Learning from Steve Jobs’ schedule


There is so much said about Steve Job's life that, at this point, it is almost passé.

However, it is worth noting that Jobs ran his life like he approached his products - with deliberation and intention.

Throughout his career and most prominently in his biography, Steve Jobs gave us a glimpse of who he was and his approach to life & work.

And I would argue that there is a lot to learn from a pioneer like Jobs.

Hence, in this post, we will explore Steve Jobs's approach to designing his day, rituals, and, most importantly, schedules.

The Steve Jobs Schedule

The one thing that becomes apparent, which you will realize once you see Job's schedule below, is that he wastes no time getting to work early in the day.

Jobs front-loads his day with the most critical work and seemingly the ones he likes the least early in the morning.

You could say that he ate the frog every day.

Here is what Steve Job's schedule looked like:

  • 6:00 a.m. : Waking up
  • 6:30 a.m. : Start working
  • 7:30 a.m. : Breakfast with family
  • 9:00 a.m. : Get to the office
  • 9:30 a.m. : Start meeting with people
  • 12:30 p.m. : Lunch
  • 1:30 p.m. : Design lab visit
  • 3:00 p.m. : Emails, meetings & phone calls
  • 5:30 p.m. : Dinner with family
  • 6:30 p.m. : Walk with wife, Laurene Powell
  • 10:00 p.m. : Music & meditation

So there is a lot to unpack here.

And to say that his schedule tracks with some of the best productivity practices would be an understatement.

Let's start with the first half of the day.

Power-packed mornings

Jobs starts his day reasonably early at 6 a.m., thereby giving him an immediate edge over others who wake up later in the day.

He wastes little time getting to work. He likely believed that he was at his cognitive best during these hours.

This power morning schedule will work well for the Lion chronotype.

Chronotype is the natural inclination of your body to sleep at a certain time, or what most people understand as being an early bird versus a night owl.

Steve Jobs Schedule vs The Lion Chronotype’s Schedule

Let's quickly contrast Steve Job's schedule against the ideal schedule for the Lion Chronotype (source) and see if they match.

  • 6–7 a.m. : Wake up (Match)
  • 8 a.m.–12 p.m. : Focus on deep work (Match)
  • 12–4 p.m. : Focus on lighter tasks (Match)
  • 4–9 p.m. : Daily unwind and relax (Match)
  • 9–10 p.m. : Get ready for bed (Match)
  • 10 p.m. – 6 a.m. : Sleep (Match)

Unsurprisingly, Steve Jobs' schedule track with the ideal schedule for the Lion chronotype perfectly.

Getting to work, quickly

The other interesting thing about Steve Jobs' morning schedule is that he wastes no time getting to work.

Within 30 minutes of waking up, he is tackling important work.

This is textbook "Eat your frog" behavior where you attack the most challenging task first thing in the morning.

Jobs doesn't waste any time commuting before jumping head-on into his workday.

He makes significant headway early in the day by eating the frog, which gives him room to operate for the rest of the day.

"The hardest part of any important task is getting started on it in the first place. Once you actually begin work on a valuable task, you seem to be naturally motivated to continue." - Brian Tracy

A healthy breakfast with family

Once he spends 60 minutes or so, Jobs has breakfast with his family.

Eating breakfast boosts your energy levels and restores your glycogen levels to keep your daily metabolism up.

Breakfast eaters tend to be more physically active in the morning than those who don't eat until later.

It is also pretty evident that if you eat a healthy breakfast early in the day, you are more likely to make healthy food choices throughout the day.

After breakfast, he leaves for his office and reaches it by 9:00 a.m., which is still early by most company standards.

"Steve was very, very strict about filtering out what he thought of as distractions," - Walter Isaacson

Filtering requests and the first 30 minutes

Once at the office, he doesn't jump into meetings immediately. Instead, he gives himself a 30-minute window to prepare for the day ahead.

This time to strategize for the day ahead and reflect on the day ahead is critical to being an effective worker.

According to his biographer, Steve Jobs was brutal with his approach to filtering out things he didn't think were worth the effort.

"Steve was very, very strict about filtering out what he thought of as distractions. People would come to him with all sorts of problems — legal problems, personnel problems, whatever. And if he didn't want to deal with it, he would not focus on it. He'd give you sort of a blank stare. He would not answer; he wouldn't answer email. He would pick four or five things that were really important for him to focus on and then just filter out — almost brutally — filter out the rest." - Walter Issacson

With his strategies in place and brutal filters for what's worth working on, he goes after his next frog which is meetings with people.


Meeting with people is a critical part of work for most knowledge workers, and it is incredibly hectic if you are in a management position with multiple stakeholders to answer to.

Steve Jobs created precise schedules and standards for himself and his team. He had a Monday executive team meeting and a Wednesday afternoon marketing team meeting which he deemed necessary.

You could say that he blocked time for the most important meetings that were non-negotiables. Blocking time is a staple strategy for many influential executives as this helps them give their complete undivided attention to a cause/goal.

Approach to meetings and their content

Steve Jobs also had a no-nonsense approach to meetings. Here is how his biographer Walter Isaacson described Jobs' approach to meetings:

"No agenda, no PowerPoint presentations. Just hash it out and be willing to defend what you want to do and not sit there showing me a deck but having a real interaction, a real, brutally honest one where everyone can say whatever they want." - Walter Isaacson

Making sure that you set high standards for your meetings in order to reduce the chances of getting pulled into unproductive ones.

Putting a high price on your time is critical if you want to stay optimally helpful for your organization.

The meetings take up a good chunk of Steve Jobs' day until he breaks at 12:30 p.m. for lunch.

Low cognitively draining, yet interesting afternoons

It was no secret that Steve Jobs loved design.

Once he was done with the daily heavy lifting, he wanted to do things that he loved and others that won't produce much cognitive drain.

He would often clear his mind by joining Jony Ive, often discussing design.

There is a lesson here for many of us that if you like doing something, you'll be motivated to do it irrespective of the part of the day.

So, it is in our best interests to spend our most cognitively active time of the day doing complex tasks that needs quite a bit of pushing. And leave tasks that require low cognition and little motivation to the later part of the day.

Post the design center visit; he would finish workplace hygiene tasks like checking emails, making calls, and attending the rare non-critical meeting.

After a couple of hours working on these low cognition tasks, he eased himself to the end of his workday at 5:00 p.m.

He likely understood his prime biological period for peak productivity is through at around 5:00 p.m., and working after those hours will not yield good results.

As the old adage goes, make hay while the sun shines.

The wind-down ritual

Here is what Steve Jobs did once he finished his workday.

  • 5:30 p.m. : Dinner with family
  • 6:30 p.m. : Walk with wife, Laurene Powell
  • 10:00 p.m. : Music & meditation

An early dinner means more time for your body to process what you ate. Jobs also drank hot herbal tea after dinner.

The walk post-dinner helps regulate body temperature and stimulates sound sleep.

The walk and dinner are also time for him to maintain that work-life balance by engaging in his social life. Contrast this with founders who often spend endless hours working on their business at the cost of their social life only to realize later that they need a healthy balance.

Coming back to walking, Steve Jobs was a fan of the activity. He did it extensively during his time in India and continued the practice for the rest of his life.

For me, walking helps clear my thoughts and stimulates my mind to wander, often presenting me with solutions that I likely would not have thought of otherwise.

A little bit of light movement before going to bed can do wonders for your sleep.

Finally, Jobs ended his day with a sleeping ritual where he would listen to music or meditate for an hour. You've probably read enough content about why meditation is good for you, and it is true.

Access to meditation has vastly improved in the last few years, and apps like Headspace and Calm are worthy investments if you would like to get started.

Learnings from the Jobs’ Schedule

Let us quickly recap what we learned from Steve Jobs' schedule and his approach to work.

  1. Start your day early, and don't waste time before starting work.
  2. Do the most challenging task first and leave the low cognition tasks for later in the day.
  3. Eat a healthy breakfast early in the day.
  4. Schedule meetings when you are at your cognitive best.
  5. Maintain high standards for the meetings you are asked to participate in and filter out bad ones.
  6. Block time for essential tasks and don't leave it unplanned.
  7. Incorporate things that you enjoy into your work; it will make getting through the day easier.
  8. Make time for your social life; the work-life balance is vital.
  9. Have a healthy eating schedule and maintain it.
  10. Get some physical activity into your daily schedule.
  11. Mediate to keep your sanity and maintain healthy levels of cognition.
  12. Have a wind-down schedule and get enough sack time.

And that is it. I want to end this post with a paragraph from a famous speech by Steve Jobs about his approach to life and his goals.

"For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something." - Steve Jobs

By asking himself about the alignment of his daily goals with his long-term goals, he could keep his vision on track.

And that is something we can all aspire to.

Thanks for reading.