A New York-based CEO and serial entrepreneur swears by carving out 2 'focus days' a week where he doesn't attend meetings. Here's how he works them into his routine.

  • Lindon Gao is the CEO and cofounder of retail tech company Caper, which has raised $14 million in funding, according to PitchBook, and is backed by Lux Capital, First Round Capital, and Y Combinator. 
  • Gao started his first enterprise, a gaming commerce company, at age 14, and launched a jewelry designer supply chain company, which he still owns today, at age 19.
  • He starts work at around 7:30 a.m. and sets aside two "focus days" a week, where he doesn't attend meetings unless they're critical.
  • He based his routine off Y Combinator founder Paul Graham's essay on the "manager's schedule" and "maker's schedule."
  • Here's what a typical day is like for the New York-based executive, as told to freelance writer Robin Madell.
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I usually wake up between 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. without an alarm. 

I'm sensitive to light when I sleep, so I wake up whenever the sky slightly lights up. 

Since gyms are currently closed, I picked up calisthenics workout routines at home. I like working out from home better because I can cook and eat between workout reps, and this saves a good half hour of my morning. I work out different muscle groups every day of the week and commit to cardio twice a week, where I run with a mask for two to six miles. 

My breakfast is simple: eggs and coconut yogurt. I don't drink coffee, as caffeine gives me an uneven burst of energy level throughout my day. I keep my diet simple with a good balance of low sugar and healthy protein.  

I typically start work at around 7:30 a.m. 

My weekly schedule follows a pattern: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are packed with speculative meetings or to-dos spanning up to 16 straight hours, while Tuesdays and Thursdays are focus days, where I don't take any meetings unless the meetings are critical and can't be rescheduled. 

My work schedule philosophy follows one of Y Combinator founder Paul Graham's essays describing the difference between a manager's schedule and maker's schedule.

The manager's schedule is for bosses and follows a pattern where each day is cut into half-hour to one-hour intervals, and by default the manager is expected to change what they're doing every hour to attend to different matters of the business. 

But there's another way of using time — the maker's schedule — where a large block of alone time is reserved to create things. The maker's schedule aims to minimize time wasted in context switching and maximizes productivity to deliver outputs that require more deep thinking. 

Although a manager's schedule can help distribute my capacity to unlock bottlenecks in verticals of the company, I also need focus time to strategize and steer the company toward the right direction. On my focus days, I spend my morning before 8:30 a.m. sending and responding to emails and messages to make sure I'm not the blocker on any workflows. 

Between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., I review all the workflows and new documentations across my company and catch up on the latest industry dynamics. Based on feedback from my manager's schedule on the previous day, I review areas of the company that require the most attention. 

Then I categorize my to-dos into four quadrants: important and urgent, important and not urgent, not important and urgent, and not important and not urgent. 

This is based on author Stephen Covey's method for increased productivity.

Upon prioritizing my list of to-dos, I catch up on messages again for 30 minutes at 10:30 a.m. to sync with my team ahead of their day. 

I typically cook and eat my lunch between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. I typically maintain a low-starch diet for lunch to avoid uneven distribution of energy in the afternoon. I manage 50 people, and during lunch, I conduct one-on-one meetings with my teammates. After lunch, I attend various company standups before I go back to my focus day. 

Between 12:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. on focus days, I strategize and put together deliverables that require deep thinking. 

Some examples of focus-day tasks include drafting company OKRs (objectives and key results), creating board and investor decks, product roadmapping, writing documentations and briefings for product, doing quarterly budgeting and resource allocation, scoping for new hires, and identifying gaps in daily operations and working on resolutions. 

Maker's time helps me get out of reactive thinking. I typically postpone big decisions until I have time to engage in slow thinking, where I can be deliberate, methodical, and rational. Maker's time also helps me stay level-headed while being bombarded with a ton of information every day from employees, clients, and investors. 

I eat dinner between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. and briefly recalibrate myself before logging back onto work at 7:30 p.m. 

Between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., I get another two-hour spurt of productivity. I then hop on a quick call with my China team to get aligned on key initiatives for the day before heading to bed at around 10:30 p.m.. 

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