Part of our series which peeks in to the working lives of successful men, partly in the name of casual voyeurism but mainly in an effort to steal some ideas and good habits for ourselves.
Mike McCue is a Silicon Valley figurehead, founder of multiple tech companies including voice-recognition TellMe and the brilliant digital magazine app Flipboard, and former board member of Twitter no less.
Here’s how he works:
How does your day begin?
I get up at 7am. I tend to operate on little sleep – five hours is a lot for me. I check my phone, my messages, and have a quick look at Twitter. I follow the Flipboard hashtag on Twitter so I can see what people are saying about Flipboard. I look at my calendar on my phone, do a quick scan of my e-mail and make sure if there’s anything important I need to be responding to.
When do you fit in exercise?
I’ll do a short workout from time to time first thing at home: push-ups, sit-ups, a little bit of weights - just enough to stay in shape.
When do you get into work?
After biking my kids to school, I’m in the office by 8:20. I ride my bike to the office too – it’s idyllic. Usually, I’m one of the first ones in the office, since in Silicon valley people tend to work later at night and come into the office later. There are a few of my key lieutenants who work in the office about then though, so we get to catch up and talk about strategy and the hot issues of the day that morning.
Do you have any sort of structured staff meeting?
On Monday mornings I do what we call ‘coffee with Mike’, where they can sit down and have coffee with me for an hour. They can ask me any questions about the company, the product or the team. We also do what’s called a huddle, where everyone in the company is displayed on a giant projector behind me – Beijing, London, the Netherlands, and different parts of the United States, with the rest of the team in the office. There’s a 10-minute talk about what’s going on in the week and about goals for us that week.
Do you have your own office?
At Flipboard, I have a desk out with the rest of the team, and I try to mix up all the team members so there’s a sharing of ideas and energy. It’s an open environment. No cubicles, no walls, there’s no sense of bubbles or any kind of bureaucracy. It’s all people working in the same open space.
Ideas are a big thing for you and your business – are there any techniques or places you go to brainstorm, to think on your own, or to reflect on how things are going?
Usually, it’s one of three things. I’m on a plane often, so during plane rides I’m able to sit down with my iPad and sketch. I can either write down ideas, or sketch them out as part of an app called Paper. Often on the weekends I’ll take a couple of hours and go to a coffee shop and sketch. If I have enough time I’ll go sailing. It’s like stepping back in time. It’s low-tech. I can either not think about anything except sailing, or I can put the boat on autopilot or anchor somewhere and sit down and think about the company or reflect on the team or the product.
Do you have any strategies for not letting email rule your life? How do you go about dealing with your inbox?
I’ll go into my inbox every now and then during the day. If I have a break from meetings, I’ll scan quickly to make sure I’m not missing anything important. However, I usually don’t sit down to respond to e-mails until nighttime, after the kids are asleep. I don’t really respond to a lot of e-mail either. I get hundreds and hundreds a day, so I quickly scan and reply to the most important ones. My assistant and team members can also scan them and reply to investors' questions. Some people like to get their inbox at zero, but if you look at my email, it’s out of control - about 50,000 unread messages. It doesn’t mean they’re actually unread, though, just that they’re not opened, since you can preview them. Otherwise I would spend so much time just doing my inbox.
Are you constantly on social media too?
I use Twitter on both my laptop and my desktop. That’s really the only social work that I spend a lot of time on. Facebook has too many quasi-friends. It’s purely social, so I really don’t have much time for it. I use Twitter as a professional product meter, though. It’s a very efficient way to reach out to users of a product. I follow a lot of Flipboard, too. When I have some downtime, I like looking at a magazine called Art Behind Glass, which is a collection of really great photography-related articles by Lee Rogers.
Is photography also a big part of how you spend your time?
Every person has a third passion. They have their relationships and family, their career, and then something else. Maybe it’s a hobby, or something athletic, or maybe it’s something they’re collecting or they’re into intellectually. For me, it’s sailing and photography. I really enjoy those two things.
How do you handle doing so many speeches and presentations?
The most important thing is to know your material. You have to really know what it is you’re saying. Often I use the notes app that comes with iOS for notes to myself, ideas, product notes or outlines for a speech I might give. If I have a meeting with someone, I’ll have meeting notes before and after.
How are your evenings structured?
I’ll try get home at around 6 or 7pm. Sometimes I’ll work later, but it depends on where we are at work, so if we’re cranking out a new release I’ll work late a few nights a week. Then I’ll work to help get the kids to bed, spend time with them, help with homework or reading, have dinner with them and then finally get them to sleep. That’s usually when I’ll get to my email and catch up on all the things that were going on during the day - and get ready for the next day. I stay up until 1 or 2am.
Do you ever have time to relax and watch TV?
I’m not able to binge watch, but I do enjoy watching the news. I really enjoy things like Fareed Zakaria’s GPS or Frontline. I also like shows like Mad Men, and on the weekends we’ll spend some more time watching movies with the kids – we just watched E.T. a few weeks ago for the first time.