Cal Henderson’s is the Co-Founder & CTO of Slack, the world’s most popular team communication app. As Slack’s chief technical officer he’s responsible for all of the engineering and product updates.

Slack just got listed on the public market and is now worth $20 billion dollars at press time.  Cal has a 3% stake in the company so he’s now worth $600m. That’s not bad for a 39 year old at a company that has pivoted multiple times to find a product/market fit. It looks like they got it right this time.

Becoming Rich Without Working All Day

If you listen to the startup choir you would think that you have to work 14 hour days for years to make that kind of money. Cal’s daily routine definitely shows you that nothing could be farther from the truth. It includes putting in a productive day at Slack, spending quality time with his family, exercising, and  getting PLENTY of sleep (more than you probably get).

Here’s Cal’s daily schedule:

7:30 a.m. Wake up, review news from BBC and front page of Reddit, quickly review Slack (mainly DMs from the night before), and shower.

8:00 a.m. I get two to three hours a day with my 2-year-old son during the week (one hour in the AM and one hour in the PM plus meals), so I make a point not to do work during these hours.

Key Takeaway: Family time can be spread into multiple chunks

You don’t have to try to cram all of your family time into the end of your day to “catch up.” Try to bookend your days whenever possible at the beginning and the end. Doing it this way will make everyone feel like you’ve spent much more time than you see on the clock.

 

9:00 a.m. My morning commute is a 50-minute walk. It includes a stop at Blue Bottle for coffee, and I listen to audiobooks at 2-to-3x speed. I’ve read or listened to 70-plus books this year.

10:00 a.m. The meetings begin, often with a staff meeting. It’s late enough that the late starters (like me!) have been at the office for a few minutes, but not so late that they’ve gotten down to work.

11:00 a.m. I schedule meetings on the half-hour or hour. It’s easy to let them fill the time. Having an agenda before you start is a huge help. Many recurring meetings have a single document with an agenda that we add to over the course of the week.

12:00 p.m. I set a 10-minute reminder on my Apple Watch for meetings. It’s helpful for workflow. Our video conference system (Zoom) displays a countdown for the last 10 minutes of each meeting, which keeps me on time.

1:00 p.m. We cater lunch once a week, but encourage people to get out of the office on the other days. I spend 30 minutes each week with each of my direct reports and others. Doing walking one-on-ones helps me get exercise.

2:00 p.m. Brainstorm. At 2:30, I take a break. I like a few breathers throughout the day–I find having a couple of half-hour breaks is much less stressful than having constant, back-to-back meetings.

3:00 p.m. Time for some onsite interviews. I interview only a fraction of the candidates we have onsite, but I like to spend a portion of my time every week on recruiting.

4:00 p.m. I schedule one block daily without a meeting to catch up on Slack (I’m also reading it during the day) and email (I usually check it just once a day). I also read proposals, give feedback, or route information to the right people.

Key Takeaway: Control Your Meeting Time

Meetings will always take up as much time as you have available. If you don’t have well defined start and end times one will always run into the next. Additionally, Cal always puts a 30 minute open buffer/break between meetings to guard against meetings going into the next one. 


End of Cal’s Workday

5:00 p.m. I have a 40-minute walk home. I try to walk every day, though that gets harder in the winter with the early sunset. Having the extra time to think or listen to an audiobook or podcast is a great way to decompress.

6:00 p.m. This is family time.

7:00 p.m. My wife and I have a set date night once a week. It can be hard to stick to, but making sure we take time away from work every week is really important.

11:00 p.m. Brush teeth. Listen to audiobook.

How to do the same things in your schedule

While coming up with an idea and turning it into a $600m net worth might be hard for most of us no matter how perfect our schedules are, it’s not hard to replicate Cal’s enviable work life balance in our own lives.  

The keys to Cal’s success seem to be his ultra efficient use of prioritization based on what makes him the most productive and, more importantly, based on what makes him happy.

Work Tips

At work he makes sure that none of his time is wasted and that he’s not wasting time. It’s easy for us to allow our time to be stolen during the day and for us to get off of track of doing the things that are most impactful for our day.  Here’s the key takeaways for your work day schedule:

Set hard meeting time limits with after meeting buffers

Always prioritize the most impactful things that you can do daily

Take advantage of schedule reminders on the Apple watch

Personal Tips

When it comes to his personal life he loves spending time with his son and making sure that he spends quality time with his wife. He also obviously REALLY loves audiobooks. He makes sure that these things recieve solid priority in his day.  Here’s the key personal takeaways:

Always dedicate solid no distraction time blocks for your family

Add your favorite hobbies into your schedule daily

Work exercise into your schedule in multiple ways

Creating an amazing work life balance is absolutely the hardest thing to do as an entrepreneur. Don’t beat yourself up if yours hasn’t been perfect. It doesn’t happen automatically for anyone. It takes planning. It takes seeing examples of people like Cal to know how it can work so that you can take bits and pieces of it to apply to your own schedule.

Hopefully after reading this article you will get some great ideas about how to apply these work life balance tips to streamline your life and hopefully create a unicorn along the way.

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