Productivity is important to every business. You want quality of service and products, but improved productivity that retains what makes people want to do business with you means better profits. There are many many techniques to enhance productivity, but one of the oldest is also among the most disliked.

Every year, most of the country and much of the world turns clocks forward or backward to gain advantage of increased natural light. It's a mistake with a litany of reasons why, including disruption of sleep rhythms, an increase in accidents, spike in heart attacks, and even lost productivity. Yes, the common rationale of why we have daylight-savings time stands on its head.

When looking for an explanation of why we keep doing something that arguably makes no sense, stop misplacing the blame. This also has nothing to do with farmers. The ones I know don't hear the alarm, look up, and say, "Well, I'm not allowed to get up now even though it's light because the clock says 5:30." OK, that would be sleeping in for many farmers, but you get the point. They work based on natural conditions and don't need permission from official time keeper.

The common historical explanations for how we came to coordinate near universal complaint about setting clocks back in the Spring involve saving fuel during World War I. But forget those, as well. Someone had to invent the mad concept, so let us target the person who did: Benjamin Franklin.

How could the inventor of bifocals and the wood stove, natural scientist, author, political figure, publisher, diplomat, and someone who managed to be both frugal and a bon vivant go so far astray? Simple. He was only kidding.

Franklin spent years representing the United States in France, an important military ally. Toward the end of his tenure, he wrote a series of light pieces for the Journal de Paris, whose editor was a friend. One letter, published on April 26, 1784, was called An Economical Project.

Franklin, long noted for his industry, jokingly observed that many in Parisian society had a habit of staying up late and sleeping in:

Your readers, who with me have never seen any signs of sunshine before noon, and seldom regard the astronomical part of the almanac, will be as much astonished as I was, when they hear of his [the sun] rising so early; and especially when I assure them, that he gives light as soon as he rises. I am convinced of this. I am certain of my fact. One cannot be more certain of any fact. I saw it with my own eyes. And, having repeated this observation the three following mornings, I found always precisely the same result.

He continued on to say that people would tell him such was impossible. The person most associated with the saying, "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise," went on to note that had he not accidentally been woken at 6am on a given morning, would have stayed up six hours later and unnecessarily spent money on candles.

Franklin then went on to estimate how much money -- "an immense sum" -- the people of Paris wasted on candles when they could simply wake up earlier and make better use of daylight. Instead, he suggested forbidding people access to candles and wax and forcibly waking them, quelle horreur!, early in the morning, essentially shifting their days to start when the sun shown.

The letter is amusing and worth the read. But you'll notice there is no mention of shifting clocks back and forth depending on the calendar's date. Even humor knows its natural limits.