#AskIvanka: Organization and Efficiency

Ivanka shares her tried-and-true tips for staying on task.

Ivanka took to Facebook Live to answer your questions on productivity, organization and focus. (Who better to ask about making the most of your time?) Watch a replay or see the highlights below, and stay tuned for our next live #AskIvanka video! #AskIvanka: Organization and Efficiency

How do you start your day?

I’m very formulaic about my morning routine. I wake up really early, around 5:15. I meditate for 10-15 minutes, then I shower and try to get totally ready before waking up my kids. Once they’re up, we have breakfast as a family. I try to drop them off at school at least a couple days a week and then I head directly to my office. By then I’ve eaten and spent time with my family, so I can start the day very focused. The first thing I do when I sit down at my desk is open my notebook (a Moleskine—I’m never without it) and I write down the top three to five things I want to accomplish during the day. Just seeing them there helps me focus on what’s most important. It’s easy to get sucked into the minutia of a rapidly filling inbox, returning calls and running from meeting to meeting. Writing down my top-level objectives helps me ensure I accomplish them. Plus, I have a coffee (a little one, since I’m pregnant!).

What is your best tactic to deal with an overflowing inbox?

Email is the bane of my existence. It’s great for scheduling and logistics, but the sheer volume of incoming messages can be brutal. I create specific windows of time during the day to respond to emails, so that I’m not constantly disengaging from meetings or important tasks to do so. I used to be on a quest to go to bed at inbox zero—and I do still try to address time-sensitive things by the end of the day—but I read somewhere that, if you’re at inbox zero, you have the wrong priorities. I kind of agree! It’s almost impossible to achieve unless you’re being a little neurotic and/or sacrificing more important work or time with family and friends.

What is the best way to stay organized on a tight schedule?

I’ve learned to never schedule 30-minute meetings. Even if I know the meeting will likely be that short, inevitably, when I schedule a 30-minute meeting, it goes over and blows my entire schedule. I block off an hour for each meeting—if it runs short, I use that time to catch up on things and return phone calls. Giving myself breathing room between meetings also means that, if urgent or last-minute issues arise, I can address them without throwing off my whole day.

What one organizational item can you not live without?

My Moleskine! I have a whole system of symbols that denote how timely each item on my to-do list is. Stay tuned for a blog post about it! I also color-code each entry entry on a digital calendar based on topic—Trump Hotels, Construction, Acquisition, Design and so on. This allows me to look back at the end of the week as access where I focused most of my time—and if that time was well spent.

What distractions do you suggest getting rid of first?

I always find that a clean office is helpful, psychologically. If I have papers everywhere, I tend to be less focused. I also can’t listen to music when I work—it makes me much less efficient. I do my best thinking when I’m alone and in a quiet place. I also love to run without music and just brainstorm ideas or chat with my husband.

What apps or programs do you use to stay on task?

I actually don’t use many. I’ve tried a lot of different things, but I find that I really like to write things down. My memory works best that way. Plus, I’m making a concerted effort to spend less time on my phone. I don’t use many apps besides Outlook (I know it’s funny that I still use Outlook!) for scheduling.

How can I stay on task when I’m constantly putting out fires and being pulled into projects?

This is really hard. It’s difficult to stay focused when you’re passionate and you want to seize every opportunity as it comes. I, too, have a tendency to run toward shiny objects, so to speak. It takes discipline to pull back and say, “Is this project worth my time right now?” Instead, write it down, so that you’re acknowledging it’s something you want or need to do, while acknowledging that it’s not a “today” goal. I also occasionally have people come to me, as their manager, and say, “You’ve asked me to do six different things. Is it okay if I prioritize x, y and z, and push the rest to next week?” I really appreciate that. Sometimes it’s easy to forget, when you’re delegating, what people are working on at any given moment. Check in with your boss to make sure your priorities are reflective of her expectations.