Franklin’s Order

I’ve recently been reading through Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and have found it both enlightening and humorous. I particularly enjoy his systematic attempts to better himself.

One discipline he considered highly valuable was Order, the idea that all things should have their pace and each part of your business should have its time. In an attempt to gain Order, he devised a scheme for his day which set aside time for all parts of his life.

I’ve always struggled with Order, so as an experiment in betterment I’ll attempt to follow his order for the next two weeks:


5am—8am Morning. The Question: What good shall I do this day? Rise, wash and address Powerful Goodness! Contrive day’s business, and take the resolution of the day; prosecute the present study, and breakfast.

8am—12pm Work.

12pm—2pm Noon. Read or look over my accounts, and dine.

2pm—6pm Work.

6pm—10pm Evening. The Question: What good have I done today? Put things in their places. Supper. Music or diversion, or conversation. Examination of the day.

10pm—5am Night. Sleep.

Caveat Emptor

I think it only fair to point out that Franklin himself struggled with his daily order:

My scheme of Order gave me the most trouble; and I found, that, though it might be practicable where a man’s business was such as to leave him the disposition of his time, that of a journeyman printer, for instance, it was not possible to be exactly observed by a master, who must mix with the world, and often receive people of business at their own hours.

But he shared a humorously candid illustration about his struggle:

Like the man, who, in buying an axe of a smith, my neighbor desired to have the whole of its surface as bright as the edge. The smith consented to grind it bright for him, if he would turn the wheel; he turned, while the smith pressed the broad face of the axe hard and heavily on the stone, which made the turning of it very fatiguing. The man came every now and then from the wheel to see how the work went on; and at length would take his axe as it was, without further grinding. “No,” said the smith, “turn on, turn on; we shall have it bright by and by; as yet it is only speckled.” “Yes,” said the man, “but I think I like a speckled axe best.

I’ll report back on this in two weeks and let you know whether or not I like a speckled axe best.