Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and U.S. Senator-elect
"I'm a guy who's always trying to pack as much as I can into a single day. I'm going to fill every minute of my day. I wish I could say I have a set routine.
I try to end each day with a clear plan of where I'm going to go the next day, which is challenging, because much of a mayor's job is reactive, and you've got to deal with incoming issues as well as the strategy you're pushing forward. It means getting up in the morning and knowing that I'm trying to get this big developer to come here, so I have to make these 10 calls about financing or negotiating with the unions. But having a blueprint also helps you to be flexible enough that you're able to jump out of a car and deal with a situation as you see it.
As I've gone through these eight years as mayor, my time management has evolved. I think impatience is actually a very good quality to have. An hour meeting usually doesn't have to be an hour—it can really be 15 minutes or over the phone. I'll view a crime report on the dashboard on my computer and, for example, see that [the number of] robberies in the second precinct isn't where it should be, so when I have a meeting about that, it's much more precise and focused.
If I've got three minutes between this call and the next, I can check my Twitter feed. Social media gives me another way to be productive: I can survey and engage with thousands of people like I couldn't before. There are times, like a couple months ago, when somebody tweets you at 10 or 11 at night and says, 'There's a dog trapped out here,' and it gives you the ability to be a first responder. If a traffic light is out, I can crowdsource info from my followers and find out about it before my traffic engineers. If there's a water-main break, I find out about it before my water department.
I think it's important to get rid of distraction and miscellaneous choices. When I get up in the morning, I don't have a million clothing items to choose from. In all sincerity, throughout my entire senatorial campaign—and my communications circuit is going crazy right now—if you look at the shoes I'm wearing, it's really the same pair over and over again. The more you limit your choices, thereby limiting thought, the more you can simplify your life and focus your energy elsewhere."
6 a.m. "If I didn't get everything done the night before, I'll get up earlier. If I stayed up way too late, I'll push snooze."
Meditate and pray, "even if it's just for a minute or two."
"I have a BlackBerry and an iPhone on me at all times."
"If you have a task to do, connect it to your overall passion or goal. Otherwise, you're not going to be able to tick it off and move on to the next thing."
"Clear my mind and focus on what the next day holds."
"I don't go to bed at the same time every night. Every day has different demands."
A version of this article appeared in the December 2013 / January 2014 issue of Fast Company magazine.