December 6 2007: 4:08 AM EST
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How Bob Iger works

Disney's CEO tells Fortune's Devin Leonard his efficiency tips: get up at 4:30, lose the driver, and put history to work.

By Devin Leonard, senior writer

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Iger in his Burbank office
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NEW YORK (Fortune Magazine) -- When Bob Iger became Disney's CEO in 2005, he quickly established himself as the anti-Michael Eisner. He made peace with his feisty predecessor's adversaries. He acted swiftly to make ABC hits like Desperate Housewives available online. And he oversaw the release of Disney's High School Musical movies, which have contributed to operating income growth of 20 percent during Iger's tenure.

Disney's (Charts, Fortune 500) stock price, too, is up 36 percent since he took over, but the king of the Magic Kingdom has his challenges. The Hollywood writers' strike threatens to erode ABC's ratings resurgence, and the slowing economy could hurt theme park attendance.

How does Iger, 55, hope to tackle those issues - and still get home for dinner with his wife and two sons, as he regularly does when in L.A.? He shared his efficiency tips over a cup of coffee with Fortune's Devin Leonard.

1. Get up before dawn. I get up at 4:30 in the morning, seven days a week, no matter where I am in the world. It's a time of day when I can be very productive without too much interruption. I ride a bike and use aerobic equipment twice a week, and work out with a trainer, lifting weights. It's a good time to think. I believe that exercise relieves stress and contributes to an improvement in stamina, which in a job like this you absolutely need.

2. Be punctual. Meetings need to start on time. I'm zealous about that because my day needs to be managed like clockwork. If people are late for meetings, the meetings tend to go late, which throws off my agenda thereafter. I frequently start the meeting even if all the people expected to be in attendance aren't there. I don't need to say to people, "Be on time." They know.

3. Lose your driver. I drive myself to and from work. I love the privacy. It's one less person to talk with. I'm not antisocial. While I'm going home, I talk on the phone. Plus I love listening to music. Classic rock is always at the top of the list, from the Stones to the Beatles and Bob Dylan. I have a fondness for jazz, particularly for jazz singers, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald all the way through the Sinatra era.

4. Write notes. It's rare that I will spend time with our talent. But I try to let them know if I've appreciated something they've done, like when Katherine Heigl from Grey's Anatomy - whom I've never met - won an Emmy. That's when I'll take my fountain pen and use my trusty Disney stationery, and write a nice, simple note. I think that goes a long way with people.

5. Put history to work. When I was 12, a friend of my dad's carved a beautiful Winston Churchill figurine out of wood for me. It's been with me since. Churchill had a real appreciation for the balance between heritage and innovation. There's something to be said for that at Disney.

We had a meeting recently with [Disney's animation chief] John Lasseter about Mickey Mouse, and we wanted to do research for it. I downloaded old Walt Disney shorts onto my iPhone, and in the white space of my life I watched the classic Mickey films so we could think about what Mickey's personality and his voice should be like in today's world.

There's huge value to our heritage. But it needs to be carefully balanced with innovation - and not just what is new today, but what will be new in the future.  To top of page

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