On the TV show Patriot, an American intelligence officer gets into very knotty circumstances. It would be ridiculous to try to explain the plot—it involves piping, Jiu-Jitsu, and Iran—but one scene in particular caught my attention. The intelligence officer has a lot to do that day, so his friend types a daily schedule for him into his phone, using codes like “CG,” for “capture a guy.” Even spies need daily schedules!

Let’s hope our daily schedules are less violent and easier to stay on top of; the spy falls behind as complications pile up. Whatever the tasks on your daily schedule might look like, it’s important to have one—even if you’re an entrepreneur. Although entrepreneurship often involves extracting yourself from the minutiae of the everyday so you can look at the bigger picture, you still need to have a course of action so that you can fulfill the bigger-picture goal.

There are plenty of reasons why a daily schedule is beneficial. Humans do well with routines, which give us structure and encourages us to practice good habits, rather than succumbing to less-great ones like procrastination. We also seek a sense of accomplishment, which moving through the tasks on your schedule will give you. Schedules come with built-in motivation and forward momentum. They improve efficiency, our ability to prioritize, and our time management skills. Even though they take a bit of planning, they’re very likely to save you time in the long run.

Maybe a better role model for daily scheduling than a fairly screwed-up fictional spy is a Founding Father. Let’s take a look at Benjamin Franklin’s daily routine.

Lessons from Ben Franklin’s Daily Schedule

“What good shall I do this day?” Benjamin Franklin started his days with that question, plus a task: “contrive day’s business and take the resolution of the day.” We can’t argue with that. I also like to set the day’s resolution(s), either first thing in the morning or the day before. Actually, Franklin’s schedule is generally pretty great. He “prosecute[s] the present study” from 5 to 8 a.m., works until noon, eats and looks at his accounts until 2 p.m., works again from 2 to 6, and then takes time to “put things in their places,” eat, and have fun.

Here are some takeaways from Franklin’s schedule that are still applicable today:

  • Set MIPs. Your daily schedule should be directly informed by your MIPs for the day: your Most Important Priorities. Franklin focused on one resolution for the day; I tend to set one to three. Check out this blog post for more on MIPs.
  • Break up the day. No one can do one task for eight hours straight, let alone do it well. Stepping away from it and then returning with fresh eyes will give you renewed energy and attention. “After awhile, our brains numb out a bit to the constant stimulation, and we become unable to continuously treat the task as important,” writes Kate Bartolotta in Huffington Post, referencing a study on breaks by scholars at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • Set aside time for project management / putting things in their places. For today’s entrepreneur, that might mean specific times responding to emails, texting, or making phone calls. Always being on email and having your phone constantly buzzing distracts from the projects at hand; only checking email a few times a day, on the other hand, reduces stress and improves productivity. A Harvard Business Review article recommends setting an “email budget”: a certain amount of time each day for email.
  • Take breaks. Okay, Franklin didn’t really do much of this; his schedule is pretty tight. But at least he gave himself time at the end of the day to hang out with friends. I recommend taking breaks intermittently through the day—preferably breaks that involve a bit of activity and/or nature, like taking a walk outside.

Don’t hold it against yourself if you don’t end up getting to everything on your schedule, or if you end up having to shift things around. As Franklin admitted in his autobiography, his schedule “was not possible to be exactly observed by a master, who must mix with the world, and often receive people of business at their own hours.”

What Should Your Daily Schedule Look Like?

The title of this section is a bit disingenuous, because there is no “should” when it comes to daily schedules. As with everything productivity-related, arrange your daily schedule to best suit your personal habits and style. Have you seen this graphic of sleep habits of geniuses? Each person had his or her own sleep pattern, but all were brilliant. Just as with nocturnal habits, we all have our own way with daily work patterns. And we can all use our unique patterns to achieve success.

Though there are no musts with daily schedules, here is a very general template that you might consider as you set your own:


  • Eat breakfast.
  • Set MIP(s), if you haven’t done so the day or night before.
  • Work. Consider tackling the hardest tasks first, when your brain is at its freshest.
  • Take a break, ideally with a physical element such as a walk or workout.
  • Work, either on the same project as pre-break or a different one.
  • Respond to emails, texts, and phone calls.


  • Eat lunch—not mindlessly while staring at your computer screen. Take an actual lunch break.


  • Work.
  • Take a break.
  • Work.
  • Take a break.
  • Respond to emails, texts, and phone calls.
  • Finish up work. For good. Don’t check email. (Need a reason to log off? Per Fortune.com, “There’s lots of evidence that that kind of connectivity is bad for your health, your psyche, and your productivity.” Enough said.)

For each “work” block, know in advance what you will dedicate that time to.

As you move through the day, congratulate yourself on accomplishing the things you’ve set out to do. You’ve earned those break times!