How Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn gets so much done

Within the morning, I take 5 Duolingo classes. I do three French classes, one Portuguese lesson, and, of late, a Japanese lesson. It’s largely to check out the product: My groups get studies from me at 6:30 a.m. day-after-day, saying, “It’s best to repair this” or “It’s best to enhance this.” Then I work out. I do some weight coaching, adopted by 16 minutes of working as quick as I can, which is like 9 miles an hour. Once I do it, I appear to be I’m having a coronary heart assault. I do it to optimize my time—I burn about 360 energy. I hate it, nevertheless it’s over quick.

Then I head to the workplace. I consider in everybody being within the workplace collectively, so we’re getting again to that [with employees coming in three days a week, starting in January]. It’s vital to have serendipitous interactions to generate good concepts. I attempt to break for lunch with my workers at the least a few instances per week. I like to listen to about their lives exterior of labor.

[At Carnegie Mellon, in 2005], I taught a big math class, about 300 individuals, and I’d mess with college students. The entire first week was an enormous scavenger hunt, the place college students needed to clear up math puzzles associated to the category. It’s form of the same thought to Duolingo. We wish to make studying right into a sport.


I get my greatest concepts within the bathe, so on weekends I attempt to take lengthy ones. Generally I believe I’ve a good suggestion in the midst of the evening, write it down, after which within the morning I notice it is not sensible.

Early on, plenty of the concepts at Duolingo got here from me or my cofounder [CTO Severin Hacker]. That’s now not true. At this level, lower than 1% of the concepts come from me. Most of what I do is assessment different individuals’s concepts and work. I’ve needed to learn to be clear in my communication, as a result of what finally ends up occurring is that if I say one thing, I normally say it to any person who says it to any person else who says it to any person else who really does the work. Should you’re not tremendous clear, it’s like a sport of damaged phone. Now I even ask individuals to repeat [what I say] again to me to ensure it’s clear.

Earlier this yr we turned a public firm, so main as much as the IPO I used to be engaged on weekends, as a result of funding bankers work on weekends. I inform my workers, “Simply get your work done.” At Duolingo, we’ve employed plenty of overachievers. The principle message we give individuals is don’t work so onerous, as a result of individuals actually burn themselves out. It’s a marathon, not a dash.

Time he wakes up

Between 5:30 and 6 a.m.

Very first thing he does within the morning

“Verify my e mail and Slack—I keep in mattress for the primary 30 or 40 minutes and simply try this. We have now an workplace in Beijing and one in Europe, so between the time I fall asleep and the time I get up, every kind of issues have occurred. After that, I take my Duolingo classes.”

His relationship with social media

“I don’t submit about my private life. I tweet a great quantity as a result of I’m from Guatemala, and I believe our authorities is corrupt. I tweet in opposition to our authorities.”


What he does with quarter-hour of free time

“Often verify my Slack.”

Very last thing he does at evening

“After dinner, I work in entrance of the TV, watching one thing like The White Lotus. I’m about 40% much less environment friendly, however I can nonetheless get stuff done whereas I do it. [The very last thing I do is] ensure I haven’t left something unanswered at work.”

Time he goes to mattress

Between 10:30 and 11 p.m. “However I don’t sleep via the evening. I get up for an hour randomly in the midst of the evening.”