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How Eating The Same Thing Every Day Powers Alexa Von Tobel's Productivity

The CEO of LearnVest and author of Financially Fearless: The LearnVest Program for Taking Control of Your Money is creating "operating systems" to dispatch with silly daily decisions.

Alexa Von Tobel
CEO, LearnVest, and author of Financially Fearless: The LearnVest Program for Taking Control of Your Money

[Photo by Peter Ash Lee]

Alexa Von Tobel

CEO, LearnVest, and author of Financially Fearless: The LearnVest Program for Taking Control of Your Money

"I do my workouts in the morning, and often I'll take someone from my team. The person I'm meeting with can pick the class, whether it's a spin or barre class, or going for a power walk. It's hard to run and talk—I haven't mastered that yet.

Since the beginning of LearnVest, I've never left the office for food. I eat the same thing every single day [an apple, almonds, yogurt, a salad...], and I never sit still to eat a meal. My ultimate goal is to create operating systems for myself that allow me to think as little as possible about the silly decisions you can make all day long—like what to eat or where we should meet—so I can focus on making real decisions. Because mental energy is a finite quantity. You can only spend so much time on the really critical decisions that move your company forward. A lot of people default to 30 minutes or an hour for meetings, but sometimes you don't need that much time. I always have hour-long meetings that end 15 minutes early, so I have these weird blocks of time that aren't enough to do something that requires deep thought. So I'll typically schedule meetings in 15-minute increments. That's helped me immensely. I also don't worship my schedule. It's really easy to let your calendar start dictating what happens, as opposed to you dictating what's important for the company.

I don't worry about canceling meetings and moving things around. I wouldn't say you should rip apart your week every day, but just because you scheduled something three weeks ago doesn't mean it's the most important thing this week."


Time she gets up:

5:45 a.m.

First thing she does each morning:

"Grab my phone and look at my LearnVest inbox. You're awake in a millisecond. It's better than coffee."

Apps and other Assists:

"If I have one thing with me at all times, it's my FitBit. And I have volumes of Moleskines at this point—I'm often drawing an app or a design element or a system for planning. I like these, because when I'm 80 or 90, I'll be like, I met with Valerie Jarrett from Obama's staff and this is what we talked about."

Philosophy:

"Sometimes you have to do the harder things first."

Last thing she does each night:

Read customer-feedback emails. "That's why I get out of bed in the morning, to better and improve our users' lives. I know every CEO says that, but it's because they mean it."

Time she goes to bed:

Never before midnight.

Related: Your Perfect Productive Day

A version of this article appeared in the December 2013 / January 2014 issue of Fast Company magazine.