On Daily Routines, we profile successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, business executives and athletes to explore their routines, habits and rituals.
“I tend to be more organized the busier I am, and I think that’s true for a lot of other people,” Max Levchin told Fast Company in 2017.
Between 1998, when Levchin, Peter Thiel, and Luke Nosek first launched Confinity which would later become PayPal, to 2002 when the company was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion, the team was working seven days a week for four years straight.
After the acquisition and with an estimated payout of $34 million, Levchin left the company, but admitted he felt lost and would regularly go back to the offices to hang out with his former co-workers. It got to the point where PayPal’s head of HR would have to remind Levchin that he no longer worked at the company, and his girlfriend, Nellie Minkova, briefly broke up with him.
“I think, if you listen to her, she always had a plan to take me back once I got my head cleared out, but at the time it seemed terrible,” Levchin told Business Insider’s Alyson Shontell in 2017. “She basically said, ‘Look, you seem like a mess. You need to go spend a little time on your own,’ which, I think we were actually apart for about four and a half weeks, but it seemed like eternity.”
Nowadays, as the founder and CEO of fintech company, Affirm, as well as an investor, co-founder and board member for a dozen other companies — HVF Labs, SciFi VC, Zwift, Glow to name a few — Levchin is feeling less lost, but is busy as ever.
I have a very specific set of steps, and once I find a routine that works, I codify until it’s perfected, minute-by-minute.I’m Max Levchin, CEO of Affirm and Co-Founder of PayPal, and This Is How I Work | Lifehacker
As a computer scientist and mathematician, Levin approaches his daily routine with data, precision and pattern-recognition. “I tend to come up with precise routines and repeat them obsessively every day,” he explained in a Lifehacker interview. “In perfect detail, every morning at home looks the same. By cutting out the contemplation of what to do next, I achieve extreme efficiencies.”
Levchin wakes up at 5.30am and usually spends the next hour actioning overnight emails and scanning the news. “I typically work for an hour after I wake up, deal with whatever has happened overnight, and figure out what’s happening that week.” After that, he’s on his bike, cycling “across the Golden Gate Bridge, and past the hills of the Marin Headlands,” he told Fast Company. If the weather’s too cold or rainy, Levchin will cycle indoors on his stationary bike.
I like having this super intense experience early in the day. It gets me pumped up and energized. But another part of it is psychological — it gives me a great sense of accomplishment. So even if it’s a bad day at work, at least I pedaled really hard.Serial Entrepreneur Max Levchin’s Best Tips for Staying Focused | Inc.
He usually arrives to work at 8am. While he has his own desk, Levchin will, instead, set himself up in the middle of the office, to make himself available to the team. Although Levchin loves having long stretches of uninterrupted, focused work, the nature of a CEO’s role is to be disrupted constantly throughout the day. Levchin balances this out by scheduling dedicated time for deep work.
“If I really need to focus on creative work, I’ll go to a coffee shop. I like the anonymity — all these people buzzing around, ordering drinks and going about their lives,” he said in a 2015 Inc profile. “Every day, I dedicate a couple of two-hour time slots to cutting myself off from everyone else — to do whatever needs to be done. Unless it’s my wife, I won’t pick up the phone. I don’t check email, and I turn off my messenger apps. That has really helped my productivity.”
In an interview with Fast Company, Levchin explained that as his schedule becomes busier, his organisation increases, “the more intense my work gets, the more regimented everything becomes for me. When the intensity of my work is very high, I know I can’t spend more than x hours or x minutes on a specific task, or something else will fall behind.”
On most nights of the week, Levchin will make it home before 6pm to make dinner for his family (“I’m hopelessly uncreative in the kitchen, but I take instruction well”), and spend time with his kids. He’s usually in bed by 10.30-11pm, with a goal to get seven hours of sleep every night.
Before you go…
Check out more daily routines from Barack Obama, Joe Rogan, Jeff Bezos, Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet and plenty others.