You’ve probably seen this a hundred times. I have. And I love it. It’s Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedule:
I regularly come back to my own daily schedule to re-evaluate it and see if it is serving me as well as it should be. Because schedules, like finances, make excellent slaves but horrible masters. I should be the one who sets my schedule and budgets my time just like I should be the one budgeting my finances. A schedule, like a budget, is there for the purpose of serving my goals so that the minutes don’t get away from me and I end up squandering my time.
What I like about Ben Franklin’s daily schedule was how open it was. It was a rigid routine but it was very forgiving for all the nuances and variables that each day’s tasks and priorities seem to bring.
He had only six blocks of time scheduled each day:
- 3 hours for getting ready for his day (shower and breakfast, personal study, and prepare for work)
- 4 hours for work
- 2 hours for review of current projects and to eat lunch
- 4 more hours for work
- 4 hours for dinner and rest and wrapping up the day
- 7 hours for sleeping
This is a similar approach that I’ve been trying to take with my scheduling as well. In that, I set a routine for my day of when I get up, what blocks of time are set aside for what types of tasks, when I should stop working, etc. And then, when it comes time to work I begin to go through my inboxes (Instapaper, email, and/or OmniFocus) or else I work on a current project or article that has arrested my attention.
One big myth about creativity is that it cannot be harnessed. It is silly to think a creative person should live without routine, discipline, or accountability.
Sure, inspiration often comes to us when we least expect it, and so by all means, let us allow exceptions to our schedules. But sitting around being idle while in wait for inspiration is a good way to get nothing done. And worse, it is also a way to let the creative juices get stagnant.
Michael Lopp wrote an inspiring article along the lines of scheduling, entitled “A Precious Hour“. He writes:
My deep-rooted fear of becoming irrelevant is based on decades of watching those in the tech industry around me doing just that – sitting there busily doing things they’ve convinced themselves are relevant, but are just Faux-things-to-do wrapped in a distracting sense of busy. One day, they look up from their keyboard and honestly ask, “Right, so, what’s Dropbox?” […]
Starting at the beginning of February, I made a change. Each day I blocked off a precious hour to build something.
Lopp’s aim brings to mind this convicting quote from Ray Bradbury at the intro of Martian Chronicles:
I did what most writers do at their beginnings: emulated my elders, imitated my peers, thus turning away from any possibility of discovering truths beneath my skin and behind my eyes.
If you don’t make time to shut off the outside world and think and build and create on your own then you’ll only ever emulate and imitate.