A Day In The Life of B.F. Skinner

Stories

I rise sometime between 6 and 6:30 often after having heard the radio news. My breakfast, a dish of corn flakes, is on the kitchen table. Coffee is made automatically by the stove timer. I breakfast alone. At the moment, I am reading a bit of very morning of Bergen and Cornelia Evans' Contemporary American Usage. A couple of pages every day, straight through. The morning papers arrive, thrown against the wall or door of the kitchen where I breakfast. I read the Globe, often saving the Times till later.

At seven or so I go down to my study, a walnut-paneled room in our basement. My work desk is a long Scandinavian-modern table, with a set of shelves I made myself for holding the works of BFS, notebooks and outlines of the book I am working on, dictionaries, word-books, etc. On my left the big Webster's International on a stand, on my right an open-top file containing all current and future manuscript materials. As I sit down I turn on a special desk light. This starts a clock, which totalizes my time at my desk. Every twelve hours recorded on it, I plot a point on a cumulative curve, the slope of which shows my overall productivity. To the right of my desk is an electric organ, on which a few minutes each day I play Bach Chorales etc. 

Later in the morning, I go to my office. These days I leave just before 10 so that Debbie can ride with me to her summer school class. Later, in my cooler weather, I will be walking -- about 1 3/4 miles. In my office I open and answer mail, see people if necessary. Get away as soon as possible, usually in time for lunch at home. Afternoons are not profitably spent, working in the garden, swimming in our pool. Summers we often have friends in for a swim and drinks from 5 to 7 or possibly 8. Then dinner. LIght reading. Little or no work. In bed by 9:30 or 10:00. I usually wake up for an hour or so during the night. I have a clip-board, paper pad and pencil (with a small flashlight attached to the board) for making notes at night. I am not an insomniac. I enjoy that nightly hour and make good use of it. I sleep alone.

 

- B. F. Skinner (1963 Journal Entry)

B.F. Skinner (1904-1990) was a behavioral psychologist, writer, inventor, and philosopher.

 

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B.F. Skinner: B.F. Skinner, "My Day," August 9, 1963. Skinner Basement Archives; Daniel W. Bjork, B.F. Skinner: A Life (New York: Basic Books, 1993)

 

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