Day in the Life: Amy Nelson of The Riveter

In today’s installment of our monthly Day in the Life series, we’re going behind the scenes with Amy Nelson, founder of the wildly successful women’s coworking space The Riveter, which has location in Seattle, Austin, LA, and Dallas, with spaces in five more cities forthcoming. Below, Amy gets real on what it’s like to run a business based all over the country—all with three children (and another on the way)!

What time do you get up? What’s the first thing you do upon waking?

One of my girls is undoubtedly up by 6 am… but if I beat them to it, I’m up at 5am. I read through news updates (Fortune’s BroadSheet is a favorite) and head down to the treadmill in our garage. I love to start the day with a work out. Even if it’s only 20 or 30 minutes - and it often is - it’s a little bit of “me time” to stay balanced.  (And right now, at 32 weeks pregnant, I’m definitely walking and not running!) We also have “family breakfast” at our house, as it’s a better time for my husband, myself and the little girls to spend quality time together than at night. It’s something I really cherish.

What’s your commute like? Do you listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks? Any current faves?

Each day’s needs are different. I use commute time for calls with board or team members, wrangling childcare, scheduling doctor appointments, mentally preparing for meetings and speaking engagements, etc.  Both my company and my family are in a period of growth, so this means I haven’t been able to settle on a routine. I do love listening to two podcasts - Committed (by the amazing Jo Piazza) and Dot Complicated (with the best host, Randi Zuckerberg) - when I have the chance!

Block out times with your team and for yourself where you forgo phone calls and quick meetings and instead use the time strategize toward a clearly defined objective.

Mark Twain said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office/to your desk?

Apparently I could learn a lot from Mark Twain. I don’t have a regular-enough day to have a blanket statement. Airport as the office? Often. The Riveter locations and coffee shops in other cities are my floating desks. I do regularly sweep through unanswered email and check in on priorities with team members early in the day.  I also look at my calendar so I can remind myself of the day’s priorities! (Also, let’s be honest. Wherever I am, priority number one is a cup of coffee.)

What are you working on this week?

This week, I’m preparing to give a keynote address at WNORTH in Whistler on Advocating for Mothers in the Workplace (fun!) and preparing the deck for our board meeting next week (less fun - but crucial!).  I’m simultaneously working on our upcoming Riveter openings in Dallas, Portland and Denver. And I’m also working on making sure I get enough sleep and water. The third trimester is no joke. It’s such a busy time!

You have coworking spaces in four cities, with plans to launch in five more cities soon. How often are you traveling, and what do your days on the road look like?

I’ve traveled 3-4 days a week for the past two months (and will be keeping the pace until I am a month out from my due date in early June!), mostly for speaking engagements and to visit cities where we are opening The Riveter locations. My days on the road consist of meeting business and social innovators in our soon-to-be-Riveter homes to learn about their work, exploring amazing opportunities to work with other amazing women-led movements, spending time with key stakeholders and really laying the ground-work to ensure that our new space is a success. What is special about The Riveter is that, as we expand across the country, we are creating spaces and community that are an extension of the already-existing ecosystem of each city. It’s important for me to take the time to build those relationships and learn from other business leaders and community members, and that’s what I prioritize with my travel. No two Riveters are the same, nor should they be.

What advice do you have for balancing the minutiae of day-to-day tasks with big-picture planning?

It’s so difficult to balance time “on the business” versus “in the business” and I work to perfect this process every day. One tip I would give is to set very clear, tangible long-term goals for yourself and your company. Throughout the week and as needed, block out times with your team and for yourself where you forgo phone calls and quick meetings and instead use the time strategize toward a clearly defined objective. As a daily action item, make time at the end of each day to reflect on your work - you should be able to connect every task you did in the day to the big picture.  The other piece of advice I have is to tie all of the “small acts” to each of your “big goals.” If the small isn’t tied to the big, you have to question whether it’s a good way to spend your time!

What are some work habits that help you stay healthy, productive, and on track to reach your goals?

I strive to have some understanding of every aspect of the business and, by extension, a working relationship with every employee at The Riveter. It’s important for me to understand all the moving pieces of the company if I am tasked with leading the whole. This allows me to learn from the very talented individuals on my team, no matter if they’re on the ground in Austin leading events or in the C-Suite with me directing our operations. I can weigh in where I can to optimize productivity and also keep the company on track to where we need to be.

What do evenings look like for you?

There’s always an element of chaos getting everyone home from afternoon activities, preparing dinner and getting three small children ready for bed. When I’m in town, I do try to make it home for afternoon activities once a week so I can join in on swim lessons, dance, or whatever else is going on! Once the house is quiet, I normally take another hour or so to finish up work for the day and plan for the day ahead. This is also the only time I have to spend with my mother (who lives with us) and also my husband, so we’ll debrief our days and catch up.

When do you go to bed? What’s your “optimal” # of sleep hours?

10:00pm is typical. I strive for 7 hours of sleep a night.

What’s the most rewarding part of your day?

Spending time with my little ones, by far! It is incredibly rewarding to watch them grow and see what they accomplish daily. I love their energy and joy, and I learn so much from them every day.

What’s something not a lot of people know about you?

I love to camp.  From the age of 13-20, I attended and later worked at a camp in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area between Minnesota and Canada.  I went entire summers without running water and spent endless weeks on the water, paddling miles. My husband is from Minnesota and, coincidentally, went to camp in the same area, and we can’t wait to take the girls camping when they are a bit older.

Love what Amy had to say? Check out our other Day in the Life features here!