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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

A timetable from 200 yrs ago: Why Benjamin Franklin is PM Modi’s man for the hours

One of America's founding fathers, Franklin had an advice for 5 am to 10 pm days, that Modi recommended to UP Cabinet; Franklin admitted it was hard to keep to it

Written by Sattwick Barman | New Delhi |
Updated: May 17, 2022 6:16:23 pm
On Monday, as he stopped over in Lucknow on his way back from Nepal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a freewheeling conversation with Uttar Pradesh Cabinet ministers, cited Franklin in his advice on time management and governance, as per sources. (PTI)

Sloth, like Rust, consumes faster than Labor wears; while the used key is always bright, as Poor Richard says. But dost thou love Life, then do not squander Time, for that’s the stuff Life is made of, as Poor Richard says.

This sage advice mentioned in the preface to Poor Richard’s Almanac for 1758 was from none other than Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers who is almost ubiquitous as the face on the $100 bill. Franklin was a quintessential polymath who in his life donned the hats of an author, an inventor (he is credited with building the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, bifocals, and urinary catheter, to name a few), established the American Philosophical Society, served as a diplomat in France, and was a journalist and publisher (he ran The Pennsylvania Gazette for decades).

A screenshot of Benjamin Franklin’s timetable mentioned in his autobiography, edited by Frank Woodworth Pine and published by Henry Holt and Company

In addition, Franklin also put forth ideas of time management and morning routine that are seen by many as the key to productivity, success, and well-being.

On Monday, as he stopped over in Lucknow on his way back from Nepal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a freewheeling conversation with Uttar Pradesh Cabinet ministers, cited Franklin in his advice on time management and governance, as per sources. Asking UP ministers to differentiate between “karya (work)” and “karyakaram (events and programmes)” and focus on work first, he urged them to read Franklin.

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Here is what the ideal routine of Franklin – credited also for the adage “Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” – looked like, according to his autobiography:

* Begin the day at 5 am by asking, ‘What good shall I do this day?’ Spend the first hour rising, washing, and reciting “Powerfull Goodness (a prayer)”. Then move on to, “Contrive day’s business, and take the resolution of the day: prosecute the present study, and breakfast”.

* Work from 8 am to 11 am, and the following two hours spend reading or overlooking accounts and dining.


* From 2 pm to 5 pm, work again, and allot 6-9 pm for putting things in their places, supper, “music or diversion or conversation”, and an examination of the question, “What good have I done today?”

* 10 pm, it is time for bed.

This is not the first time Modi has brought up Franklin. At a special edition of his monthly “Mann ki Baat” radio programme with then US President Barack Obama on January 27, 2015, when asked which American leader inspired him, the Prime Minister said, “I liked reading as a child. And I got an opportunity to read the biography of Benjamin Franklin… He was not an American President. But his biography is so inspiring – how a person can intelligently try to change his life. If we feel excessively sleepy, how can we reduce that? If we feel like eating too much, how can we work towards eating less? If people get upset with you that you cannot meet them, because of the pressure of work, then how to solve this problem? He has addressed such issues in his biography.”

Modi went on to add, “And I tell everyone, we should read Benjamin Franklin`s biography… And he came from an ordinary family. He could not even complete his education. But till today, his thoughts have an impact on American life… And I tell you too, if you read his biography, you will find ways to transform your life… I feel you will be inspired as much as I have been.”


But, as per Franklin’s own admission, he found it difficult to stick to the feted timetable. In the autobiography, Franklin wrote, “My scheme of Order gave me the most trouble; and I found that tho’ it might be practicable where a man’s business was such as to leave him the disposition of his time, that of a journeyman printer, for instance, it was not possible to be exactly observed by a master, who must mix with the world, and often receive people of business at their own hours.”

He went on to add, “In truth, I found myself incorrigible with respect to Order; and now I am grown old, and my memory bad, I feel very sensibly the want of it. But, on the whole, tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it …”

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First published on: 17-05-2022 at 03:18:06 pm

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