success can largely be attributed to his productivity philosophy and the strict code of conduct to which he aspired (if didn't always reach). The time-management principles he developed enabled him to run a successful print business, play a prominent role in the formation of a new nation, found the U.S. Postal Service, serve as ambassador to France and still find time to fly kites in the rain.
Clearly, there is something to be learned from Franklin. With his 13 virtues as a guide, let’s look at nine ways Ben Franklin's advice can help us be more productive.
“Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
Practicing moderation is still the best approach to a productive life. Strive for a sense of balance, temper work with play, activity with rest and indulgence with restraint. Set reasonable expectations for what you can realistically accomplish in a day. Don’t over-schedule your calendar, or over-commit your time. Taking breaks, eating healthily, disconnecting occasionally and making time for fun actually increases your energy and ability to be productive.
“Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
Order is vital to consistent productivity. Things need to have a right place, and events have a right time, so that life has a sense of stability. We are better able to focus and produce when our mind is not distracted by disorder. De-clutter and organize your surroundings to create space, literally and figuratively, for thought and accomplishment. Develop and adhere to a consistent schedule or routine each day. Create checklists to follow for recurring tasks, projects or processes.
“Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”
It’s crucial to decide what you want, know what you need to do, and be determined to follow through on those actions. Resolution is more than creating a goal; it’s also being very clear about the steps necessary to achieve that goal and having the fortitude to persevere despite difficulties. Firm resolve separates dreamers from doers.
“Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
A modern interpretation of Franklin’s Industry virtue might be efficiency and effective use of time and effort. Guard your time and strive to find the simplest methods to accomplish your tasks. Be ruthless with your focus. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted from your purpose. We have far more distractions than Franklin could ever have imagined, but the concept of doing the important work first and not falling prey to procrastination is the same then as it is now.
“Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
One might not consider frugality as having a significant impact on productivity, but in the long-term, it does. Spend wisely. Invest carefully. Buy what you need. Use what you have. In essence, being prudent with your finances allows you to have more resources to accomplish what you desire without the added stress of being overextended.
“Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
Speak when it’s useful, helpful or necessary. If you speak only when you truly have something valuable to contribute, others will respect you and your words more. Often our truly important ideas get lost amongst the litany of aimless chatter. This doesn’t mean you should be a hermit; it means, before you speak, make sure you actually have something worthwhile to say.
“Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
Be kind, considerate, thoughtful and honest. Don’t seek to harm, criticize or blame. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Acting with sincerity will gain you respect and improve relationships with those around you, which in turn helps you to be not only more productive, but successful in the long run. (It also helps you to sleep at night.)
“Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
We can interpret Franklin’s concept of “Justice” to mean not only fairness, but also responsibility and integrity as well. Keep your word. Do your part. Be reliable. Be accountable. Nobody wants to be on a team or work for someone who doesn’t pull their weight. Moreover, when you strive to follow through on commitments, you get things done.
“Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
Strive for a calm attitude. Don’t treat everything as though it’s urgent, because then nothing is. Don’t take things personally. Be flexible and let go of what you can’t control. Look for solutions, not blame. Focus on what you can do, then act in a calm and decisive manner.
Read more of our productivity tips here.
Royale Scuderi is a freelance writer and success coach. She is the founder of Productive Life Concepts and has been featured on top rated blogs such as Stepcase Lifehack and The Huffington Post. You can also find her musings on life and business at GuardWife.com and Twitter.com/RoyaleScuderi.