To meet the demands of his office, Winston Churchill in effect worked two solid 8 hour days in a 24-hour period of time. At that time he was not a young and spry man and understood the importance of getting proper rest and maintaining a pace that would meter his energy to survive the long haul grueling pace. He created a structured schedule that set a pace for his routine. Establishing the routine removed thought effort and time “figuring out” what he needed to do that day. Establishing the routine allowed his staff and the members of the government and military leaders to plan for when they could meet with their leader. The routine allowed Churchill to become an effective and successful leader.
Churchill's typical work day would start around 7 AM. Churchill would work from his bed until the late morning or early afternoon. He used special wooden tray constructed for the specific purpose of writing and reading. He would arise, have a light breakfast, and then in the comfort of his bed with his tray in his lap would begin the long morning of working through the paperwork, memos and other correspondence his staff would present for his review, comment and approval. He would rise from bed and dress when the work was completed or he needed to go to other scheduled meetings. His staff organized and handled the endless stream of paper as it flowed across his tray – presenting to Churchill the next subject as he completed the work at hand. With a total focus on the work at hand Churchill could mow through the mountain of written correspondence timely and efficiently.
After completing the morning correspondence Churchill would dress for the day. The afternoon was when Churchill would attend meetings or make public appearances. Seldom before noon would Churchill make it over to the War Cabinet room a few blocks from 10 Downing. Key people would have already been at work, but it was routine for Churchill to walk into the hubbub after the noon hour, and everyone on the War Cabinet staff knew that. If Churchill were to arrive early – something was wrong or there was some other unusual event on his calendar that created the need for the schedule change – and people would know of it in advance.
While this routine may fly in the face of conventional wisdom - it allowed Churchill to read and absorb the latest internal information about the progress of the war; allowed him to digest reports and information that he had requested. It also allowed him to think and respond in the quiet of his quarters. This quiet time Churchill used for his letters and memo dictation – and so much clear and lucid written communications got created from his bed.
His routine allowed the members of his leadership team to do the same as their boss, to read, talk, and understand the events so that when Churchill walked into the room they were as ready as Churchill and the rest of the leadership team to have meaningful and constructive discussions and quickly make decisions.
After the War Cabinet meetings Churchill used the remainder of the afternoon to do important “face time” – either in the planning rooms tacking great battles, visiting areas of London to see the people, to speak in Parliament, to meet with government ministers, visit factories, meet with production boards, review new weapon demonstrations or almost any other meeting that he needed to do.
At about five o'clock Churchill would return to his bedroom and burrow under the covers to take a solid one-hour nap. Upon awakening and after a light supper -- sometimes accompanied in a quiet dinner one-on-one with someone in the government, Churchill would start to read all of the major newspapers to maintain the pulse of what the people of his country were thinking and saying. In those periods of reading he would often comment for memo instructions to members of the government to investigate and address issues that he saw in the people's opinions. His ever present typists and secretaries were at the ready as Churchill would sometimes dictate as many as 20 or 30 memos based off of what he was reading in the newspapers.
Around midnight Churchill would retire for bed. Understanding the need for deep sleep Winston Churchill had very strict instructions not to be disturbed for anything except news about the British Isles actually being invaded. Short of that nothing was to be so important for his rest to be disturbed.