“Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”


Our new Weekly Series explores improving your life through character growth and a new habit of practicing virtues. To read about why we are exploring virtue, click here.

Practicing The Good Life With Ben Franklin
Virtue #6 – Industry

Ben Franklin was many things, a statesman, an inventor, a politician, and a writer. But one thing he would never be accused of is being lazy. He often was striving towards important goals that produced important innovations that would eventually change our nation for the better. Lighted street lamps, your car’s odometer, even your glasses – you can thank Ben for that.

Franklin in his nature was highly industrious, spending his time improving himself and seeking to be useful to others. And while the term industry has become synonymous with the production of goods and services, as a virtue, industry is simply spending your time pursuing worthwhile and important goals.

For example, why do some people spend hours a day playing video games? Their goal is to either beat the game or beat other players. They play non-stop until they accomplish their goal. But imagine if these people had higher goals. Instead of wasting their time trying to rack up more points on a video game, they could be out improving their fitness through exercise or learning a new skill that will help advance their career. You will always naturally spend your time focused on what your goals are at the time.

However, many of us are hard-working people who still struggle to find the time to accomplish our goals or stay on task. Why is that? While we may be good at keeping busy, we may not necessarily be working wisely. One reason people flounder around and waste time during the day is because they don’t know what they should be doing. You can avoid this by scheduling your day out in advance in whichever way works for you. That way you can focus your attention and energy less on distractions and more on what actually matters to your success and goals.

Research into positive psychology shows that practicing industriousness can improve your mood, fight off depression, and make you a happier and more generous person. By pushing through and seeing your goals met, you will build resilience and self-confidence in your future ability to tackle any new challenges that come your way.

So, the next time you make a decision on how you’re going to spend your time, stop and ask yourself, “Will this action bring me closer to my goal?” If not, don’t do it. This will take some work and discipline in the beginning, but after a while it will become natural. Instead of wasting your precious time in frivolous pursuits, you’ll be focused on the things that will make you more productive and industrious.

A Note From Dr. Andy

When I think of being industrious I can’t help but think about my grandfather. He came from a different era being a byproduct of the great depression – and he absolutely refused to waste any valuable resources. Whether it was his time, food, money, his energy, or opportunity – he was always looking for ways to maximize his return on his resources and he was unwilling to be wasteful with anything.

In fact, I was talking with my cousin the other day, and we were sharing stories about grandpa and his incredible resourcefulness and industriousness. A story of how my grandpa re-purposed garlic bread came up that symbolizes just how industrious my grandpa could be. Apparently my grandpa had made some garlic bread for dinner while we were on a family vacation – and there were considerable leftovers. So, the next morning We were enjoying French toast when my grandma detected a hint of garlic and commented to my grandpa, “Carl you didn’t?”

It didn’t stop anybody else from enjoying the French toast breakfast (I have to say it was certainly a very unique version of French toast). Now later that night we found garlic bread again being a part of the dinner and realized that we had not finished the French toast. Interestingly, it still tasted pretty good and this certainly was a unique skill of my grandpas (being a former Army chef he had become quite skilled at throwing together very interesting flavors and dishes into what he often referred to as goulash or a casserole).

My grandpa had so internalized this value and virtue of industriousness or resourcefulness that these incidences were common occurrences for us as a family. However, he was just as determined to not waste his time, energy, or money in endeavors that seemed unproductive or misaligned with his priorities and values. I think often now about these family meals and how grandpa was providing us with a master class on living your values.

I am very grateful for the life lessons my grandparents taught me – and I realize now that the most significant lesson my grandpa modeled for me – was to get super clear on my core values – as they will provide a clear blueprint for how to live a meaningful, purposeful, successful, and yes – even industrious life!!

3 Ways To Stay Busy The Right Way

  1. PLAN. Before you go to bed, sit down and plan the next day. Some may find it helpful to plan their entire week on Sunday night. You can plan every hour of the day or create an action list of your top 3 tasks for that day. You can use a digital or paper planner. No matter how you plan, find what works for you.

  2. ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS. Instead of incessantly checking your email hundreds of times throughout the day, pick two times during the day to check and respond to email. If web surfing, texting, or social media are major distractions to your productivity, turn off your wi-fi or limit your screen time. Many phones now have the ability to set “offline hours” where chosen apps become unavailable so you can focus without the temptation to lose hours online shopping or watching funny videos.

  3. HAVE A WORTHY GOAL. A worthy goal is one that will make you or the world around you better. After you have written your goals down, carry them with you at all times. I have a section on my daily planning pages where I write down my goals each day. You don’t need a planner to do this. Just write your goals down on a 3×5 index card.

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