How a Leader of "The Most Innovative Company in the World" Manages His Time

May 10, 2017

David Gilboa, the co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker, is highly mindful on how he manages his time.

David Gilboa is the co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker, the eyeglass company that was founded in 2010 and is now worth billions. Warby Parker’s business model and culture have been so unique that, in 2015, Fast Company named it the most innovative company in the world.

Building a business like Warby Parker often leads to long hours. And that certainly was the case for Gilboa, who said that in the first few years after founding the company he was working all the time, “waking up with a computer on my chest” and sleeping four hours a night, tops.

But he soon realized that wasn’t just unsustainable, it was also bad strategy. In three LinkedIn Learning classes he guest-taught with Arianna Huffington, Gilboa explained how he is now prioritizing sleep, meditation and more of a work-life balance; and how that’s helped him become more effective.

In his three classes, which were more of an informal chat he had with Huffington, Gilboa shared how he manages his time. From that conversation, we took out five of his most insightful quotes.

They are:

1. “I spent a lot of time thinking about how to prioritize my time and the company’s time, since that’s our most precious resource and asset.”

You’ve probably heard this before. But the reality is, most people don’t fully realize it.

In the first class he guest-taught, Gilboa made this point at the very onset. And it’s telling – you can’t fully maximize your time unless you recognize the importance of your time. As Gilboa said, it’s his company’s most important asset – ahead of money or branding or anything else.

Hence, Gilboa does everything he can to ensure he’s using his company’s collective time as wisely as possible. That awareness leads directly into the next four points.

2. “Strategy is about what you say no to as much as what you say yes to.”

As mentioned, when Gilboa first co-founded Warby Parker, he was working long hours and was trying to say on top of everything. After awhile, he soon realized that wasn’t just exhausting, it was also suboptimal.

“To achieve all of our goals, both as individuals and as a company, we needed to take a step back and realize we didn’t need to accomplish everything today,” Gilboa said. “We can start saying no to things and be smarter with our time.”

That meant doing fewer things, better, and focusing on being “more present and engaged” on the initiatives Warby Parker did prioritize, he said. Practically, that meant saying no more, so he could focus on the most key initiatives.

3. “One thing I’d still love to work on is getting more sleep.”

As the quote implies, this is still a work-in-progress for Gilboa. But he’s come a long way.

In the first few years of Warby Parker, Gilboa was getting three or four hours of sleep a night. In the course, he said he increased that to five to six hours a night, and he’s already seen a big difference.

“I’m more present, I’m more alert, I don’t get as frustrated and stressed out throughout the day,” he said.

“I promise you one thing, when you move to seven or eight hours, you’re going to be even more effective,” Huffington said in response. “When I’m sleep deprived, I’m so much more reactive. And, in the course of building a life or building a company or taking care of your children, there are always going to be things that you’re not happy with. And that’s when we overreact and that’s when we make mistakes.”

4. “(Email) is really someone else giving me a to-do list.”

People send emails on their schedule. You should reply to emails on yours, Gilboa said.

Sure, sometimes things come up and are time sensitive. But most emails aren’t, and Gilboa said he is making it a priority to respond to email in times that work for him, instead of just reacting to what he receives.

Specifically, he designates certain times of the day to respond to email. That makes his responses more effective but also allows him to stay more present with tasks at-hand and “take more control” over his life.

5. “Those are the values we are going to hire by and those are the values we are going to fire by.”

Warby Parker has four core values. In their interview process, recruiters and hiring managers screen for those values.

Still, occasionally some people who don’t live those values slip through the interview process and get hired. But, no matter how brilliant they are or how well they perform, if they break those values they aren’t welcome at the company, Gilboa said.

There are two reasons behind this. First off, if you have values but don’t enforce them, you might as well not have values at all.

Secondly, the values are around treating people with respect, fostering innovation and focusing on learning. If people don’t live with those values, it saps the energy of everyone around them who does, Gilboa said.

“It’s amazing, one negative person and the impact they can have,” he said.

So this isn’t just a culture decision – it’s also very much a time management decision. Because while the proverbial “high-performing jerk” might do well in their role, they lower the energy of everyone around them, Gilboa said.  

*Image from Warby Parker

David Gilboa’s chat with Arianna Huffington is part of a series of LinkedIn Learning courses on living life with more meaning, joy and peace. Watch them all here.

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