- Huel is a nutritional food-replacement powder marketed as having all the nutrients a human needs.
- The brand has succeeded with super-busy people who like getting a complete meal in a speedy drink.
- Huel CEO James McMaster starts his morning with a workout and mutes his notifications while at work.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with James McMaster, the CEO of Huel, a meal-replacement drink brand, about his morning routine. It has been edited for length and clarity.
My typical workday begins at 6:15 a.m. — that’s the time I’ve set my Whoop fitness watch to buzz me awake. I’m one of those people who pop out of bed each morning never pressing the snooze button. I nearly always get 7 ½ hours of sleep each night.
Making my way downstairs, I’ll let the dog out, make my wife a cup of tea, eat a piece of fruit, and drink a glass of water.
I’ve never been a tea or coffee drinker. I’m grateful I’ve never started on caffeine because I’m not dependent on it to feel alert.
I greet my two kids before heading off for the day. My wife, who’s also a CEO, and I have to be out of the house by 7:30 a.m., so we have a nanny who helps with the kids’ morning routine.
At around 7 a.m., I hop in the car and drive five minutes to the gym. I take high-intensity group boxing classes at Storm Ldn. Boxing has become my morning exercise of choice over the years because it takes up all my focus. If I’m boxing, I’m not thinking about anything else. I find it therapeutic to totally switch off before heading to work.
I change into my Huel T-shirt and jeans, the outfit I wear each day when I’m working in the office. I love that I don’t have to think about what I’m going to wear. It’s just one less thing to do.
I love my 45-minute commute
The car journey from the boxing gym to the Huel head office in Tring, Hertfordshire, is about 45 minutes. I really love this commute. It gives me calm, quiet thinking time. I drink a Huel ready-to-drink bottle on the way. I drink and eat Huel in shake or bar form from Monday to Friday for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. It’s pretty much all I have at the Huel office.
I’ll listen to an episode of the “Diary of a CEO” podcast at 1.5x speed while driving. It’s my favorite podcast because I feel challenged by each episode. If the episode finishes, I just enjoy the silence instead of listening to music or the radio.
I arrive at the office by 9 a.m. We allow employees to work flexibly, so the staff who prefer to start early and leave early are already there when I arrive.
I wear headphones and turn off all my notifications except calendar alerts
Our receptionist, Nini, is one of the first people I see. After having a little chat with her, I’ll head to my desk, which is nestled within the “People” team. I greet people as I go. I don’t have my own office and neither does the staff. The environment is fun — there is always music on, with a bit of debate regarding what should be played.
I get right to work, switch on my MacBook and second screen, and put my headphones on. I turn off all notifications on my phone and computer while I’m at work, except for my calendar, which reminds me when I have meetings coming up.
My first task of the day is to look at our sales from the previous day and see how we’re performing. It takes between five and 10 minutes. Then I play around with the data, looking at new customer numbers and conversion rates — by country and channel — absorbing information that could change my mind about how we are working.
Following COVID-19 and Brexit, consumer behavior has become so changeable, and by keeping a close eye on how the product is doing, I can spot trends early and make adjustments where needed.
Next, I get ready for the day ahead.
I use Trello, Asana, and the Apple Notes app to stay organized day to day
I look at all the tasks that need to be completed on Trello, and as I go through the list, I make a personal to-do list of urgent tasks for the day on Apple Notes. Generally, my urgent tasks are pending deadlines, meeting preparation, production decisions, recruitment, or putting out fires where there are any problems.
Then I’ll then move to Asana, a project-management software, to make notes for my employees. It’s a place for me to write down all my thoughts for particular people without having to bug them all day.
I rarely check emails in the morning. I prioritize verbal conversations during the early part of the day and then scan emails toward the end of the day.
Starting around 9:30 a.m., I begin meeting with individuals and teams. Who I meet with fluctuates each day, but when I’m at headquarters, most of my meetings are face-to-face.