I was immediately awe-struck by this image when I came across Benjamin Franklin’s to-do list on posted by nevver.  I was smitten by how “simple” it is to show his lifetime goal, short-term tasks and daily self-evaluation of his goal all on one sheet of paper.

Today, in the 21st century, I am tracking my daily to-do list using various apps across multiple devices, but I am still unable to articulate the big picture of my lifetime goal.  I constantly struggle to complete my daily tasks among work, family and personal projects.  One thing I do as well as Benjamin Franklin is sleep.  I make sure that I always get seven hours of sleep a day because without sleep, the short term and long term goals become even harder to achieve.

Looking at this 18th Century version of a PDA, I am making a couple of tweaks to my own to-do list:

 1. Create “one” big question: For Benjamin Franklin, it’s about doing good deeds.   The question he asked himself: “What good should I do this day?”   For me: “How will I make a positive difference today?”  It may be a large or a small task, such as treating someone with respect, making my boy his favorite dish, sharing something inspirational or going the extra mile for a project, but it should align with your guiding principles, values or even your dreams.

2. Allow self-reflection: Benjamin got up early to allow himself to plan, organize and study.  I allow 30 minutes to review the day ahead and squeeze in 10 pages of reading.  The best part from his to-do list is the examination of the day.  It’s important to take a quiet 15 minutes to reflect on the day and jot down my own observations on Evernote.

3. Prioritize 2-3 must-do daily tasks: I like his notion of “overlook my accounts” and “put things in their places”.  It’s smart to make time everyday to review critical projects and organize your work.  Clear desk, clear mind!

 4. Create a consolidated view of your calendars:  In the past, our family tracked our personal and work tasks on separate calendars.  With my own personal projects, the boys’ tennis and extracurricular activity schedules and our work meetings, it’s gotten too complicated.  I now link my work schedule to our family Google Calendar.  I can easily see all family, personal and work calendar at one place.

5. Focus one task at any given time:  This is the hardest challenge for me.  While I am writing this post, I have three other screens open at the same time and my iPhone ringing right next to me.  How hard it is to give 100% to one task at any give time?

The tools have changed but the overall goals and methods are the same.  Keep it simple and stay focused on what’s important to you.

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Pam Didner

Posted on

December 3, 2012

Personal Journal