What good have I done today?

Benjamin Franklin was a productivity powerhouse of his day. A polymath who succeeded in a range of professional roles, including newspaper publisher, postmaster, scientist, politician and statesman – he was very active civically and of course was one of the founding fathers for the United States.

So how did he fit all this into the 84 years of his life?

Perhaps one of his best-known productivity hacks was his daily schedule. You may have seen it before?

Benjamin Franklin schedule

Franklin effectively designed his ideal day. A day that would allow him time to work on his projects, time to reflect, time to eat properly and time to sleep healthily.

Whilst it’s unlikely he managed to stick to the schedule every day, he doubtlessly used it as a standard to consistently aim for (similar to his Thirteen Virtues) and by doing so, managed to seriously get things done.

Doing a daily good

What I like best about Franklin’s schedule are the questions he poses to himself at the beginning and end of each day.

In the morning he asks himself ‘what good shall I do this day?’ and in the evening he reflects on the question ‘what good have I done today?’.

When you think about it, these are powerful questions and by asking them Franklin was challenging himself to be very conscientious about how he used his precious time.

No way was he going to fritter away his hours on trivial matters, so instead he thought very carefully about the activities he would spend his day on and when evening came he would retrospect over his level of success in doing that ‘good’.

Planning and reflecting on the ‘good’ you do each day

The fact that all those hundreds of years ago, Franklin decided to sit down and design his ideal day is pretty remarkable, especially when you consider how many of us, in our busy modern lives, don’t take the time to plan our days properly, let alone evaluate how well we used them.

Creating a daily ‘good’ habit is all about being mindful and focused with our time and energy, but it doesn’t all have to be about work.

To me ‘good’ can mean all the usual things like moving a big project forward or learning a new skill, but it can also apply in a non-work context too.

Spending the day with your family or a close group of friends is just as worthy. Finding a way to push yourself past your comfort zone or helping someone out is also very good ‘good’.

‘Good’ is whatever you feel is worthwhile and rewarding. It is also a very personal thing and one person’s ‘good’ will be very different to another person’s.

However you define the value of ‘good’, making the most of your time is really important and trying to emulate Franklin in asking yourself those questions each day is a great habit to get into.

How to start your own daily ‘good’ habit

Here’s a simple way to get started. You’ll either need a notebook / journal or a calendar or a simple note-taking app on your phone.

To begin:

  • At the end of today, write down in a few bullet points the things you have done that you consider worthwhile, pleasant or rewarding.
  • As you write them down, think to yourself why they sprung to mind? Why are they so important and how do they move you forward in life?

Tomorrow morning:

  • Write down the most important thing you need to do during the day. Something that takes priority over everything else. Explain briefly why this thing is so much more important than everything else.
  • Write down a couple of additional ‘good’ things you will do during the day. Remember these can be anything from important work tasks or something nice such as offering to help someone out.

Tomorrow evening:

  • State whether you achieved that most important goal for your day.
  • Summarise in bullet points any other ‘good’ you did.
  • Note down anything that wasted a lot of your time or stopped you doing as much ‘good’ as you could.

Repeat this process over several days and you’ll gradually see a pattern of how you use your days and find yourself thinking more deeply about the way you spend your time.

The great thing about the evening retrospective I’ve found, is that it motivates you to plan and do lots of ‘good’, so that you have something decent to write about and it really makes you think about how you link your day-to-day to your long-term goals.

If you can, keep this micro-journaling habit going and use it to propel yourself further towards your big, life goals.

Good luck 🙂