Of Balance, Ben Franklin, and Boiled Eggs (-LES)

In September I discovered this daily schedule of Ben Franklin; (perhaps it was a map of his ideal day, something I’ve been trying to map out to myself with some difficulty.)


I was immediately enthralled. I had only recently returned to the ways of paper planning, having lived for a decade or so in the murky darkness of digital organization, flittling from app to app, from half-hearted google calendar to just keeping it all in my head. As, at the time, a full time working mother of one, (I’m a college professor), I was able to hold it together with only the occasional scheduling mishap, somehow; (I’m not sure how, honestly!) But as I contemplate going back to work after my sabbatical and maternity leave, now as a mother of two, the prospect is daunting to say the least.

But not only that; I don’t want to just be getting by. My goal isn’t just to not miss appointments. I want to live well, doing the things that matter, and I don’t want to be consumed by worry and stress. I want to be able to be fully present—or at least as present as possible—for my children, for my students, and for my research.

So to return to Ben Franklin, I think what impressed me most about this daily page was its synthesis of big and little picture, its insistence on mindfulness of our larger goals (What good shall I do today? What good have I done today?) while being grounded in the realities of every day (breakfast; dine; look over accounts—I don’t suppose he meant his Facebook account…. Can you imagine BF thumbing through his email as he dug into a boiled egg?)

So how to translate all this loftiness into my very different life? (Different from Ben Franlin’s, I mean…) Well, apart from the getting up at 5AM (I do do that, actually, when my little one does, but I wouldn’t exactly count that as part of my ideal day…)

In all seriousness, each day I have to find that right balance of family, self, and work. Speaking concretely: right now I am doing so in my planner with a combination of week on 2 day pages (WO2P), blank daily pages, and a chronodex.IMG_3746 Each morning, over my coffee, I plan my day on the chronodex, referencing my WO2P where I’ve scheduled my appointments. I also list 2-3 (maximum) priorities for the day. I’ve found if I list more, I get overwhelmed and end up being less productive. Often, I also have a next actions task list; lately (hmm, though not in this photo)  I’ve been putting that on a post-it note, so I can move it from day to day. (Note: this is different from my master tasks and projects list, an art I am still perfecting.) Sometimes, my priorities are more conceptual, like to remember to be “kind and firm” with my daughter, but mostly they are pragmatic: syllabus, or soon (eek!) prep class.

As the day passes, I take moments here to color code my chronodex, (black for work, purple for self, blue for family, orange for planning,) sometimes layering a couple of colors if these categories overlap. I was dubious about this after the fact color-coding chronodex practice, though I love the idea of it, like creating a little artistic representation of your day. In practice I’ve found it showed/shows me where there is balance and where balance may be lacking, as I pursue a functional and mindful synthesis of work, family, and self.

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