It’s always reassuring to hear that the president of the United States may have a more lax schedule than the rest of us. After all, how much do you actually need to do if you’re the so-called “leader of the free world”? You just kiss some babies and call it a day.
Almost every day of President Donald Trump’s private schedule for the last three months was leaked to Axios via a White House source, revealing a schedule comparable to some college students’ (no disrespect to college students, we are just jealous of your freedom). The info dump shows that approximately 60 percent (297 hours and 15 minutes of the total 502 hours and 55 minutes detailed) of Trump’s schedule is devoted to “Executive Time.” Only 77 hours were scheduled for meetings on subjects like policy and legislation.
And what is “Executive Time,” exactly? Apparently it’s highly unstructured, an idea cooked up by former chief of staff John Kelly because the poor president found sticking to a schedule so loathsome. In fact, usually the first five hours of the day (Trump often wakes up before 6 a.m.) are allotted to Executive Time, which is basically code for Trump watching TV in the residence, reading newspapers, and calling various aides, members of Congress and associates in response to whatever particular bee the news has put in his bonnet.
While the schedule lists the president as being in the Oval Office from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., six sources said he’s typically in the residence during that time. His first meeting of the day, usually an intelligence briefing or a half-hour spent with the chief of staff, doesn’t kick off until 11 or 11:30 a.m. For comparison, Barack Obama arrived in the Oval between 9 and 10 a.m. after a morning workout and George W. Bush came to work at 6:45 a.m.
There are even days where Executive Time overwhelming eats up the schedule. For example, on Jan. 18, Trump only had one hour of scheduled meetings and a whole seven hours of Executive Time. Apparently, though, many of his meetings are spontaneous and there’s a more detailed schedule that only a small circle of people are privy to, containing one or two more meetings than listed on the private schedule. Trump, ever-paranoid, conducts some meetings during Executive Time that he doesn’t want West Wing staffers to know about in case of leaks. Executive Time is also sometimes spent calling heads of state.
Needless to say, this sort of schedule is … unprecedented. Chris Whipple, author of The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency and presidential schedule-whiz, told Axios, “The most important asset in any presidency is the president’s time. And Trump is a guy who gives new meaning to the notion of an unstructured presidency.”
In response to Axios’ analysis of the schedules, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders emailed a statement reading, “While [Trump] 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.”
If this is what productivity looks like, we have good news for procrastinators everywhere.
For those of you who feel like doing a deep-dive on the presidential schedules, Axios has published every page of them here.