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Benjamin Franklin was widely known for his practices and habits…specifically: his virtues.

He was a lifehacker before it was cool.

He believed in living a fulfilling and productive life, which is what brought him to these 13 virtues.

I’ll go over each one and show you how to apply them to your life to increase your productivity.

The 13 Virtues

  1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
  11. Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. 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.
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

1. Temperance

Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

Food provides energy, but overeating (or eating the wrong kinds of food) can kill productivity. How productive would you be after eating a couple thousand calories of junk? People do it everyday. McDonald’s for lunch, and then they wonder why they feel so tired in the afternoon.  Or a huge bowl of sugary cereal for breakfast, and then they think they have some sort of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, because they’re “always tired.”  By the way, CFS is very real, and I’m not making light of it, but if you’re constantly tired, try changing your diet first.  As far as drinking goes, drinking too much alcohol will not only eliminate any chance of productivity for that day, but it will steal the day after as well.  To sum it up: eat like an adult and drink responsibly.

2. Silence

Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Trifling (unimportant or trivial) conversation is one of the biggest time wasters of this day. Small talk is fine for a few minutes, but don’t get carried away. How often have you talked to someone for 30 minutes, only to realize you didn’t talk about anything of importance? Yeah, me too. We’re all guilty of doing this a little too much. Don’t let it steal your time. On a similar note, there’s absolutely no place for negativity in the realm of productivity.  Negativity is useless.

3. Order

Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

Home organization can steal so much time. As they say, “a place for everything, and everything in it’s place.”  Make sure you have a place for everything in your home. Nothing will waste more time than walking around trying to figure out where something goes. It may take a few days to make a place for everything, but it will save countless hours down the road.  Make a place for everything, or get rid of it, and make time for what’s truly important.

4. Resolution

Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

Do what you set out to do. But an important step before that is to actually set out to do something. Plan your time before it happens. Set daily goals and beyond. You need an agenda to strive for, and then you can accomplish the day’s work.

5. Frugality

Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

Do the right things. Don’t waste the precious things. Time is one of the most wasted things of our day. Like I said above, set out your plan and do it. If you always do what you planned to do, time is not wasted. That can mean getting a lot of work done, or relaxing the day away. If you plan to do it, it’s productive – work, as well as rest.

6. Industry

Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

Define and eliminate the unnecessary. Resolve to live a choice-minimal lifestyle. Get rid of the distractions. That could mean negative friends, clutter around your home, or something as simple as cable TV.

7. Sincerity

Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

Choose your words carefully. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t drag others down, and again, don’t waste your time on meaningless conversation. Strive to always do right and good, whatever that means to you.

8. Justice

Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

Hold yourself responsible and accountable to others. Do what you need to do and don’t do what you shouldn’t do. Don’t make excuses. Sometimes just eliminating what you shouldn’t be doing can add hours to your day. And you know what you should and shouldn’t be doing.

9. Moderation

Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

As simply and cliché as I can put it, “everything in moderation”. Hard work is good, relaxation is good, fun is good, but all of those can be detrimental if you overdo it. Try to stay clear of extremes – they’re usually harmful.

10. Cleanliness

Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.

Live a clean lifestyle. Stay disciplined to be clean in your hygiene and habits. Eat a clean diet. Keep clean friends, not just in hygiene, but in their habits and lifestyle.

11. Tranquillity

Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

We all make mistakes. Successful people usually make more than anyone, and that’s because they understand the power of learning from their mistakes. Don’t let mistakes or errors hold you back. Learn and move on, and you’ll get better. Every time.  It’s only truly a mistake if you don’t grow from it.

12. 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.

This was a pretty bold statement for the times. It’s pretty plain and simple: don’t indulge in sexual actions that will compromise your body or your emotions. With a culture of casual sex and one-night stands, this is an important topic. I’m not telling you how to live your life – that’s up to you – but from what I know and from what studies show, this type of behavior is only going to cause problems. Don’t think about the short-term pleasure, think about your long-term character and emotional stability.

13. Humility

Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Humility is one of the foundations of character. This should be obvious as to how it applies to your character, but how does it apply to productivity? In several ways. The most important being this: practicing humility helps you learn and move on easier than someone who is prideful. If someone corrects you, accept the correction and take a lesson from it. Even if they’re wrong, there’s still a lesson to be learned.  Defending your position or explaining why someone else is wrong is a waste of time.  Don’t worry so much about what others think.

Read these virtues for yourself and truly think about how they apply to your life.

Do you live by a set of virtues or values? Where do you get them from? Share in the comments!

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