Julia Cheek is the founder and CEO of Everlywell, an innovative at-home health testing company. Like most founders and CEOs, she has a lot on her plate.
Cheek may not be as well-known as some other entrepreneurs, but her LinkedIn bio speaks for itself. As a first-time founder — and a solo founder to boot — she built Everlywell from an idea to a platform that serves 20 million people each year. It's reached a $1 billion-plus valuation a mere 4 years after launching. And in just 5 years, she grew the company from 0 to 750-plus employees.
If you’ve ever wondered how people like Cheek manage to get so much done at work each day, while also handling the demands of everyday life, keep reading.
This article breaks down how Cheek spends her time as a busy entrepreneur. You’ll also find some practical tips to help you learn from her habits and exercise more control over your own schedule.
At the time of this writing, Cheek is the mother of a young child. And she's committed to making her mornings all about family time. She wakes up around 6:30 in the morning — or, more appropriately, her son wakes her up — and begins caring for him right away.
Cheek says that, while she does quickly check her emails first thing in the morning, she does not respond to messages right away. She jokes that the great thing about having a toddler is that they will either “take your phone from you” or will insist that you don’t look at it for long.
After rising, Cheek will prepare breakfast with her son. Then, she and her husband will take the family dogs for a walk.
She has a childcare provider who comes to her home, and when they arrive later in the morning, she hands her son off to them and gets ready for the workday.
A Note About Childcare
In an interview with Insider, Cheek acknowledges the privilege of having someone care for her child at home.
She notes that access to childcare is an “important element in enabling women in the workforce." She mentions how challenging it would've been without the support, given "the madness of work and... responding to the pandemic."
Cheek stays productive during the workday by breaking it into chunks. She schedules meetings in the morning and sets aside some uninterrupted time in the afternoon to respond to emails. She also uses afternoons for creative thinking and “serendipity time.”
Serendipity time is when Cheek makes herself available to people who want to speak to her at the last minute. By doing this in the afternoon, she can check off her own to-do list before making room on her schedule for others.
Cheek avoids overbooking herself and does her best to respond promptly to items that pop up unexpectedly. She also has an open-door policy for all of her employees so they can contribute “feedback, criticisms, [and] ideas.”
What About Breaks?
Even busy entrepreneurs like Cheek need breaks. Every day, she takes a 20-minute lunch break so she can regroup. Her meals contain a mix of protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables to help her feel full and energized for the second half of the day.
In addition to a 20-minute lunch, Cheek also schedules a 15-minute afternoon coffee break for herself. Ideally, she’ll take this break outside, if Austin’s weather conditions allow for it.
Cheek believes that breaks are just as important as any other commitment. She says that entrepreneurs must have the self-discipline to schedule this time for themselves, pointing out that regular breaks make her a better leader.
Avoiding Inbox Overload
When she receives emails throughout the day, Cheek abides by the "2-minute rule."
This rule states that one should respond to any email that can be addressed in 2 minutes or less. If it takes longer to respond, the email should be saved for later.
Cheek saves these longer emails for the afternoon or evening when she has more time and mental bandwidth. She doesn't respond to emails every day, but will read her messages daily to prevent them from piling up.
Cheek considers herself to be a night owl and often works later in the evenings. However, she still gets to bed by 10 or 11 p.m. Perhaps her son's early wakeup time has something to do with this, as she's mentioned in earlier interviews that going to bed between 11:30 pm and 1 am was more common.
To help her wind down for the night, Cheek likes to read. Sometimes, she works through memoirs — such as Glennon Doyle’s Untamed — or books related to business. Other times, though, she prefers fiction.
Key Takeaways from Julia Cheek’s Schedule
Not everyone has the same amount of flexibility in their day and control over their schedule as Cheek does. However, most of us can take away at least a few important lessons from how she spends her time, including the following:
Make Time for Family
Cheek makes it a priority to spend time with her husband and child each day. Dedicating time to them, even if it’s only an hour or so, helps ensure she’s nurturing essential relationships and giving her loved ones the attention they need.
Start the Day with Movement
Walks with her family and their dogs are a key part of Cheek’s morning routine.
Starting the day with movement — especially outdoor movement — is a great way to regulate the circadian rhythm and combat issues like stress. Getting outside first thing and exposing oneself to the sun can also increase wakefulness during the day, preventing a mid-afternoon crash.
It’s important to note that Cheek incorporates other types of structured exercise into her routine. This isn’t particularly surprising since she runs a health and wellness company. But considering her busy schedule, it’s admirable that she still makes fitness a priority.
Schedule Regular Breaks
Others can also learn from Cheek’s commitment to scheduling regular breaks and having the discipline to make time for herself.
Rest is essential for productivity and preventing burnout, and it’s impressive to see a high-ranking professional like Cheek making time for breaks when it's tempting to justify skipping them.
Follow the 2-Minute Rule
Finally, almost everyone can benefit from following the 2-minute rule — both when it comes to handling emails and handling other responsibilities.
If a task can be done in under 2 minutes, it’s better to do it right away rather than letting things pile up. Over time, small items can turn into more daunting responsibilities.
One caveat here. Don't use this strategy as a distraction when engaging in deep work.
Next Steps: Take Control of Your Own Schedule Today
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