24 hours: self, work, family, sleep

Happy New Year! Rather setting a yearly goal, how about a daily goal? When it comes to the art of kicking ass, getting paid, and getting laid… Benjamin Franklin (the man on the US $100 bill)… Is. The. Man. I have a copy of an autobiography of Ben Franklin titled, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Dover Publications, 1996), edited by John Bigelow.


On pp. 68 of the book, he introduces his daily schedule, which he calls his scheme of order. It begins at 0500 and annotates each hour through 0400 the next day. He begins the day with the question, “What good shall I do this day?”, and ends with, “What good have I done today?”

Added up, his day consists of 5 hours to self, 8 hours work, 4 hours for family or other, and 7 hours sleep. You’re probably thinking, “Well, that’s all good for someone living in America in the 1700s, but not in today’s busy world. I don’t have time for that.”

He didn’t either. He was busy getting laid, making buckets of money, and kicking ass at everything worth kicking ass at. He points out that his scheme of order actually proved challenging in practice – especially for someone like him, as master of the household and of businesses in which he must “mix with the world, and often receive people of business at their own hours” (p. 69).


It took him quite some time to order his day, and he almost gave up despite the gain he recognizes from a daily self-discipline. He shares a funny story about his neighbor, who set out on a seemingly easy goal, and then accepted a halfway-there outcome (he gave up).

He had this neighbor who wanted a shiny, polished ax; like, the silver metallic look all around instead of just the polished cutting edge, with the rest colored in red, the way axes normally look. So the neighbor took the ax to a smith to help him with the task.

Apparently, sharpening an ax is a lot of hard work. A bit of the way through, despite fatigue, the neighbor insisted that he and the smith continue, because at that moment, the ax was still speckled. A little bit longer, the neighbor concluded, “I think I like a speckled ax best.”

And so it is with a New Year’s Resolution. “I’m going to hit the gym, hard! Starting in January!” turns into “Eh… I’m happy with the way I look.” Being happy with yourself is a great thing, if in fact you really are.


This year will make 18 years in the military for me. In the military, a lot of our time isn’t our own. We go away for training, spend a week or two in the field now and then, and get plenty of random tasks far-removed from winning wars or defending the nation. Lots of random bullshit.

If we widen the scope from hour-by-hour (which proves really hard to nail down) to chunks of hours instead, then we can categorize the hours in a day to self, work, family, and sleep.

Let’s say I work an exhausting 10 hrs/day and sleep a generous 8 hrs/day. That leaves 6 hrs/day between self and family. That’s a lot of time. That’s a lot of time especially if focused daily on a particular skill, and then made a habit, compounded over the years.

And maybe, rather than balancing, what if I integrated the categories whereby doing one qualifies as more than one? For example, I could exercise (self) with my kids (family). I now have even more time


The quantity of time matters and I believe the quality of that time matters at least as much. If you spend 3 hrs/day deliberately on a developing a talent over 10 yrs, that gives you 10,000 hrs.

Looked at another way, if you aim to get 1% better at something each day, it’ll take you 232 days to 10x (“ten x”) yourself. 1.01^232 ≈ 10. I got that idea from author James Clear.

In The One Thing (2012) by G. Keller and J. Papasan, there’s an awesome illustration in the beginning of the book about knocking over bigger dominos. A domino will knock over another domino up to 50% bigger. Beginning with a 2″ domino, if we setup a series of dominos to knock over succeeding dominos 50% larger than the previous, the 57th domino will almost reach the Moon.