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Daily Routines

Bob Iger: Daily Routine

On Daily Routines, we profile successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, executives and athletes to explore their routines, schedules, habits and day in the life.

As the Executive Chairman of The Walt Disney Company, holding one of the most powerful positions in media, and with a net worth of $690 million, estimated by Forbes, Bob Iger still keeps the same 4am wake up routine of his earlier years when he was climbing the ranks.

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Actually, he’s letting himself sleep in a little more these days, waking up at 4.15am instead now.

I never viewed myself as exceptional. And so whenever I got a job, I was relying on hard work more than anything and a level of enthusiasm and optimism. When I went to ABC Sports, everybody there went to Stanford or Dartmouth or Columbia.

The Slow-Burning Success of Disney’s Bob Iger | The New York Times

As the CEO of Disney from 2005 until stepping down in February 2020, Iger was the driving force behind the company’s resurgence; spearheading the acquisition of several key assets, including Pixar in 2006, Marvel Entertainment in 2009, Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4.06 billion, and 21st Century Fox in 2019.

Under Iger’s tenure, Disney’s market cap grew from $48.4 billion to $257 billion over 13 years.

At 69 years old and leading Disney’s Board as Executive Chairman, with nothing left to prove, Iger still maintains the same work ethic he’s had for the past five decades.

Every morning starts the same for Bob Iger. He wakes up at 4.15am, and avoids looking at his phone until after his workout.

“I create a firewall with technology, by the way, in that I try to exercise and think before I read,” Iger told Vanity Fair in 2018. “Because if I read, it throws me off, it’s distracting. I’m immediately thinking about usually someone else’s thoughts instead of my own. I like being alone with my own thoughts, and it gives me an opportunity to not just replenish but to organize, and it’s important.”

This morning routine is very similar to Bozoma Saint John who told Arianna Huffington that “whatever emails or text messages have come in during the evening or in the early morning are usually not in service to me.”

“I happen to believe that in every day you need to have some quiet time to think, where you’re not really being bombarded by external forces,” Iger said in a Masterclass presentation. “In some cases, you’re not doing email, you’re not watching television, you’re not doing anything really but enabling yourself to concentrate on whatever it is you might be anticipating or what you are planning to do. That’s vital.”

I think it’s vital, in terms of the ability to run a pretty complicated company in a very, very fast-paced world, to have the energy but also to have spent the time to organize one’s thoughts.

Disney C.E.O. Bob Iger on Fox Acquisition: “I Like Taking Big Risks” | Vanity Fair
Bob Iger, CEO and chairman of The Walt Disney Co., and Mickey Mouse rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange in November 2017. Iger’s new book is an account of what he has learned running Disney.

By 4.25am, he’s started his cardio exercise on the VersaClimber, spending up to 45 minutes on the machine. In an interview with Tim Ferriss, Iger revealed that he exercised six days a week, partly motivated by the fact that both his parents suffered heart attacks at the age of 40.

My job demands a lot of my time and a lot of energy, and so I’ve adjusted my daily routine over the years to enable me to do my job effectively. The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is I workout. And I workout in solitude, typically in a darkened room, listening to music. There’s a television on, but there’s no sound. That’s probably not necessarily a great commercial for our television programs, but I tend to use the music sort of as a means of meditating in a way.

Using Your Time Effectively | Masterclass

“I learned at an early age that a healthy lifestyle could ultimately save my life,” Iger told Ferriss. “They lived till they were 85, by the way, both of them, but they didn’t live healthy lives, and I wanted to lead a healthy life and a long life.”

Iger mainly works out on the VersaClimber, with a personal trainer coming in twice a week to help him with lifting weights. “He shows up at the house at 5:00, twice a week,” Iger told Ferriss. “He pushes me enough, but then he keeps me within some guidelines to stay safe. And I like that.”

Working out six days a week is one part of the equation, Iger also keeps a close eye on his diet, cutting out all carbs, except for special events, and pizza – which he admits is one of his vices.

“It’s a holiday, so I allow myself a bowl of pasta, but I gave up all bread. I’ll never have a sandwich. I had a turkey burger for lunch today without the bun—that’s sort of typical.”

After his exercise, Iger will have his coffee, read the newspaper, and generally be in the office between 6:30-6.45am. “I travel a lot so I’m not at the office every day,” he said. “But when I am in town, which is in Los Angeles, and I have an office day planned, I tend to be the first one there. I turn the lights on and make the coffee.”

“I don’t like to walk into the office, get to work, and immediately be bombarded by external forces. I like easing into my day a little bit more. It’s just what has worked for me, whether it’s psychological or whether it’s physiological. The saying, ‘The early bird catches the worm,’ is one of the oldest cliches in the books, but there happens to be a lot of truth to that.”

Before you go…

Check out more daily routines from Barack Obama, Joe Rogan, Jeff Bezos, Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet and plenty others.

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