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How President Obama Spends His Other 8 Hours

I love to know how people spend their time, so you can imagine my glee when I came across a Newsweek article over the weekend where Obama explains his typical day:

"I'm a night owl. My usual day [is]: I work out in the morning; I get to the office around 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; work till about 6:30 p.m.; have dinner with the family, hang out with the kids and put them to bed about 8:30 p.m. And then I'll probably read briefing papers or do paperwork or write stuff until about 11:30 p.m. and then I usually have about a half hour to read before I go to bed . . . about midnight, 12:30 a.m. -- sometimes a little later."
You might not know it, but there is a treasure trove of information in this little paragraph about what the leader of the most powerful nation in the world values. Let's CSI this:
  1. Mental energy. President Obama knows that he gets his most mental energy at night. ("I'm a night owl.") He probably thinks clearest at night and finds that he can make the best decisions late at night when much of the country is sleeping. When do you have the most mental energy? This might coincide with when you have the most physical energy but not necessarily. Keep a log for the next week. When do you feel the most "on"? You can then schedule brainstorming or mentally tasking activities at this time, when you are primed.
  2. Morning routine. Health is obviously important to Obama. So much so that it's the first thing he does in the morning. He doesn't hope to squeeze in a workout if he has time, he ensures he has time by doing it first thing. If you want something done, do it first. Don't kid yourself into thinking you'll fit it into your schedule, because something else always comes up. What's important to you? Could you wake up 30 minutes early and do it?
  3. Family time. One of the biggest complaints of most parents is that they don't spend enough time with their kids. Obama makes sure he schedules time with this family each day. Do you cringe when you read "schedule time with family?" Does it seem a little impersonal? Get over it. You don't think twice about scheduling a 11:00 a.m. meeting with Joe in Operations, so don't hesitate to schedule time with your family.
  4. Getting ahead. It's clear that the president dedicates some of his other 8 hours to getting ahead, learning, and growing. Does he need to read briefing papers or do paperwork? I'm sure he could "outsource" this to someone else, but he doesn't. He invests part of his night to his job.Do you leave work and forget about it? What if you spent 30 minutes a night on growing, learning, and advancing within your profession or company? I'm not talking about doing busywork. I'm talking about doing the high-level thinking and creating that you just can't do at the office. Take a few minutes each night to work on your day job.
  5. Night routine. According to the interview, President Obama relaxes by reading, not by watching TV. He expands his mind each night and learns something new. What I found interesting is that he's not reading about politics, foreign affairs, or anything related to his "job." He's currently reading Netherland by Joseph O'Neill, a novel about cricket -- obviously not something that will directly help him in his job. Make sure the time you spend relaxing is not at all related to your work. Don't read and check your Blackberry every five minutes. Escape your world and do something completely different. It will engage different parts of your brain and will make you a more well-rounded person.
I don't care how busy I get or how important I think I am, if the President of the United States still has time to exercise, spend time with family, read, and grow, I certainly can, too. What about you?

(Obama image by marcn, CC 2.0)
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