Maria Popova:


Franklin tried a divide-and-conquer approach. He drew up a list of virtues and wrote a brief goal for each one, like this one for Order: ‘Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.’

When, as a young journeyman printer, he tried to practice Order by drawing up a rigid daily work schedule, he kept getting interrupted by unexpected demands from his clients — and Industry required him to ignore the schedule and meet with them. If he practiced Frugality (‘Waste nothing’) by always mending his own clothes and preparing all his own meals, there’d be less time available for Industry at his job — or for side projects like flying a kite in a thunderstorm or editing the Declaration of Independence. If he promised to spend an evening with his friends but then fell behind his schedule for work, he’d have to make a choice that would violate his virtue of Resolution: ‘Perform without fail what you resolve.’”


It's tough to write about writing. I find it even harder to talk about writing. Instead, I like to write about how people work.

I came across this really neat — and really brief — history of the to-do list when I was traipsing around this afternoon. There is a source of comfort and a contrasting source of discomfort when learning about the blood, sweat and tears poured into killing to-do lists. I've tried countless methods myself and only now feel like I've found something even remotely productive.

Luckily, this discussion led to one of the greatest productivity minds of all: Benjamin Franklin. I did a little further research and came across Ben Franklin's daily schedule.

<p>We can argue at length about whether Franklin’s schedule is inspired by rigidity or flexibility. I yearn for a more rigid routine, whereby I complete the same order of tasks each and every day. The less my mind has to think about the “who”, “what”, “where”, and “when”, the more time it has for the “why” and “how”. </p>

If you are like Ray Bradbury, on the other hand, flexibility may be of sound reason.

Take your pick.