Daily Routines is a series by Balance the Grind, profiling successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists and business executives to explore their routines, habits and rituals.
If you ever wondered how Matt Mullenweg, the founder and CEO of Automattic, the company behind WordPress (which is now powering 30% of websites online), built his company, well, here’s your answer. He took naps. Lots of naps.
In a 2018 interview with Tim Ferriss, Mullenweg spoke about how he used the Uberman sleep cycle (also known as Polyphasic sleep) while writing WordPress. “So it’s four hours on, and then 20 or 30 minutes of sleep,” Mullenweg explained to Ferriss. “This was probably one of the most productive periods of my life.”
While Mullenweg stopped using the Uberman sleep cycle after he started dating his girlfriend, the WordPress creator still uses plenty of productivity hacks in his daily routine.
On most mornings, Mullenweg doesn’t use an alarm clock, choosing instead to wake up when the sun rises. Instead of going straight to coffee, breakfast or exercise, reading his first port of call in the morning. “At any point in time I have about 120 books downloaded,” Mullenweg wrote on his blog. “Interspersed between Drucker, Godin, and Buffett are classics like Seneca, which I wish I could read more often but only get to a few times a year.”
In an interview with Amantha Imber, Mullenweg went into more detail about why he chooses to read first thing in the morning, “some people wake up early to work out, I like to wake up a little bit early to get a better reading time in because I’ve learned that sets my brain up in the right space for everything I need to get done the rest of the day.”
Once he’s done reading, Mullenweg will try to do some form of exercise, rotating through planks, squats, push ups, and a few sun salutation yoga poses to stretch himself out. He’ll also meditate for at least 10 minutes, using the Calm app, which he’s an investor in.
Even though Automattic had a San Francisco office, the company shut it down in 2017 because employees never showed up. As a fully distributed company with over 1,000 employees working across 75 countries, Automattic employees can choose to work from anywhere in the world.
When he’s not travelling around the world attending WordPress events, Mullenweg tends to work from home. The bulk of his work is focused on managing the support, usability and product development aspects of Automattic. There’s strictly no micro-managing though. “My management strategy is centered on hiring,” he wrote. “Find extremely self-motivated and curious people and then give them the autonomy to succeed.”
In his chat with Tim Ferriss, Mullenweg revealed he liked using the Pomodoro technique for work, “sometimes I do 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off. Sometimes I’ll actually do a longer version, where I do sort of 50 to 55 minutes on and then 10 minutes off, because I find that I can really stay in the flow for a longer period of time if I have the right music on and everything like that.”
If you scroll through Mullenweg’s music playlist, you’ll probably find a lot of jazz – Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins — as well as hip hop and R&B — JAY Z, Beyonce and Method Man. As a way to focus, Mullenweg likes to loop a favourite song on over and over again. At the time of the conversation with Amantha Imber, that song of choice of Drake’s 2018 number one single “Nice For What”.
Like Jason Fried, Basecamp’s co-founder and CEO, Mullenweg likes to remove any potential distractions that might take him out of the zone, from closing apps and hiding notifications, to taking more drastic measures and turning off the wifi at home.
Like his wake up time (or lack thereof), Mullenweg doesn’t have a set bedtime, operating on a 24-hour cycle of work and naps, “I do my best work mid-morning and super late at night, from one to five in the morning. Some people don’t need sleep, but I actually need a ton. I just sleep all the time, catching naps in the afternoon or a 20-minute snooze in the office.”
We measure work according to outputs. I don’t care what hours you work. I don’t care if you sleep late or if you pick up a child at school in the afternoon. I don’t care if you spend the afternoon on the golf course and then work from 2 to 5 AM. What do you actually produce? Many people create great things without sitting at a desk in an office all day, including all the people at Automattic.The CEO of Automattic on Holding “Auditions” to Build a Strong Team | HBR
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