Ben Franklin is my hero.
I didn’t read his autobiography until I was an adult, but it had a profound impact on me, and I have since tried to model my life after this great man. I am, you might say, a Franklin fanboy. BF is my BFF.
One of the virtues that Franklin focused on throughout his life he called “Order,” the idea that “every part of my business should have its allotted time.” In the beginning, his “business” was his Philadelphia print shop, but after he semi-retired, this was the business of scientific research, political service, and being an international diplomat and swinging ladies’ man (rumors).
“Order,” for Franklin, entailed a daily routine. Here, paraphrased, was Franklin’s daily schedule:
- 5:00-6:00 am: Rise, wash, and address Powerful Goodness! Ask the question, “What good shall I do this day?” and make to-do list.
- 7:00 am: Breakfast
- 8:00 am-11:00 am: Work.
- 12:00 pm-2:00 pm: Read, or overlook my accounts, and dine.
- 2:00 pm-6:00 pm: Work.
- 6:00 pm-10:00 pm: Put things away. Supper. Music or diversion, or conversation. Reviewing the day.
- 10:00 pm: Sleep.
What Franklin is outlining is a rhythm: a daily schedule, a repeatable structure. In my experience, this kind of rhythm is the foundation upon which success is built. We all know people whose lives are in such chaos that they spend half their time putting out fires of their own making. They got no rhythm.
Yet, look at nature, which works pretty well. Everything in nature is in rhythm, from sound waves to the waves on the seashore. The seasons have rhythm, and so does Bruno Mars. That boy can dance.
James Clear wrote an interesting post on The Daily Routines of 12 Famous Writers, in which you will see this rhythm showing up, again and again. For example, the great Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami says:
When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.
The repetition itself becomes the important thing. Repeat that to yourself.
If you find yourself going to bed and waking up at a different time every day, if your daily schedule is insane, if you never seem to find time for exercise or reading or lunch, then get a rhythm. Even if you have kids or an unpredictable job, you can still find a rhythm that works around those things.
At Media Shower, the most common remark we hear from new clients is, “I had the best intentions of updating the company blog, but I can’t find time to do it.” There’s no internal rhythm. One of the things we bring to companies is that structure, that rhythm of new content.
To be in the rhythm is not to be a slave to habit and routine. To the contrary, it is freeing to have structure. A child who knows the boundaries will thrive more than the child who has no rules.
Scott Adams, in his excellent autobiography How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, calls it a “system.” As he observed in the Wall Street Journal, “People who use systems do better. The systems-driven people have found a way to look at the familiar in new and more useful ways.” You’re more likely to lose ten pounds, or build a successful business, if you have a system — a rhythm — than a manic flurry of activity for a few weeks.
If you’re in life for the long haul, then find a rhythm that works for you, and stick with it. If you find that you can’t stick to a rhythm, that’s a good sign of trouble that needs to be addressed. (The doctor is never pleased to hear an irregular heartbeat.)
Here’s my daily rhythm:
- 6:00 am-7:00 am: Write or exercise (alternating days)
- 7:00 am-8:00 am: Shower, breakfast, and get the kids ready for school
- 8:00 am-8:30 am: Concentration exercises/mind hacking
- 8:30 am-12:00 pm: Work
- 12:00 pm-1:00 pm: Lunch and reading (feed body and feed mind)
- 1:00 pm-6:00 pm: Work
- 6:00 pm-9:00 pm: Dinner/family time
- 9:00 pm-10:00 pm: Finish up work or projects
- 10:00 pm: Bed
My rhythm has changed over time. I also have a different rhythm on weekends. And occasionally my day will be completely different — if I’m traveling, for example. I can be spontaneous, not a slave to routine. But I’ve found the more structure I give myself, and get myself to stick to that structure, the more I can accomplish.
If you don’t have a rhythm method, get one. As any dancer can tell you, it feels good to be in the rhythm.
Sir John Hargrave is the CEO of Media Shower and author of Mind Hacking, available in 2016 from Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books. This post is free to distribute under Creative Commons 4.0: if you like it, share it.