This is the sixth post in a series about living the virtuous life like Benjamin Franklin. We’re taking his life and applying it to marriage and relationships.
Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.
I enjoy being lazy as much as the next guy, perhaps even more than him, but the lazy life is not a life well lived. Time is a finite item in our life, and Ben Franklin had as one of his virtues the intent to make the most of it.
The following is taken from Brett McKay of the Art of Manliness, a case for industriousness.
Develops self-respect. Putting in an honest days work lets you look at yourself in the mirror without feeling ashamed. Think back to the last time you wasted an entire day playing video games. Sure, it was fun while you were kicking butt at Halo, but when you finally turned off the machine at 4 AM, how did you feel? If you’re like me, you probably felt like a useless bum. You realize that you spent an entire day doing something that didn’t contribute to making you or the world around you better. You have certain gifts and talents that should be shared with others. But when you waste the gift of time, you show that you are content to dwell in selfish mediocrity. Fulfill your true potential and make every hour of your existence count.
Do not live useless and die contemptible. ~ John Witherspoon
Fights Depression. Idleness may not be the devil’s playground, but it is quite possibly depression’s romper room. Have you ever known a man who was unemployed for a long period of time? Chances are he sank into a depressed funk. Men are wired to want to feel useful, to make and provide things for others. Deprived of work, men often feel lost because it robs of them of a sense of identity and purpose. Work provides a reason to get up each day and a sense of accomplishment.
The last time I went camping, I took a hike along a beautiful stream. I noticed that the parts of the stream where the water moved the fastest ran pure and clean. The parts of the stream where the current slowed and stalled were stagnant and cloudy. It is the same with life; to keep ourselves happy and motivated, we must always keep moving. Otherwise we will languish and become depressed.
More time for family and civic engagement. I have a friend at law school who has three kids. He’s always working and makes use of every minute he’s at school. I asked him once how he does it and he told me, “Every minute I waste here at school is one minute less that I’ll have time to spend with my kids when I get home.” By getting his work done at school, my friend is able to focus himself completely on his family when he gets home.
In addition to having more time for family, by being industrious you’ll have time to devote to your community. Developing the virtue of industriousness not only frees more time for civic involvement, but it also helps develop the work ethic needed to contribute to the public welfare. Community projects don’t get done by a bunch of lazy bums. It requires people who are proactive and on the move.
How to be Industrious
Plan. Before you go to bed, sit down and plan the next day. One reason people flounder around and waste time during the day is because they don’t know what they should be doing. You can avoid this by scheduling your day out. Find a system that works for you. Some people like to schedule every minute of the day, while others just like to have a list of tasks that need to be completed. Some people like online or digital planners, while others like paper based planning systems. Personally, I use a paper based planner that I designed myself using Excel. I like to plan exactly what I’ll be doing at each hour of the day. It helps keep me focused and on task.
It’s amazing how much you can get done if you’re always doing. ~ Thomas Jefferson
Eliminate distractions. While I don’t agree with Tim Ferris’s call to outsource every unpleasant chore in your life, I do like his suggestions on eliminating needless distractions. One suggestion of his that I like in particular is batching your email. Instead of incessantly checking your email hundreds of times throughout the day, pick two times during the day to check and respond to email.
If surfing the web is a major time sucker for you, turn off your Wi-Fi or disconnect your Ethernet cable while you’re working. If you have Firefox, you can block certain websites for a set period of time with Leech Block.
Have a worthy goal. You will always naturally spend your time focused on what your goals are at the time. Think about it. Why do some men spend hours a day playing video games? Their goal is to either beat the game or beat other players. They play nonstop until they accomplish their goal.
Imagine if these men had more lofty goals. Instead of wasting their time trying rack up more kills on a video game, they could be out improving their fitness through exercise or learning a new skill that will help advance their career.
Set worthy goals for yourself. A worthy goal is one that will make you or the world around you better. After you have written your goals down, carry them with you at all times. I have a section on my daily planning pages where I write down my goals each day. You don’t need a planner to do this. Just write your goals down on a 3×5 index card.
Every time you make a decision on how you’re going to spend your time, stop and ask yourself, “Will this action bring me closer to my goal?” If not, don’t do it. This will take some work and discipline in the beginning, but after a while it will become natural. Instead of wasting your precious time in frivolous pursuits, you’ll be focused on the things that will make you more productive and industrious.
Implement the 48/12 rule. Being industrious is good, but if you’re a human being, you’re going to need breaks to avoid a mental breakdown. One way to ensure that you get the breaks your mind and body needs is to implement the 48/12 rule in your life. Under the 48/12 rule, you work nonstop for 48 minutes. All your focus is on the task at hand for those 48 minutes. When the 48 minutes is up, take a break for 12. Surf the web or get up and go for quick stroll outside. As soon as the 12 minutes are up, get back to work. You’ll be surprised how much you can get done in a day by implementing this rule.
Find ways to be industrious, even in leisure. When you have time away from the work that earns you a living, make use of your leisure time by pursuing activities that will make you a better man. True recreation is an activity that leaves you energized and ready to take on the coming week. Instead of spending time sacked out in front of the TV watching the VH1 “I Love the 90s” marathon, find activities during your leisure time that will rejuvenate you.
The idea is to stay busy, but at much more relaxed pace. Remember that the longer you sit around and do nothing, the harder it is to get yourself motivated when you actually have to work. Avoid the rut by staying busy with relaxing, yet constructive recreational activities.