How I Get It Done: Martha Stewart

Illustration: Lauren Tamaki

Martha Stewart is a businesswoman, the author of over 100 books, the co-star of Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, and much, much more. Before she’s even checked her emails on any given day, she has likely already fed her dogs, canaries, horses, and cats before working out and getting driven to her sunlit office in Manhattan. Here’s how she gets it done.

On waking up:
I have no shades on my windows, so I usually wake up with sunrise, which has been around 5 a.m. I generally read the New York Times right away. I have my iPad right next to my bed and I do the mini-crossword puzzle — if I haven’t done it before I go to bed, because the new one is posted around midnight. It’s sort of a habit I have. Then I get up and I take my shower. Then I go back and I read the New York Times, and I might open the doors to let the cats out.

On her pets:
I have at present three cats. And I have five dogs. Yes, five dogs. And I have 30 red-factor canaries in the dining room, so I uncover them and turn their light on. I have a really beautiful light for them, it’s really a human light, but it’s very good for the canaries. They’re in front of the window, but these Weiss lights are really amazing: Humans use them if they’re living in a dark apartment or something, and I think it really has a good effect on the health of the birds. They’re very healthy canaries.

On getting dressed:
I’m known as the bag lady, and it’s a horrible, horrible thing, because I have a lot of bags that go with me in the morning. I have several wardrobe changes I have to make in a day. Yesterday was the Today show, and I had to leave my house at 5:45 a.m., so that’s a different kind of day. If I have an early call for the Today show, I have to be in New York by 7 a.m. to meet everybody, so I usually go in my workout clothes because I have to get my hair done and my makeup done in the city. So I have my wardrobe for the Today show, then I have to change for my office, then I might have to change for the nighttime, so I’m lugging garment bags around with me all the time — it’s a real pain. [Laughs.]

On exercising:
At 6 a.m. I take my shower, and wash my hair or whatever else I have to do, and then get to the gym by either 6:30 a.m. or 7 a.m., depending on what time my trainer gets there. The gym is in an outbuilding, so I have to get out of the house — which was the plan. I thought that was such a great plan, although I’m not that happy with it sometimes, if it’s pouring rain or if it’s snowing … but it’s a little far from the house. I usually take the two French bulldogs with me to the gym, and then I work out for an hour.

On gardening:
Then I usually meet my gardener. I go and just review what has to be done that day in the garden, and then I rush back to the house, have my green juice, and a single shot of whole-milk cappuccino, then I get in the car and we drive to New York!

On breakfast:
I’ll have my half-shot of cappuccino, a small one, with whole milk. If I don’t have it then, I can have it on my way to New York, or when I get to New York; I’m not an addict. That’s my usual cappuccino for the day. I like to have either a soft-boiled egg, a four-minute egg, from my chickens, or I have a bowl of wheat germ or a bowl of spelt. I just discovered spelt or puffed rice or puffed wheat. I love puffed cereal, because a whole cup of it is like ten calories.

On commuting to work:
So then I get in the car, I have my New York Times, my Wall Street Journal, and my New York Post — in paper form. I also have it on my iPad, but I like to look at the pictures and stuff on my ride in the car, and then I do the sudoku, and I do the KenKen, and I talk on the phone, and I do all of that stuff on my way into the city. Because of this hideous traffic that has gotten worse and worse and worse, if I have to be in for a 9 a.m. meeting, I have to leave by 7 a.m. Today, for a 9:30 meeting, I left at 8 a.m., and I barely got there. I mean, an hour and a half is still horrible. From Bedford, Connecticut is 47 miles away, so it used to be exactly an hour. And I don’t mind that trip if I get all my reading done, I get my telephone calls out of the way, but when it starts getting to be an hour and a half, two hours, then I really can’t stand it.

On supplements:
I take vitamins at different times during the day. I only take what I feel I need that day. I take lysine. It’s a natural supplement that is good for stress, and good for nerves and that kind of stuff. It’s very effective. I take vitamin D, I take calcium and magnesium. I drink my green juice. That has a tremendous amount of vitamins in it, so that’s made out of stuff I grow. I grow my own spinach all year round. I grow my own mint, my own parsley, generally my own cucumbers, my own oranges and lemons, and I always put an orange or a lemon in the juicer for that fabulous taste. Somebody brings it to me in the gym, so my trainer gets it, too, and they love it! Fresh, homemade green juice! And my driver likes it, too … my driver loves it.

On office life:
I stop by the Martha Café, in the lobby of my building. It’s my café, and I check in with them — if I haven’t had a coffee at home, I’ll have my same half-shot of espresso with my crema, and that’s what I’ll have, or I’ll have a very delicious yogurt; we have the very best yogurt in the café. I look at all the pastries and I try never to get them. And then I go to work, upstairs to the ninth floor, where the day begins, whenever I get there, and I generally have meeting after meeting all day long.

On taking breaks:
I try to get out a little bit during the day if I can. But our offices are very bright and light, with fresh air, so I can always open the windows, and I also have a big chair on the roof that I can always go to if I want to. I’m on the border of the Hudson River Park, so I like to see what’s going on in the park. But I’ve always worked in an office that has windows that open. Daylight is terribly important to me. I really think it’s really important for the health of all your employees, too. No hermetically sealed areas. In fact, our office is one city-block square, it’s a very large building, and we’re on the ninth floor. We have the entire ninth floor, so I get a lot of walking done in a day. Today, I must have walked a couple of miles in this office. It’s a long, long block. It goes from 11th to 12th, and from 26th to 27th. So to get to the kitchen, which I go to every single day, and we have all our photography studios there and such, I always go around and around. And I have meetings down at that end of the building.

On lunch:
It was just me in the kitchen today. I had my chairman for lunch, and we had the most delicious lunch. I brought in fresh artichokes from my garden. We steamed artichokes, and we had whole-curd cottage cheese, which was from the farmers’ market; and a salad of fresh corn, red and yellow peppers, and cucumbers; and the artichoke, and a vinaigrette for the artichoke. It was really good. Yesterday, I had steamed wheat berries with broccoli from my garden. I bring in a lot of stuff for the staff. I bring my own eggs in every week, hundreds of eggs from my chicken coops, so people are eating farm-fresh stuff all the time.

On emails:
I get hundreds of emails a day. The phone used to ring hundreds of times, but now it’s email. Nobody has access to my email. I do all my own emails. I forward invitations to my assistant, because she keeps better track of that than I do. If I get an invitation or a request for something, that goes to one of my three assistants. I have three assistants.

On assistants:
Everybody does something different. One keeps track of all my travel and appointments; one keeps track of, sort of, my life, and works with me on helping me create the content of my blog. I have a blog or two, and an editor who’s my media editor. I take a lot of pictures every single week, and they have to be edited and organized into blogs — have you seen my blog? The Martha blog is a compilation of a lot of photographs every single day, on subjects that are very useful subjects, and that keeps me up-to-date on what’s going on in my gardens, and my houses, the farm, and the animals. There’s another assistant, she’s more of the organizer for event-planning and all the other things that I have to do.

On drinking as a job:
I choose all my wines for the Martha Stewart Wine Co. And that is a problem because I’m not good at drinking alcoholic beverages during the day, so that has to be at the end of the day. [Laughs.] Yesterday, I tasted 12 wines. It’s a tasting sitting, but it’s still imbibing. I never drink it before dinner, ever, I couldn’t function for a second if I had to drink it at lunchtime or something like that. I remember when I was a stockbroker, we used to have drinks at lunch. And I couldn’t do that now for anything. But it’s only at dinner, and only a glass or a glass and a half of wine. I don’t drink a lot. But I love good wine.

On ending the work day:
That’s the time to go out and meet friends, meet with businesspeople, visit a new restaurant, you know, that kind of stuff. I love doing all that. I go to Sushi Yasuda or Kurumazushi once a week. I went to Le Bernardin last night and had the most delicious dinner. I love most of Daniel’s restaurants, and Jean-Georges restaurants. Oh, I love abcV, the new vegetarian restaurant by Jean-Georges.

On returning home:
I talk to my dog, unpack the car, which is usually jam-packed full of junk, and it’s kind of interesting … We have a lot of test kitchens, they’re research-and-development kitchens at the magazine. So I take home all the vegetable scraps from the kitchens, and all those scraps are fed to my chickens. From the café, I take home all the coffee grounds, and all those coffee grounds are put into the garden. Coffee grounds are very good for berry patches and for anything that needs a little more acid. And all the vegetable scraps go to my chickens, and they never stop laying. Most people who have chickens will tell you their chickens stop laying in the wintertime. And mine never stop laying. They lay all the time, and I really think it’s attributed to the fresh food that they get, all year round. So that’s my ode to good environmental habits. And they might think I’m crazy, but it really is. I mean, the yolks of my eggs taste better than any you’ve ever had.

Her advice for young people starting out:
Look for opportunities around you and start with your own expertise, whether it’s your vocation or avocation. If you’ve always loved art, channel that passion and knowledge into being a docent for a museum. Never before have so many people had so much knowledge and so much time to use it. Stick with it. Don’t give up. Defend your ideas, but be flexible. Success seldom comes in exactly the form you imagine it will.

How I Get It Done: Martha Stewart