As soon as Melinda Gates wakes up--usually around 6:30 a.m.--there's plenty she could hop to right away. The day ahead will include back-to-back meetings with a few rare 15-minute breaks in between.

Gates essentially has three jobs: philanthropist, as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; businesswoman, as the leader of investment firm Pivotal Ventures; and author. She just published her first book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World.

60 minutes of peace and quiet

Just because she could get to work right away doesn't mean she does. Gates tells The Cut that her top priority in the morning is more sacred than work. It's peace and quiet.

"I spend that first hour in quiet time," Gates says. This may include meditation, stretching, or yoga. She also reads in the morning. A favorite as of late is The Book of Awakening, a spiritual book by a cancer survivor about living every day more mindfully.

Another non-negotiable part of her morning is to spend some time outside, regardless of the weather. "I really like to go in the lake when it's cold outside, or get my feet out in our yard, in our garden," Gates says.

Design your own morning routine

Many love to study the routines of successful people because they hope to mimic them on their own path to success. If Apple CEO Tim Cook wakes up at 4:30 a.m., should you? No. In the words of J.K. Rowling, "Oh, piss off."

Melinda Gates spends an hour of her morning reveling in peace and quiet. Former Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom carves out 60 minutes for an intense bike ride almost every single morning.

They are all deliberate in how they choose to best spend their time each morning. Because once they get to work, it's all about everyone else. The mornings are the only time when they can truly be in control of their own time.

After those 60 quiet minutes to herself each morning, Gates turns her attention to everyone else. She'll have breakfast with her teenage daughter. Then she heads in to the office, where she's actively engaged in meetings all day. Instead of multitasking, she usually takes handwritten notes.

"I think about my time," Gates tells The Cut. "I think about my role, and that determines what meetings I take."

Be selective with your time

Both in her morning routine and in her meeting schedule, Gates is selective with her time. Keeping your schedule manageable and staying productive comes down to spending your time well, which Gates excels at.

Time management expert Laura Vanderkam evangelized this concept on the TED stage: "We don't build the lives we want by saving time," she said in her TEDWomen talk in 2016. "We build the lives we want, and then time saves itself."

Published on: May 17, 2019
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