"Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of," Franklin wrote. Valuing time is a no-brainer for most of us, as we seem to have too little time and wish to make the most of it. But valuing time and actually using our time as though we value it highly are two different things.
Three of Franklin's virtues address the need to work at valuing time and using it wisely: Resolution, Order, and Industry.
- Resolution means making good on your promises, implementing and executing, and following through to completion. It requires persistence and determination.
- Order means being organized and systematic, planning, and prioritizing your activities.
- Industry means working hard, focusing on your objectives and being productive. The one personal quality behind all of these is discipline.
What wisdom does Franklin offer us in terms of discipline; doing the work of valuing our time and managing our priorities? Franklin arranged his virtues-his objectives and priorities-into a system. He proceeded step by step. He broke his main objective-self-improvement-into smaller goals. He focused on them one at a time. He measured his progress by keeping track of how many times he erred, and he reviewed his progress regularly. By creating a system to help him focus on his goals and measure his progress, Franklin was able to constantly improve and accomplish far more than his contemporaries.
Systems are critical in any program for managing time and priorities. It is not enough to manage tasks such as returning email and phone calls, handling paperwork, and preparing reports on an ad hoc basis. A sporadic approach will produce sporadic results. Setting aside time for performing routine tasks, using templates for your work, and having systems in place allows you to be both effective and efficient.
Another feature of Franklin's approach was repetition. Franklin focused on one objective every week, completing the cycle in thirteen weeks, and repeating the cycle four times a year. He repeated the process year after year. To use his own words, "Energy and persistence conquer all things." Using time effectively is a matter of habit, and habits come from repetition. Using poor time management is also a matter of habit. The best way to eliminate a bad habit is to replace it with a good habit, and that takes practice and repetition.
Finally, Franklin organized and planned. The key to managing your time and priorities is organizing your activities and planning strategies to complete them. Every day should begin with a planning session. Part of this planning time is invested in creating a "to do" list of prioritized objectives. In other words, following a system for organizing and planning.
Someone once said "If you fail to plan you are planning to fail." It was probably Benjamin Franklin!