On Making a Writing Schedule and Sticking to It: Your Own “Benjamin Franklin”

One of the hardest parts about writing is keeping to a schedule.  I believe this to be true for professional writers and for amateurs…you know: those of us who have day jobs.  I’m speaking now for the day jobbers among us, as I’m assuming that those who can afford to write for a living have already more or less figured this stuff out.

For me, it’s been a long, arduous process, that I think I’m finally getting used to accomplishing regularly.  You see, I’ve always been excellent at setting goals for myself.  Following through on them is a different story entirely.  The first day of “New Goal to Get on Track” always works out spectacularly, and I go to bed believing that I can keep the same momentum going.  Day Two has a few blips but it goes well too.  Day Three or Four features massive failure: hours of procrastination and nothing accomplished.  Day Five follows the procrastination from previous days with despair: I can’t do this, what was I thinking?  By Day Six I’ve given up entirely and return to a structureless existence of some accomplishment and much wasted time.

The problem for me is that I expect too much.  I’ll plan to read a hundred pages a day, finish three books a week, and write for two hours a day.  I’ll also exercise for an hour and maybe even do something social.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day, unfortunately, and I need to accept that weekdays cannot allow for the kind of accomplishments I want.

Luckily, I am not alone in hoping to maximize my daily potential.  Take a look at this image from Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography:

Image courtesy of funny or die

You may have read about this in high school, but if you haven’t it is worth studying.  This person knows how to make every day count, and he doesn’t overburden himself.  He’s structured and disciplined without being excessively detailed about his activities.  His questions for the morning and the evening or almost embarrassingly simple and then you sit back and realize this guy discovered electricity and invented the stove, bifocals, libraries and pretty much America.  And he didn’t do it burning the midnight oil, clearly.  That’s seven hours of sleep up there.

For a few years, my significant other and I have tried to make our own “Benjamin Franklins.”  No we aren’t trying to clone some sort of old Pennsylvanian to do our work for us.  It’s just a term we use as shorthand for the above kind of list.  What’s your Benjamin Franklin lately?  How are you trying to break up your day to maximize your productivity, creativity, fulfillment?

For me, the simplest way to create a strong Benjamin Franklin is asking: what do I want to accomplish and what do I need to accomplish.

What I need to accomplish is simple: eat, sleep, day job tasks.
What I want to accomplish: Writing and reading every day. Exercise.

So, now I’ve broken up the day a la Franklin.  I think 10:00pm – 5:00 am works for sleep, I’m going with him there.  When I wake up, I’m using the time I have before work to get ready and get my morning creative writing done.  I’m aiming for around 500 words in the hour and a half or so that I can write before work.

After work, I’m saving time for reading and my online writing (blogging, etc.).  About two hours.  This leaves about four hours for food, exercise, and down time.

It’s been working lately.  We’ll see how it goes, but as a writer, I think viewing your 24 hours in the same way that Franklin did could help increase your productivity and get you into a more disciplined lifestyle.

What do you think?  How can you make your own Benjamin Franklin?

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