Samuel Johnson’s to-do list: get up early, shop, get organized…and “scheme life.”

I revere Samuel Johnson and Benjamin Franklin as the two patron saints of those who make resolutions.

I laughed aloud this morning when I read Samuel Johnson’s diary entry for his 51st birthday in September 1760. He has a long list of resolutions, and he concludes with four resolutions to begin at once:

To morrow
Rise as early as I can.
Send for books for Hist. of war.
Put books in order.
Scheme life.

I see that he followed one of my own principles, which is to make sure that every to-do list has one item that can be done fairly quickly. “Scheme life” might take some time, however.

*
New to the Happiness Project? Consider subscribing to my RSS feed: Subscribe to this blog’s feed. Or sign up to get email updates in the box at the top righthand corner.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Rich

    According to the Bate biography of Samuel Johnson, Johnson was always making resolutions to get up early (usually he would say “by 8am”)… but never stuck with it.
    I was pleased when I learned this, because I, too, had made and broken this resolution repeatedly. You know what worked for me? Putting a coffeemaker in my bedroom, and setting the clock 30 minutes earlier than I need to. The combination of hot coffee and time to drink it is just what I need to get me out of bed each morning.

  • http://lifedev.net Glen

    I think I’m going to start using the word “scheme” as a verb in my lists. It’s so mysterious!

  • http://www.gretchenrubin.com Gretchen Rubin

    Yes, Johnson repeatedly, and with real anguish, resolved to get up earlier. You want to just say — look, you’re Samuel Johnson! Lie in bed! It’s not as if you’re not getting anything done! He really beat himself up about it, and never changed — and it didn’t matter. There’s a lesson there.
    Brilliant idea about the coffeemaker. I can imagine what a difference that would make about getting up.

  • http://www.thehappinessblog.com www.thehappinessblog.com

    Gretchen,
    One thing I really love about people from Johnson’s era are the ideas of personal order or regulation. Back then there was so much value placed on personal virtue. You see it again and again in the lives of the founding fathers, like Adams, Washington, and Franklin!
    I think the concept originated in Greece, traveled to Rome, and then died sometime in during the 21st Century.
    It is very noble to seek self-improvement and with all the tools we have available now days, it ought to be much easier!
    Great Article!

  • Helen

    Recently my sister told me that to meet her resolution of getting up early to take the dog for a walk, she and her husband decided that waking up was actually an optional step that they would forgo. She reports that she has kept her resolution surprisingly well since that revelation. If you see them as they start their walk you would spy a sprightly dog but 2 very morose people with heads down shuffling along. 2 or 3 blocks later, their heads are up and they are much more with it. I still laugh at the permission they gave themselves and how waking up may actually be an option!

  • Helen

    Recently my sister told me that to meet her resolution of getting up early to take the dog for a walk, she and her husband decided that waking up was actually an optional step that they would forgo. She reports that she has kept her resolution surprisingly well since that revelation. If you see them as they start their walk you would spy a sprightly dog but 2 very morose people with heads down shuffling along. 2 or 3 blocks later, their heads are up and they are much more with it. I still laugh at the permission they gave themselves and how waking up may actually be an option!