Below is blog post from Lifehacker. Do you use any of this tricks?
Benjamin Franklin was a polymath by all accounts, and he didn’t get to that point by slacking off. He was a founding father, a scientist, a writer, and so much more. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what was behind the brain that made Franklin so productive.
To say that Benjamin Franklin dabbled in all sorts of skills barely does him justice. He was, by most accounts, a man who was always busy and working to get things done. Not only did he help found a country, he also found time to serve as a diplomat, author, musician, printer, and more. He didn’t do this by magic, and while some of his accomplishments are a bit overblown , he did still manage to do a lot by even today’s standards. His pro and con list is used all the time by people making decisions, but let’s take a look at some of his other tricks we can all utilize.
Create a List of Rules to Live By
As we saw with George Washington , Benjamin Franklin gave himself a set of virtues to live by. He referred to these as his 13 virtues and the goal was to provide a moral guide for himself, or in other words, a personal improvement program. Here’s Franklin’s list :
1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.
2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.
3. Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.
4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.
6. Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.
7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
8. Justice: Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9. Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation.
11. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; Never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
12. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates
Franklin didn’t just stop with a list though. He also tracked his progress in a small booklet to make sure he was paying attention to each virtue every day (you can download your own version here ). Each evening, he’d review the day and put a mark the virtue if he committed a fault.
If this all sounds familiar, that’s because it’s pretty close to the quantified self idea. You can make something similar to Franklin’s for yourself, or track other types of data with a form like this . The idea here is that you’re critical of yourself, and you’re logging your behavior to help you improve in the future.
Hack Your Schedule to Embrace a Routine
Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedule was tuned, reworked and planned over. He attempted to structure his days so they followed a routine that worked for him, and that he could get the most amount of work done in. Like the 13 virtues, this schedule was meant to help him maintain order:
The precept of Order requiring that every part of my business should have its allotted time…
Sticking to a routine might sound counterintuitive to people who like to keep things more fluid, but Franklin’s schedule left a lot of leeway in how he worked. He simply got up at the same time every day, worked during set hours, ate at the same time, and went to bed at the same time. He also asked himself a couple of simple questions at the beginning and end of the day: “What good shall I do this day?” in the morning and “What good have I done today?” before bed.
We’ve talked before about the science behind how important a schedule is for your day . We’re all a little different of course, but we do get into rhythms where we’re better at certain tasks at certain times. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to program your schedule to help you defeat distractions and get your work done just like Franklin.
Turn Enemies Into Friends
Benjamin Franklin was a master of personal politics and social GPS. While he was certainly skilled as a thinking man with ideas, his diplomatic skills were just as strong and he could often get what he wanted with a charming speech. One of his greatest skills was later dubbed the Benjamin Franklin Effect : when you do a favor for someone, you’re more likely to do it again, even if you’ve never received a favor. In his autobiography, Franklin describes this situation:
Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.
The idea here is actually really simple: actions speak loudly, and you can manipulate them pretty easily. You Are Not So Smart explains what’s going on here .
For many things, your attitudes came from actions which led to observations which led to explanations which led to beliefs. It is well known in psychology the cart of behavior often gets before the horse of attitude. Your actions tend to chisel away at the raw marble of your persona, carving into being the self you experience day-to-day. It doesn’t feel that way though. To conscious experience, it feels like you are the one holding the chisel, motivated by existing thoughts and beliefs. It feels as though the person wearing your pants is performing actions consistent with your established character, yet there is plenty of research suggesting otherwise. The things you do often create the things you believe.
In Franklin’s case, it simply took borrowing a book to turn an enemy’s opinion around, but there are plenty of other uses out there for this method.
Benjamin Franklin’s life and list of accomplishments is huge, so it’s hard to focus in on just a small set of skills. Franklin’s autobiography is a treasure trove of useful ideas, and you can grab a free version from Project Gutenberg or grab an audiobook version to find out more for yourself.