- President Donald Trump‘s private schedule was leaked on Sunday, and it revealed the president spends 60% of his working hours in unstructured “executive time.”
- Though Trump may take the idea of unstructured time to its extreme, free time during the workday can be beneficial in small doses, executive coach Alisa Cohn told Business Insider.
- Trump’s schedule stands in contrast to other executives like Bill Gates and Elon Musk, who plan their days down to the minute.
A White House staffer leaked President Donald Trump’s private schedules to Axios on Sunday, and the documents revealed some eye-opening details about the president’s day.
For one, Trump spends the bulk of his workdays in “executive time” – unstructured blocks of time that make up 60% of his working hours. According to Axios, Trump spends much of that time in his White House residence watching cable news, tweeting, and making phone calls.
Trump’s first meeting of the day, usually an intelligence briefing, takes place at about 11 a.m., the documents said. Meetings in general make up about 15% of Trump’s schedule.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump’s unorthodox schedule, arguing that Trump’s “executive time” helps his productivity.
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“While he spends much of his average day in scheduled meetings, events, and calls, there is time to allow for a more creative environment that has helped make him the most productive President in modern history,” she said in a statement.
Executive time isn’t unheard of for CEOs and execs
Although Trump may take the idea of an unstructured workday to its extreme, it’s not unheard of for executives to schedule large blocks of free time.
Alisa Cohn, an executive coach who works mainly with startup CEOs, told Business Insider she recommends her clients schedule a couple of hours of unstructured time once or twice a week.
“Having large, unstructured blocks of time is a good thing,” Cohn told Business Insider.
“You need to find the unstructured time without meetings and without distractions to do deep work, to do strategic planning and thinking, and to give yourself a moment to reflect,” she said. “All those things can’t be packed into the five minutes you have between meetings, or they can’t be put at the end of the day when you’re exhausted at 7 p.m.”
But Cohn said it was equally important for executives to have a specific goal in mind to accomplish during their unstructured time.
“It’s easy for that time to get frittered away if you don’t have a plan for what you’re going to do with that time,” Cohn said.
“So really, what strategic elements should I be thinking about? What kind of reflections do I want to have about the business, or about myself, or about the meeting? Should I spend some time debriefing my interactions this week? Is there a specific strategic initiative I should do some hard thinking about?”
Scheduling this time, under the “executive time” moniker or not, can be a challenge.
Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates navigates his day by scheduling it down to the minute. According to The Telegraph, “long days are carved into five-minute slices, with every meeting and handshake timed to the second.”
That’s the same style Tesla CEO Elon Musk prefers. Musk works up to 100 hours a week, and according to Inc., he breaks up his calendar into five-minute chunks.
Apple CEO Tim Cook isn’t that meticulous about his time, but he does start his workday earlier than most people. Cook famously wakes up at 3:45 a.m. each morning, and immediately begins reading more than 700 emails.
Different leaders and execs tend to do what works for them, but they face the same challenge we all do: They have only so much time in a day.
“People bemoan their lack of time,” said Cohn, “but when you look at their calendars and what they’re working on, they’re not always working on their most important priorities.”