When Do The Best Entrepreneurs Get Up?

The Guardian asked seven top business people to walk through them their working day, including the bosses of AOL and Ericsson.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “What time do top CEOs wake up?” was written by Tim Dowling, Laura Barnett and Patrick Kingsley, for The Guardian on Monday 1st April 2013 16.30 UTC

Investigating the bedtimes of high achievers in hopes of divining the secret of success sounds a bit like looking to a novelist’s desk placement for the key to good writing. I want my characters to be believable – should I be facing the window? But there is no doubt that once you start examining the daily schedules of CEOs, patterns emerge. Some of the routine is dictated by the job, but a lot of it is the product of outlook and approach. These folks live their lives in a very directed way. How do they manage, day in, day out? And what can we learn from the habits of seven highly effective people?

• First off – and there’s no getting around this one, I’m afraid – you have to get up early. Really early: 6am is good, but 5am is better. And CEOs don’t hit snooze: most of them claim to leap out of bed in the morning (even though it’s basically still night) and more than one said that “life is too exciting” for sleep.

• Business and domestic life are hopelessly blurred. Leisure activities are as rigidly organised as the office diary – nobody lies in on Saturdays; they get up early and exercise – and everybody seems happy to let work follow them home. Quality time with children is timetabled, which might sound a bit ruthless, but at least they are determined to include some. For most of these company heads, the working week starts again on Sunday evening.

• It’s clear that none of these people ever gets a chance to do the sudoku in the morning.

• They may be in charge of large international companies, but they are absolute slaves to email. Karen Blackett of MediaCom claims to receive 500 a day. They’re emailing first thing in the morning, and last thing at night, and throughout the day. For the modern CEO, dealing with your own email seems to be some kind of touchstone of accessibility. I’m not sure what I’d do if I got 500 emails every day, but I know what I wouldn’t do: I wouldn’t read them.

• Far from giving you a blueprint for your rise to the top, these routines will probably cause you to reconsider the whole idea of becoming CEO of a major communications conglomerate. For the most part, it sounds horrible. There is no respite at the top of the greasy pole, no finish line at the end of the rat race – it’s just more of the same. What’s the point of being rich and successful if you have to get up before dawn every day to answer 500 emails? There are so many other options open to you: wage slave, failed artist, cowboy plumber, petty thief, local weirdo. The money isn’t good, but the hours are very attractive.

• Interviews by Laura Barnett and Patrick Kingsley

timarmstrong

Tim Armstrong, CEO, AOL

How and when does your morning start?

I usually get up at 5 or 5:15am. Historically, I would start sending emails when I got up. But not everyone is on my time schedule, so I have tried to wait until 7am. Before I email, I work out, read, and use our products. By 7am, I usually have questions or feedback about AOL. I am not a big sleeper and never have been. Life is too exciting to sleep. Arianna Huffington is preaching sleep to me all the time, but I will need a DNA transplant to adhere to her advice. She is right, but I just can’t do it. I have three kids and my middle daughter (nine) has my sleep DNA, so she gets up and I drink coffee and she tells me about her life.

When you wake up, do you leap out of bed immediately?

Yes.

What time are you at your desk?

My desk starts the minute I leave my house. I have a driver and my commute is a little over an hour. I am very productive in the car.

Do you email throughout the day?

I do most emails in the morning, during the commute, and late at night. When I am at the office I try to listen and learn.

Do you have a secret email address?

No. Do you?

What time do you go home?

Most days around 7pm and I get home at 8 or just after. When I get home, I try to read my two daughters a book. They usually win and get two or three books. I eat dinner with my wife; she is a gourmet cook and her food beats most of the best restaurants in New York. After dinner, I play Nerf hoops with my 11-year-old son – full contact, losers out, and no hanging on the rim.

What time do you go to bed?

Most nights around 11. Can be later if I have a dinner in the city.

How much sleep do you get?

I try to get six hours. I can operate on less, but it isn’t ideal.

What is your weekend like?

Friday night is family movie night. Saturday is sports with kids. I am coaching my son’s fifth grade basketball team on Saturday and Sunday, and it is my favourite thing all week. Saturday night is date night with my wife and sometimes dinner with friends. Sundays are church, basketball and work, starting at 7pm – calls and emails.

jayneanne

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO, Virgin Money

How and when does your morning start?

Left to my own devices, which means assuming I don’t have to travel, I get up every day at 6.20am. No alarm. That’s just when I wake up every morning, weekends too. First thing I do is look at my emails and answer any outstanding. I can’t stand having any not done! Then I look at the BBC news website, then Twitter. If that counts as an early start, I do it because I always like to be on top of work so I can enjoy the non-work stuff, like having breakfast with the family and talking to my daughter on the way to school, rather than being distracted by work. So it sort of helps me have a normal life.

What time are you at your desk?

If I’m working in my home city of Edinburgh I’m at my desk by 8.30am, having dropped Amy off at school. I email all the time. It used to drive me mad, but that’s now the way I keep on top of things. Multi-tasking has become essential as far as I can see. I do have a separate private email address that fewer people know – but that gets quite busy too these days.

What time do you go home?

I try to be home by 7pm. If I’m away I work until about 10pm – again, that’s a way of not letting things encroach on normal life too much. I do work from home in the evening, but usually only in a multi-tasking sort of way. I certainly don’t sit at a desk.

When is bedtime?

I try to be in bed by 10.30pm. And I always sleep like a log! I need and get about eight hours a night, unless I’m travelling, when I just get what I can. I rarely feel tired. Life’s too exciting! I always get straight out of bed when I wake up. I don’t lie there doing my emails.

What is your weekend like?

I love my weekends. I try to run both days before the rest of the family is up. Then being the normal taxi service for children kicks in. We usually have dinner with friends on a Saturday night and then more family stuff on a Sunday, until about 4pm. In the winter I like to be home then, curtains drawn, music on and getting us all ready for the week ahead – homework check, clothes check, scrubbed up – a nice tea, then settle in front of the telly.

karenann

Karen Blackett, CEO, MediaCom UK

What time do you get up?

At 5.45am three times a week to spend 45 minutes in my garage, which I have turned into a gym. Otherwise, I wake when my son comes into my room – any time between 6.30 and 7am.

When you wake up, do you leap out of bed immediately?

Define “leap” – I’d say I roll out of bed.

What time do you start sending emails?

I quickly scan my emails while my son is taking over my bed and having his milk. Urgent ones I reply to there and then. I flag others to follow up on my commute into work. My early start is due to the need to exercise more to keep fit as I get older, and due to my three-year-old kick-starting my day (literally).

What time are you at your desk?

8.30-9am — it depends on whether my son is at nursery and I do the nursery run, or at home with his nanny.

Do you email throughout the day, or do you have fixed times at which you send messages?

I receive an average of 500 emails a day, so I email throughout the day.

Do you have a secret email address that few people know?

No, I’m accessible to everyone and there’s no hierarchy.

What time do you go home?

I try to be home for 6.30pm so that I can spend time with my son before he goes to sleep, read him his bedtime story and put him to bed at 7.30pm. My team know that I’ll clock on again once Isaac is settled after 8pm, and reply to emails or take calls. My clients also know that.

What time do you go to bed?

11.30pm.

How much sleep do you get?

Six to seven hours. I’m the mum of a three-year-old: you survive on what you can get! I thoroughly recommend ginseng and David Kirsch vitamins.

What is your weekend like?

Isaac time, peppered with the odd bit of work when he’s sleeping.

Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg gestures duri

Hans Vestberg, CEO, Ericsson

What time do you get up?

It varies, but usually early.

What time do you start sending emails?

No day is similar to another, but usually mail is part of my start of the day. Our company never sleeps: we have business in 180 countries, so there are no real mornings or nights.

Do you email first thing?

I often exercise (running or gym), especially when I am travelling.

What time are you at your desk?

Flexible on time but seldom after 8am.

Do you email only at fixed times?

I read mails throughout the day but answer mails more in the morning and evening.

Do you have a secret email address that few people know?

No, my mail address is open for anyone and I read all my mails by myself.

What time do you go home?

It depends on the day’s activities. If I am in Sweden, I try to get home to be with my children. I can do work after that from home.

What time do you go to bed?

Quite late.

How much sleep do you get?

It varies, but enough.

How much do you need?

Not too much.

When you wake up, do you leap out of bed immediately?

Yes.

What is your weekend like?

I spend time with my family and exercise. Of course there’s no such thing as a “normal day” – depending on travel schedule and customer meetings, so the answers above are all approximations.

Helena Morrissey, ceo Mellon Financial Picture by GLENN COPUS

Helena Morrissey, CEO, Newton investment

What time do you get up?

5am, sometimes earlier. I get out of bed straight away and go downstairs to check and send emails on computer and BlackBerry. At 6.30am my children start to get up.

How much sleep do you get?

Five to six hours. This is as much to do with having nine children as having a business job, but I do end up feeling a bit sleep-deprived. There isn’t a lot of slack. I put on the washing about twice before I go to work. People make resolutions to do more things, but one of my ambitions for 2013 is to do slightly less. With children, you end up adjusting, and not needing so much sleep. But every now and again, you think: oh, I could do with a proper eight hours.

What time are you at your desk?

About eight. I’m on my BlackBerry all the time.

When do you go home?

Around 6pm. The whole family tends to eat together at about 7.30pm. I work after supper– sending more emails, often to US-based colleagues, or doing two hours of prep for the morning’s meetings. I try to get to bed around 10pm, and aim to be asleep by 11pm, but there’s usually one child who’s awake. With so many there’s bound to be one.

What is your weekend like?

On Saturday evening, the whole family tends to sit down and watch a movie. On Sunday mornings, the children do their homework, and I do mine. I spend Sunday evenings preparing the children’s schoolbags for the week ahead. It takes a little while, organising that many children, making sure the girls don’t go off with the boys’ stuff. I have done that occasionally.

helenarabbats

Heather Rabbatts, non-executive director of the Football Association

What time do you get up?

I am usually up by 6am, but wake earlier. I’ve always been an early riser. I love that sense of quiet first thing in the morning as the world (well, those of us on GMT) wakes up.

What time do you start sending emails?

By 8am – sometimes earlier, depending on what is on my mind.

Do you email first thing?

If I’m in London, I start the day with a cup of tea and a digestive biscuit. If I’m home in Kent, I feed my two spaniels, have a cup of tea and defend my digestive biscuits from being snaffled by my crafty dogs.

What time are you at your desk?

I’m a bit of a wandering minstrel: my day often begins with breakfast meetings, before I head to my desk.

Do you email throughout the day, or do you have fixed times at which you send messages?

I usually send emails throughout the day and into the evening. My business partners are in New York and LA, so emails/calls extend my working hours.

Do you have a secret email address that few people know?

If I did, I wouldn’t say.

What time do you go home?

It varies as I usually have evening engagements.

Do you work from home in the evening?

I try not to work too much from home in the evening, but it depends what’s going on.

What time do you go to bed?

I don’t have a regular bedtime.

How much sleep do you get?

My sleep patterns vary. I used to be a bad sleeper – ie a virtual insomniac – but I’m getting better with age. I’m always up early, I never need an alarm and am instantly awake.

Do you feel tired?

Who doesn’t, sometimes?

What is your weekend like?

I walk the dogs; try to learn to ride my horse, who continually sees tigers lurking behind trees; spend time with my partner and friends. And smile, because life is to be lived!

vittorio

Vittorio Colao, CEO, Vodafone

He gets up at 6am, exercises for 40 minutes then works continuously through the day with constant emails and meetings (“because people need to progress with decisions and logistics, and technology today allows everybody to be always in contact”). He works through until about 10.45pm – with a brief pause for dinner with his family – before going to sleep by 11.30pm. Weekends consist of four hours of exercise, then the remainder is split between time with his wife and children and preparing for the following week’s work.

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