Forbes has a Q&A with chief White House speechwriter Ben Rhodes. The whole thing is worth a read, but here’s the money graph, where Rhodes describes his typical work day:
I’ll get in around 8 and get an intelligence briefing at the beginning of the day, and then go into a series of morning meetings that are about figuring out what we need in place for that day. The afternoons tend to be meetings or work on what policies are running through a process, what are the next big things we’re getting ready for, the next big trip, the next big speech, the next big rollout of a policy. And I’ll tend to be at work from 8 to 8. But the thing about this job, it’s not so much the hours in the office—it’s that you’re always on call. So you’ll end up having to answer email and do things up until you go to bed at 12 or 1 in the morning. So even when you’re home, you’re still working. That’s particularly true in foreign policy. The other day, when we launched airstrikes in Syria, we obviously knew that was going to happen, but that happens overnight, so you basically end up being up all night. You don’t get to control the timing of when things happen in foreign policy like you do in other areas. If something happens in North Korea, or the Middle East or Ukraine, you have to respond to it no matter what time of day it is. So it ends up making you essentially on call 24 hours a day.