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Daily Routines

Aaron Levie: Daily Routine

On Daily Routines, we profile successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, business executives and athletes to explore their routines, habits and rituals.

Puff Daddy once famously boasted “Don’t worry if I write rhymes – I write checks.” Aaron Levie, co-founder of the enterprise cloud storage company Box has a similar saying (albeit not as catchy), “I don’t use many apps. I use naps.”

For the 34-year old CEO, who typically stays up to 2am working at the Box headquarters, taking naps are the secret weapon to what Levie dubs “continuous productivity.” Because of his late night working hours, Levie tends to wake up between 9.30-10am, “I’m in bed for 30 minutes swiping, replying, and deleting. I try to make sure I have no unread messages by the time I get into the office,” he told Fast Company in 2013.

Levie arrives to work at 11am — usually by Uber so he can get work done in the car — with two cups of black coffee. “If I had more hands, there would be more coffee,” he told Inc.

From there, Levie’s workday usually involves lots of meetings — “I head straight into the first of half a dozen daily meetings. I have an open calendar system, so anyone can put a meeting on my calendar. I meet frequently with sales, marketing, product design, engineering, recruiting, finance, and customers” — working on product design (“I spend about five to 10 hours a week on that. I care a lot about micro details. How does the button on the screen look and feel?”), and hiring (“We have about 15 recruiters, and I talk with them two or three times a day. I personally interview a lot of candidates”).

I’m obsessed with speed. I’m always asking myself, Why can’t we do things faster? Why can’t it happen more efficiently? Why is this requiring three meetings instead of one? What steps can we cut out of this process to automate it? Speed and efficiency are crucial, because we have about 600 people, and we’re competing against companies that have tens of thousands of people.

The Way I Work: Aaron Levie, Box | INC

To keep track of everything he needs to work on, Levie carries around a piece of paper he calls “50 Things,” which lists all the important tasks and projects — “They range from ’email X customer’ to ‘figure out next year’s product roadmap,” he said in a Product Hunt Q&A session. He’ll run through this list every couple of days to make sure all the items are on track.

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At around 6-7pm every day, after the meetings wind down, Levie will put on his earplugs and have a quick power nap in a conference room, “just 20 to 25 minutes is all you need, and then you get fully recharged,” he told Business Insider. Although the Box team are now well aware of their CEO’s evening napping habits, there have been times when the cleaning crew have accidentally interrupted his power snooze.

After he wakes up, dinner is typically at a Vietnamese pho house just a walk away from the Box offices. Levie is there so often the waiters don’t even bother to take his order — chicken soup, extra noodles and a can of A&W root beer. Following dinner, Levie will have a few uninterrupted hours to himself where he’ll focus on the company’s longer term vision, and writing emails on areas that need improvement.

Levie leaves the office between 1-2am and spends some time before bed reading, “manuals of business strategy, biographies of celebrated entrepreneurs, histories of iconic companies,” according to 2013 Technology Review profile. “In the office, I keep a big bookshelf stocked with copies of the few dozen books that I think are most important. Some of my favorites are The Innovator’s Dilemma, Crossing the Chasm, and Blue Ocean Strategy. They’re free for anyone to read and keep.” He’s asleep at around 3-3.30am.

Levie’s relentless schedule and aboslute focus on building Box leaves very little room for any sort of personal life. In 2013 he confessed that he hadn’t taken a vacation in seven years and that his weekends were just toned down versions of his weekdays — “over the whole weekend, I may have five meetings, as opposed to six on a weekday.”

However, in a 2017 interview with Business Insider, it appeared that the Box CEO had taken a step back and learnt to enjoy his weekends more:

Usually I don’t do anything too much fun during the week, and then on the weekends, go to movies with my fiancée, and we go out and go hiking or things like that.

‘I had nightmares for weeks’: Box CEO Aaron Levie reveals how hard it was to build a $2.5 billion business and take it public by age 29 | Business Insider

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Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.