On Daily Routines, we profile successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, executives and athletes to explore their routines, schedules, habits and day in the life.
For self-made billionaire businesswoman and the founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely, the best time for her to do her thinking is driving in the car. A 2014 Wall Street Journal profile revealed that she actually got the idea to call her company Spanx when she was waiting at a red light, and that she “carries a large spiral-bound Mead notebook, compulsively filling it with scribbles, notes and inspirations.”
The only problem these days? Blakely lives too close to the Spanx Atlanta headquarters, resulting in a short commute and not much thinking time. Fortunately, she came up with an idea.
“I’ve identified where my best thinking happens and it’s in the car,” Blakely told Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, on his podcast Masters of Scale. “I live really close to Spanx, so I’ve created what my friends call my ‘fake commute,’ and I get up an hour early before I’m supposed to go to Spanx, and I drive around aimlessly in Atlanta with my commute so that I can have my thoughts come to me.”
On a typical day, she’s up early and doing yoga at home by 6.30am. With four young children, Blakely spends most of her mornings getting them ready for school. To save time, she has the same breakfast every morning, a smoothie made up of frozen wild blueberries, a few dark cherries, kale, dates, cinnamon, spinach, cilantro, fresh mint, lemon, water, ice, chia, and walnuts. According to Marie Claire, her go-to Starbucks order is a “Grande Soy Chai Tea Misto, no foam, splash of water.”
Then she’s off on her way to work, stretching a 6-minute commute into an hour long drive around Atlanta. “My best thinking time is in the car. I live about five minutes from Spanx but I will drive around sometimes for up to an hour before I go into the office,” she said. “It’s the time I’ve identified in my day that my mind will wander. So many of my ideas have come to me in the car.”
I go into the office every day. I have a few lanes I stay in at the company. As the CEO, there’s a lot of different things coming at me. Most of my time is spent with the design team in the fitting room actually putting products on and discussing what we can do to make garments better for women. I spend time with brand, creative, and sales. As the face of the brand, I take interviews, travel, give speeches.How I Get It Done: Sara Blakely of Spanx | The Cut
Like Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square, Blakely likes to divide up her week into themed days. “There are certain days that I have segmented. Wednesday is always meeting day. I have meetings with my direct reports and key people I’m involved with in the business all day Wednesday,” she told The Cut.
“Monday is my think day. I usually clear my entire calendar for Monday, unless something urgent comes up. I use that day to create and think. Thursdays, I spend a lot of time with the product and creative team. Tuesday and Friday, as things come up, each can be a little different.”
Even as the founder of a global company that’s making $400 million in annual revenue and employs over 750 people, Blakely makes sure she establishes boundaries between her work and her life. “For the last year, I’ve been leaving between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. and I often pick my children up from school,” she said. “I have traditions. I make pancakes in strange shapes every Sunday morning.”
To unwind from her hectic schedule, Blakely told The Cut she takes a bath every night, as part of her evening routine. “I pretty much always light a candle. I sit in the bath for usually five or ten minutes. I get really, really, warm and then I get out,” she said. “It calms my body down but it also helps keep me warm in bed. I use drugstore lavender Epson salts every night with the bath.”
Believe in your idea, trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid to fail. It took me two years from the time I had the idea for Spanx until the time I had a product in hand ready to sell into stores. I must have heard the word “no” a thousand times. If you believe in your idea 100%, don’t let anyone stop you! Not being afraid to fail is a key part of the success of Spanx.10 Lessons I Learned from Sara Blakely That You Won’t Hear in Business School | Forbes
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.