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 principally to check out the product: My groups get experiences from me at 6:30 a.m. every single day, saying, “You need to repair this” or “You need to enhance this.” Then I work out. I do some weight coaching, adopted by 16 minutes of operating as quick as I can, which is like 9 miles an hour. After I do it, I seem like I’m having a coronary heart assault. I do it to optimize my time—I burn about 360 energy. I hate it, however 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 necessary to have serendipitous interactions to generate good concepts. I attempt to break for lunch with my workers no less than a few occasions 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 remedy math puzzles associated to the category. It’s type of an analogous thought to Duolingo. We wish to make studying right into a sport.

I get my finest concepts within the bathe, so on weekends I attempt to take lengthy ones. Typically I believe I’ve a good suggestion in the midst of the night time, write it down, after which within the morning I understand it is not sensible.

Early on, quite a lot 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 evaluation 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 taking place is that if I say one thing, I often say it to any individual who says it to any individual else who says it to any individual else who truly does the work. In the event 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 verify it’s clear.


Earlier this 12 months we grew to become 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 quite a lot 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

“Test my e-mail and Slack—I keep in mattress for the primary 30 or 40 minutes and simply do this. We’ve got 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 publish about my private life. I tweet an excellent 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

“Normally verify my Slack.”


Very last thing he does at night time

“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] be certain that 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 by means of the night time. I get up for an hour randomly in the midst of the night time.”


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