Space Management Survival Guide: A Role Model, Ben Franklin
by Michael Allen
I just finished reading "The Autobiography" by Benjamin Franklin and am amazed at this man's life. What does he have to do with organization, you ask. Well, I was struck by Mr. Franklin's constant endeavors to improve himself, and his candor when he did not succeed. I think that there are many things we can learn about organizing our time, our efforts, and how to improve ourselves through a brief look at Mr. Franklin's struggles.
Mr. Franklin was an avid reader. Around 1730, he decided that he would make a study of the moral virtues he had been reading about and would apply them to his life. He made the following list of thirteen virtues:
- Temperance - Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
- Silence - Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
- Order - Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
- Resolution - Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
- Frugality - Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
- Industry - Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
- Sincerity - Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
- Justice - Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
- Moderation - Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
- Cleanliness - Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
- Tranquility - Be not disturbed a trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
- Chastity - Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
- Humility - Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
Ben Franklin determined to start with the first virtue and work on it until he had it pretty well mastered, then he would move on to the next. He writes about his difficulty in completing this task. Can you guess which virtue gave him the most trouble? Order!
Mr. Franklin writes about the virtue of Order, "This article, therefore cost me so much painful attention and my faults in it vexed me so much, and I made so little progress in amendment, and had such frequent relapses that I was almost ready to give up the attempt, and content myself with a faulty character in that respect." Ben Franklin himself struggled mightily to get organized.
But, he didn't give up. He further writes, "I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of attaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavor, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it."
I find great strength in these words and so should you. Organizing your life is a "process", not an "event" that you complete and are done with. It will take effort, but it does not require perfection. So do as Ben Franklin did, try to organize yourself, struggle with it, and if you don't succeed, you will at least be a better, happier person for trying.
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