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

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

"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."


"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

[Photo by Peter Ash Lee]

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  • Jenifer Ann Wilson

    She is obviously a very dedicated and self driven person! I totally agree with her philosophy about meetings! Some companies have a meeting for this and then another meeting for that etc... Many meetings are a waste of time and could be done in a 2 minute phone call. I have never understood what exactly goes on in a meeting , especially over lunch??
    As for sleep, that is just the way her body functions, I am the same way, 5- 6 hours of sleep is plenty for me, so do not judge!
    You should all admire her, for heaven sakes, she raised over 41 million dollars for this company!

  • Steve Waterhouse

    Why not wear the same clothes every day, too? That would eliminate another mental energy drain.

  • The first thing I do want to say is congratulations on doing what you enjoy.. Secondly, as with following any person's advice or lifestyle, there are opportunities to learn from your type of schedule as needed. No need to criticize or argue because some study or other article relayed a different message. There are things that I wish I could do better or spend more time on. I'd certainly love to incorporate some of these things you do into my own routine. It rarely ever works that a person can mimic a person's lifestyle to a "T" and in reality we shouldn't - different people have different ways of functioning and that's okay. For the negative "Life Bosses" making comments, no need to bash someone over a conflicting view when all this is doing is offering up one possible way of the millions that a person can get more done. I look forward to seeing what works and what doesn't work and I hope to hear other lessons that people obtained in their own life strategy.

  • Harriet Cramer

    Ha, you negative people. Funny, I have been with LearnVest for over a year now so after this article was written. Alexa is married has a child, and successfully sold the company to Northwestern Mutual. LearnVest is a subsidiary which she is the CEO and still works amazing hours and makes TIMR for everyone. What people miss in reading this article is the SELF reflection on how much time we waste by being inefficient. Alexa not only works on being a role model for money management but also for time management. Alexa you amazed me the day you interviewed me and every day since!

  • Wow, if I'd have this lifestyle I will be the most miserable person...perhaps she is happy but this is not a proper example of productivity

  • Spam Tester

    Very little of this article is work smart. If you look at the most successful people they always figure time in at the weekends for family and do something to relax. This article neglects daily exercise which is essential for a healthy body and mind. "I never sit still to eat a meal" which I guess means that she eats while working. "I like these, because when I'm 80 or 90.." sorry but with this lifestyle you'll be lucky to get to 80 or 90. The only thing that goes in her favour is that she eats small meals. 15% less food is thought to be one of the ingredients to long life but being a work-a-holic has been proven to give you an early death. Sleeping 6 hours or less reduces life-span and possibly causes heart failure and high blood pressure over prolonged periods. All I can say about her is that she appears very focused which is essential to success.

  • She never touched on her family life. I'm sure she spends plenty of time with her family. This is about her routine, not here family life- which doesn't need an article on a business blog. Would you ask what a male CEO does for his family on an article like this? Nope.

  • Maria

    I LOVE Learnvest. I've been an avid reader of them since 2010, and I've come to realize that Alexa is quite the inspirational, organized powerhouse who truly believes in her cause. I think she's nailed the mark on productivity by realizing that our decision making energy is finite. That said, I am always astounded by people who need such little amount of sleep. I am dying if I don't get more than 7.5.

  • kayumochi

    If any of you read FC in the 1990's before the bubble burst you would know that FC gets little or nothing right ...

  • Brian Jones

    No mom wears earrings like that...at least not after the first time her kid thinks "oooh, shiny - I yank!"

  • bzmama

    I am a mom and an entrepreneur and sometimes I wear long trendy earrings. In fact I design jewelry as a second business... not all business moms fit in the same box.

  • Neil

    Each to their own of course, but this woman's lifestyle and priorities sound pretty screwed up to me. Is she being held up here as some kind of role model?

  • Guest

    It's easy to work and focus on your company 24/7 without family or kids...assuming she does not have any. I can't imagine how much I could get done in a day if all I had to do was focus on myself and my business. (And not saying anything bad about her, sounds like she is doing great things - in fact, I know nothing of her life) I would just like to see articles like this on people (men or women) who truly have it all - a happy family, successful career, giving back to the community, health and balance. Now THAT would be productive!