Working Hard? Or Hardly Working?

President Trump's detailed schedules reveal a man who doesn't seem to spend a lot of time actually working.

President Trump seems to spend an inordinate amount of his time in so-called “Executive Time” during which he apparently watches cable news, tweets, calls friends, and generally seems to avoid the duties commonly engaged in by other Presidents:

Since the day after the 2018 midterm elections, President Donald Trump has spent around 60% of his scheduled time in unstructured “executive time,” Axios reported Sunday.

Axios cited 51 private schedules provided by an unnamed White House source that include “nearly every working day since the midterms.” During that time, the President spent 297 hours in “executive time,” a period during the day that he uses to watch TV, make phone calls and hold meetings.

According to Axios, those same schedules revealed that the President “has had about 77 hours scheduled for meetings that include policy planning, legislative strategy and video recordings.”

“He’s always calling people, talking to people,” a senior White House official told Axios. “He’s always up to something; it’s just not what you would consider typical structure.”

Noting that the private schedules it obtained do not include all of the President’s meetings since the midterms, Axios said that some meetings are listed as “executive time” to keep them hidden from West Wing staff members out of fear of possible leaks.

In one such case, a detailed schedule Axios obtained listed an interview Trump had last week with The Daily Caller, while a private, more available schedule alternatively contained a “media engagement” in that same time slot.

The outlet also said that according to the schedules it obtained, the day after the midterms, Trump’s schedule contained a 30-minute meeting with then-chief-of-staff John Kelly and more than seven hours for “executive time.”

Last year, CNN reported that the President — whose day begins at 5:30 a.m. — would often spend most of his mornings in the Yellow Oval

Room in the White House residence where he skimmed the headlines of The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Washington Times as “Fox & Friends” played in the background.

On some mornings, Trump would summon select staffers to the residence to meet with him, including Kelly, Ivanka Trump and former communications director Hope Hicks.

As the day neared 12 p.m., the President would finish up his time in the residence and then head to the West Wing for a day of meetings, briefings and phone calls.

Additional details can be found in the original Axios report and in a much longer report on the President’s schedule for the past three months, which both break down in detail the extent to which President Trump seems to be engaged in a completely unstructured manner that appears to leave little room for actual detailed discussions about policy issues such as national security and domestic policy. According to these reports, more than 60% of the President’s scheduled time, including not only the mornings when he is most famously known for tweeting randomly but also mid-afternoons and on other occasions throughout the day, are filled with this so-called “Executive Time.” We can see this sometimes in Trump’s Twitter feed which will often explode at random points in the afternoon, no doubt fueled by something he saw on Fox News, which he reportedly has on the television at all times while he’s in the Oval Office or anywhere else in the West Wing. Even more interesting is the extent to which Trump’s officials schedule reveals just how unstructured his time is and how little time he actually appears to spend in policy discussions or reviewing briefing material.

As Axios goes on to note, this stands in stark contrast to the tightly regimented and detailed schedules followed by Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, although they do somewhat resemble the unstructured schedule that Bill Clinton was notorious for, something which often made him late for meetings or public engagements and led to the expression among White House personnel that they were operating on “Clinton Time.” Even with Clinton, though, that unstructured time was due largely to the President’s penchant for getting involved in the details of governing. As time went on, Clinton ended up becoming more disciplined in his schedule. One does not get the impression that this President will follow that route.

To be fair, Presidential schedules don’t always tell us everything that goes on during the Chief Executive’s day, of course, but these materials do appear to reveal something that has been long suspected about this President. Specifically, it appears apparent that he is largely not interested in engaging in the hard work of governing, doesn’t really care to listen to the advice of others, and most obviously seems to think that the most important thing he can do is watch Fox News, send out his Twitter rants, and communicate via back channels that his staff may or may not be aware of with unnamed advisers that, most likely, are Fox News hosts and other right-wing commentators who tell him what he wants to hear and offer little in the way of criticism. This clearly isn’t a way to govern, and it’s likely to lead to chaos if and when the time comes that this President is required to make decisions that actually matter.


FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Kathy says:

    This kind of thing is common with people who have no idea what the job they’re supposed to be doing actually is.

  2. Kylopod says:

    From Game of Thrones:

    TYRION: You just sent the most powerful man in Westeros to bed without his supper.

    TYWIN: You’re a fool if you believe he’s the most powerful man in Westeros.

  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    Everything we have learned about Trump has been obvious since he started running. It’s interesting to see the details of his indifference, but it’s not surprising. Of course he’s lazy. Of course he doesn’t learn. Of course he feels no need to actually do his job. Of course he ignores reality. There is no center to this guy, just a howling void. No one is home. Subtract assholery from Trump and nothing is left.

  4. reid says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I forget the seven deadly sins, but is there one that he doesn’t check off? Which of course explains his unwavering support among evangelicals.

  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    Evangelicals are having a reality problem. Their faith keeps getting its teeth kicked in by reality. Turns out evolution is real and most people get it. Turns out climate change is real. Turns out allowing gays to marry does not cause the collapse of civilization. Turns out patriarchy is outdated and destructive when it isn’t busy being pathetic.

    So-called fiscal conservatives are also having a reality problem. It turns out money doesn’t trickle down. Tax cuts don’t pay for themselves. Nor do tax cuts fix problems in the economy. For that matter, it turns out the GOP isn’t conservative at all, just authoritarian, lacking any moral compass, and ready to toss even patriotism overboard.

    As for the neo-cons. . . oy.

    The Right built their house on foundations of absolute bullsht. There is no God, there is no such thing as a self-financing tax cut, and we really don’t have a clue how to bring democracy to other countries.

    What we are witnessing now is the death agonies of a sick beast, being slowly, relentlessly poisoned by reality.

  6. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Sadly, the “sick beast” holds most of the country’s wealth, is tightly entwined with the military industrial complex, and holds faith as more important than reason. A lot of people are going to get hurt as this beast spasms through its death throes.

  7. Kit says:

    I’m scratching my head trying to think of a situation that would be improved by Trump spending more time on it. Unstructured time needs to be extended, in my opinion.

  8. Scott F. says:

    If Trump were less lazy, he’d be more dangerous. We’ve got that going for us, at least.

  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Scott F.:
    Trump’s multitudinous weaknesses may save the United States. The Russians and Saudis have their puppet but he’s a moron. The racists and rapists have their guy as well, but: moron. The greed pigs have their man, and still: moron. All manner of right-wing cranks like Bolton and Bannon sign up thinking they can manipulate Trump to get what they want and they too run smack up against the fact that Trump is a moron.

    It’s one of Shakespeare’s better comedies. Lear as co-authored by Paddy Chayefsky with the title role played by Bottom.

  10. Barry says:

    But wait, there’s more!

    Assuming that things are as the last time I heard about them:

    1) Most of the Cabinet officials are either new, recently moved, or not there.
    2) All of the Cabinet officials are people who voluntarily took the position under Trump.
    3) Of the positions in the next few levels down, some seriously massive percent are vacant. For the rest, (1) and (2) apply, and probably more so.

    So the CEO is *at best* not involved, the VP’s are absent/corrupt/looters/incompetent, the assistant VP’s are even more so, and the department heads even further more so.

  11. Alex H says:

    At this point, it seems like the country will survive the Trump Presidency relatively unscathed. His incompetence had seen to that. What will be fascinating is if the next President reverts back to prior norms or will he/she use Trump as justification for creating new ones. I’m thinking things like: frequent Twitter usage, doing away with a Press Sec., extensive Executive time, etc.

  12. Kylopod says:

    @Alex H: I think when the Trump presidency ends–however that happens–it will feel like waking up from a bad and bizarre dream, and for a while afterward we’ll all have a case of PTSD (Post-Trump Stress Disorder–thanks, Ed Kilgore) which will make us vulnerable to what happens later. My biggest fear is that we’ve lowered the bar to such an extreme that some of us will accept anyone who can lay claim to the standard “At least he/she isn’t Trump”–an effect that was more or less predicted by the classic Onion piece “‘Iraqi Gandhi’ Preaches Slightly Less Violence.”

  13. CSK says:

    One of Fisher-Price’s classic toddler toys is a Busy Box, endlessly entertaining for those up to 24 months old. I always thought Trump should have one.

  14. Jen says:

    @Alex H:

    “[…] it seems like the country will survive the Trump Presidency relatively unscathed.”

    I’m not willing to go that far yet. Some of the damage being done won’t be felt for years, and some of that will be indirect. Hollowing out institutions right now means they can carry on for a bit, scrapping by doing only that which is essential, but once these agencies are fully staffed again, it’s going to be hell trying to figure out what is and isn’t being done.

    The real damage is being inflicted overseas, at our embassies and consulates. We’ve likely burned sources, and the care and feeding that goes into developing intelligence connections can take years–and once those relationships are gone, it can be difficult or impossible to build them back up.

    I won’t say that everything is falling apart at the seams, but unscathed seems to be a bit generous IMHO. Idiots can do a lot of damage.

    Also, we haven’t had a real emergency of any sort–thank goodness.

  15. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Why does “spending time in his tanning bed” keep getting left off the list of things he does during “executive time’?

  16. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I think he uses spray tan. Hence the mango-tinted skin.

  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    Ooh, what a brilliant idea for trolling. Get everyone to hop on Amazon and send a Busy Box to the Toddler in Chief. And of course alert the media.

  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    I agree, a great deal of damage has been done, real, practical damage, especially in foreign policy where our reputation as a reliable status quo power has been annihilated. He’s damaged the prestige of the presidency. He’s undone decades of work on alliances. He’s humiliated this country by being subservient to the Russian thugs.

    Ten years ago Barack Obama was admired around the world, today the President of the United States is a joke. People are laughing at us. And well they should.

  19. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I’m surprised no one has. I’ve been thinking about this since June 2015.

  20. KM says:


    Unstructured time needs to be extended, in my opinion.

    Supervised unstructured time needs to be extended. Unsupervised? Not so much. Just because he’s not up to official mischief doesn’t mean he’s not causing any.

    For instance, these calls – to whom and about what? Are they being monitored because he’s using an non-secure phone? What kind of shady sh^t is he into when no adult is in the room? What about the “advisers” whispering crap into the hollow that’s his brain to see what sticks?

    Just because he’s being lazy in his work doesn’t mean stuff’s not getting done. It would behoove us to remember that.

  21. KM says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Why does “spending time in his tanning bed” keep getting left off the list of things he does during “executive time’?

    Didn’t you hear? That’s his natural skin tone due to his “great genes”!

    I mean, his kids don’t look like that so clearly those “good genes” weren’t good enough to make it to the next generation. There’s so good though, they even mimic the white marks goggles leave behind and tan lines like a natural camouflage!! Of course it’s not on Executive Time – what, you think he goes tanning to look like a reject from Jersey Shore? Nope, all natural baby!!

  22. gVOR08 says:

    I said it through the primary and the campign, Trump is the perfect candidate for people with no idea what the president does, and that includes Trump.

  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    I just did, but you have to address the EOB at 1650 Pennsylvania Avenue. No busy boxes I liked, so I went with a pull-toy xylophone on the theory that whenever aides hear the musical tinkling stop they’ll know to hide the launch codes and any other important things.

  24. Michael Reynolds says:

    He was elected by people who think the solution to every problem starts with, “Why don’t they just. . .” He is the Cliff Claven of politics, the know-it-all ignoramus at the end of the bar.

  25. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    “Why don’t they just. . .”

    Trump and Schultz both.

  26. Kit says:

    @KM: I agree with all of this. I’ll just add that the best supervised structured time would be behind bars.

  27. Blue Galangal says:

    @Jen: I’m more in line with your assessment than Alex H. I don’t think we’re unscathed. The sheer amount of damage being done is largely going unnoticed because every day there is more/worse. Thousands more children were separated from their parents than the administration admitted, and *now they say it’s too much effort* to give them *back* (after they took them away in the first place) – just the most recent example of domestic chaos. Add to that the oddly specific and highly targeted deportation of legal immigrants and green card holders, and the massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the upper class (I don’t even hear the new House talking about restoring the mortgage interest deduction or the personal exemption, for instance).

    Internationally, aside from the US now being a crazy laughing stock that will no longer be regarded as a reliable ally, the most pressing concern is that we have pulled out of the INF treaty – there’s no going back from that. That treaty will not be renegotiated/re-signed in my lifetime.

    At this point I think about all that could conceivably put a stop to these looming disasters is for Putin to be assassinated.

  28. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Okay, I laughed out loud at that.

  29. Pylon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Dammit, you beat me to it. Yesterday I was going to call Trump’s style “barstool foreign policy”.

  30. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    I’d pay to see Trump battered by a storm upon the heath.


    “All friends shall taste
    The wages of their virtue, and all foes
    The cup of their deserving”

    One can only hope.

  31. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    It’s one of Shakespeare’s better comedies. Lear as co-authored by Paddy Chayefsky with the title role played by Bottom.

    Not Lear — Richard III. The parallels are uncanny. There’s a reason the Shakespeare Theater in DC chose to do R3 this year.

  32. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    There’s something else, too. Often, not always, a policy or a series of policies, are means by which a government expects to obtain a result. As often, I think, the results are overhyped.

    Sometimes, a policy or series of policies ar the result that’s wanted, not a means. How does this matter? Plenty. By overpromising or overhyping the desired results, people are used to being disappointed, or at least they’re not surprised when the results don’t wind up as promised.

    So take the tax cuts. The advertised results are to stimulate the economy, increase employment, increase wages, etc., and these are not materializing at all. So what if the end result was cutting taxes, period, end of story? I know many here believe this to be the case already.

    If we look at other policies enacted by what passes for an administration these days, how many are tools to accomplish a goal, and how many are goals in themselves? For example, I’ve no trouble believing Dennison would look at detaining immigrants and separating families, at inflicting cruelty on immigrants in other words, as an end in itself. Likewise for the wall, the Muslim ban, the transgender ban, etc.

  33. Scott O says:

    The comb over must take at least a half hour. It’s easy to make jokes but it’s depressing that our country has come to this.

  34. Jake says:
  35. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    From your link…

    There is also a growing, though little reported, consensus about what created the current economic renaissance: tax cuts, massive deregulation, recalibration of trade policy, tax incentives to bring back offshore capital, and dramatic rises in oil and natural gas production.

    Um…the current economic renaissance? You mean the one that started in 2009 under Obama?
    Please…explain job growth slowing under Dennison during this sudden renaissance?
    No wonder you are so fuq’d up…reading this kind of nonsense.

  36. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Scott O:
    I’m going to open a spray tan business.
    I will name it “Executive Time”….

  37. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Sorry…I think I confused you for someone else…

  38. Facebones says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    He was elected by people who think the solution to every problem starts with, “Why don’t they just. . .” He is the Cliff Claven of politics, the know-it-all ignoramus at the end of the bar.

    That drives me crazy. Like no one ever thought of the grade-school solutions they propose.

    Oh, the answer to 5000 years of sectarian violence in the middle east is just have then talk to each other? Wow, literally no one ever thought of that!

    Oh, we can solve the deficit by cutting out “waste?” Unless your definition of waste is Granny’s social security and medicare, then no we can’t.

    Go tweet your bullcrap answers and then make me a latte, Howie.

  39. Michael Reynolds says:

    Hey, why don’t they just invent faster than light travel? Huh? Problems solved, but no, the big oil companies don’t want that.