Oprah Winfrey’s Proven Method For Coping With Stress

What does Oprah do when things get too intense? How does she beat procrastination? Here’s how Winfrey gets everything done.

Oprah Winfrey’s Proven Method For Coping With Stress
The O Team: “I try to surround myself with people who really know what they’re doing, and give them the freedom to do it,” says Winfrey. [Photos: Herring & Herring; Styling: Kelly Hurliman; Set Design: Andrew Trosmans at Walter Schupfer Management]

We recently spent a couple of days learning about Oprah Winfrey’s empire, her huge number of projects, and how she handles everything. Here are a few other things we learned about her work life.


Sleep schedule

“I function very well on five and a half hours of sleep. Anything less than that, I notice a lack of focus, a listlessness, a waning energy, and not-as-sharp thinking. If I do two or three days of that in a row, I’m no good. I’m literally just sitting at my desk and I can’t remember where I put anything.”

Morning routine

“My body wakes up between 7:16 and 7:23 a.m., like clockwork. If I make it to 7:23, it’s like, ‘Wooo!’ I don’t use alarm clocks. They make me agitated. Everything begins and ends with stillness: a conscious awareness of my presence within the greater presence of all, whether I’m paying attention to the way the sun’s rising, or whether it’s misty out in the morning on the trees. When I wake up now I have the privilege of listening to real twitter.”

Strategy to beat procrastination

“I procrastinate with confrontational things and uncomfortable conversations. I’ll give myself a deadline. And then I’ll change that deadline when that deadline shows up [laughs]. ‘Okay, by 3, I’m going to make that call.’ Four o’clock comes around—‘Okay okay, by 5 today. Oh, everybody’s left New York! Can’t make that call!’ So now I sit and ask myself, ‘What’s the worst that’s going to happen here, and why do I fear the confrontation?’ ”

Key tools

“I have an iPad Mini and I do everything from there. I haven’t used a computer in probably three years. I’ve gotten every kind of app that’s supposed to help you keep up, but that means you have to check that thing every day! No. I don’t do to-do lists. It’s all right here [pointing to her head]. I have a wonderful chief of staff who every night sends me my itinerary for the next day. I look at that, put it in my head, and that’s it.”

Go-to motivator

“I have a box of quotes that says ‘365 Truths,’ and just this morning I pulled out about three. When I’m standing in the kitchen and waiting on my tea to brew, I’ll read one for every minute it takes to finish brewing. Everything from Gandhi to Thoreau.”

Coping tactic

“I close the door, wherever I am—at my old office in Chicago, I’d literally go in the closet—and just sit and breathe.”


About the author

J.J. McCorvey is a staff writer for Fast Company, where he covers business and technology.