The Work Routines of 40 Successful Business Leaders

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Breaking news: when a small business owner graduates to the ranks of big business leader, they don’t suddenly find time is plentiful and scheduling is a breeze.

That’s not how it works. But you probably realized that before you got in the game.

In fact, it’s your dogged efforts to maximize your working hours that have got you this far. Rest and relaxation are essential elements to thrive and succeed, but small business leaders try to fit at least 150% of what’s humanly possible into their schedule.

OnDeck analyzed the work routines of 40 big business leaders to see how they achieved superhuman feats without burning out. Because small and big business leaders alike need to juggle an awful lot of plates under an awful lot of pressure.

Check our infographic down below to discover the hours your business idol works and learn from their way of scheduling. But first, here’s a look at the ‘average’ routine we’ve figured out by collating all their calendars. This is what our 40 successful business leaders are most likely to be doing during each hour of the day:

Business leaders daily tasks

Our research shows that successful business leaders exploit the natural rhythms of their daily cycle. Stressful office work is best gotten out of the way early, as one study found. This also frees up the rest of the day to be creative and collaborate. However, your body may cope with simple tasks like arithmetic later in the day. Perhaps that accounts for the mysterious ‘alone work’ our top leaders do between 8 and 10 at night – crunching numbers and tidying up.


How Your Business Role Model Plans Their Day

‘Average’ aside, the routines of these 40 bosses show significant variance. While general scientific principles and trends are effective, great leaders tailor them to their personal needs, preferences, and business obligations.

For example, Elon Musk keeps it real by walking the floor of his rocket factory all afternoon. Sure, the Tesla and SpaceX boss leads his businesses, but he also works on engineering solutions – keeping his passion for work aflame and his companies ship-shape. (Bonus tip: Musk says the daily habit that’s had the largest positive impact on his life is “showering.”)

Looking at the top entrepreneur daily schedules below, none of them fit the ‘average’ perfectly. Some like to throw a (literal) wild card in to keep things fresh: “After I walk the dogs around the yard, I make my favorite espresso. As I wait for the brew to froth, I pull out a card from my 365 Gathered Truths box,” Oprah Winfrey tells Harper’s Bazaar. “I read five of them each morning; it’s a beautiful way to start the day.”

And what about when circumstances force the routine off the rails, and you find yourself working around the clock, chasing your tail? When the schedule fails, discipline needs to step in. Few people experience this as lucidly as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who went into overdrive when COVID-19 hit the world:

“I was foolish and just thought I could get away with almost no sleep. I mean, like three hours a night. I did that for a few weeks, and it almost killed me. Thank goodness I have a very intelligent and clinically skilled wife who turned things around and said,

‘You got to remember to eat, and you’ve got to remember to sleep.’”

It’s especially excellent advice for small business owners. Your schedule is more than a routine – it’s a map to wealth, health, and happiness. If you should be forced off track, be sure to take care of your vehicle.

Work routines