On Daily Routines, we profile successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, executives and athletes to explore their routines, schedules, habits and day in the life.
Even though DHH has accomplished a number of significant achievements — co-founder and CTO of Basecamp, racing car driver and creator of web application framework Ruby on Rails — he’s a strong propenent that 8-hours a day is more than enough to dedicate for work.
A great day’s work is four to five really focused hours that lead to major progress on a project or topic. Then that’s it. I’ve found squeezing the lemon of every last drop is a sour way to live.I’m David Heinemeier Hansson, Basecamp CTO, And This Is How I Work | Lifehacker
In fact, DHH has made it a point in his career to embrace such constraints and do the best work possible within those boundaries: “As the sole programmer on the project, I was working 10 hours/week on Basecamp. So we built habits of getting a lot out of a little right from the get go. When we then started working full-time on Basecamp, the 40 hours per week seemed like an abundance.”
For his daily routine, DHH splits his time between Marbella, Spain and Malibu, California. During a 2016 Product Hunt LIVE session, DHH revealed his daily routine while living in Spain:
[My daily routine] depends on where I am. I’m in Spain at the moment, so my day starts around 8:30am. Get up, eat breakfast with the family, play with my 3-year-old boy for an hour or so, then take him to school. Have another hour or so hanging out with the family or doing things around the house, then work starts, currently at around 11am. I work until around 7pm, with breaks in between to again hangout with the family, go get lunch, whatever. Then dinner, maybe a bit more work afterwards, and otherwise chilling with the wife for a few hours. Perhaps watching a show. That’s it! ~8 hours of work, family time, show time, reading time. Great day.David Heinemeier Hansson LIVE Chat on Product Hunt
This routine is slightly different when DHH is Malibu, but follows the same work-life balance principles. Most days he’ll go to sleep at 9.30pm to 10pm, and wake up with no alarm, “I’ve always slept 8.5-10 hours. My most cherished luxury is not having to wake to an alarm clock 97% of the time,” he onced tweeted.
Similar to Jeff Bezos’ daily routine, mornings are pretty calm for DHH; he likes to spend some time relaxing before driving his kids to school. Work starts at around 9.30am. “I’m kind of a slow crank. The mornings are for dealing with inbound. All the emails, requests, PRs, chat rooms, blah blah,” DHH told Lifehacker in a 2017 interview. “Catching up, chiming in, and then, if I’m lucky, getting my own work started around noon or so.”
The bulk of DHH’s workday is split into: writing — he co-authored Getting Real, Rework, Remote, and It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work with Fried, as well as a number of blog posts on Signal v Noise — programming, and running Basecamp.
“There’s no CFO or COO. There are no dedicated managers. So there’s just a good amount of company stuff that keeps popping up. I try to solve what I can with as little effort as possible so I can get back to writing and programming,” he said.
DHH’s preferred working method is having long stretches of uninterrupted time to focus on deep, creative work. “If there’s one thing I found, it’s that tranquility and flow are not compatible with interruptions,” he told Tim Ferriss. “If your day is chopped up into tiny work moments of 40 minutes here and an hour and 20 there, you will get nothing interesting done. You can get routine work done. You can’t get interesting, creative work done.”
“I don’t feel like I’m getting that much done. I just happen to configure my life and my business in such a way that most of the time, I have long, uninterrupted stretches of time. When you every day can get like a three-hour block or whatever, you just get a lot of stuff done and it doesn’t feel like it.”
For DHH, achieving a flow state in his work is one of the highest pursuits of happiness in his life. In a revealing blog post about the day he became a millionaire, DHH wrote about the experience of discovering what truly made him happy:
If anything, I began to appreciate even more intently that flow and tranquility were the true sources of happiness for me all along. It was like I had pulled back the curtain on that millionaire’s dream and found, to my surprise, that most of the things on the other side were things I already had. Equal parts shock and awe, but ultimately deeply reassuring.The day I became a millionaire | Signal v. Noise
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.