How I Get It Done: WeWork’s Julie Rice Always Takes the Stairs

Illustration: Lauren Tamaki

SoulCycle co-founder Julie Rice is the reason why tens of thousands of people (Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga, and Jay-Z among them) are willing to sit on an uncomfortable bicycle seat and drip sweat for 45 minutes. After selling SoulCycle and taking home a reported $90 million payday, she’s now a partner* of the rapidly growing co-working company WeWork, which was recently valued at $47 billion, with 400,000 members in 27 countries. Rice, 48, leads the creation of WeWork’s new community and member experiences, like the recently launched NYC space Made by We, while also serving on the board of directors for Weight Watchers and the New York Public Theater. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two daughters, ages 13 and 8. Here’s how she gets it done.

On how she starts her week:
I overschedule myself. On Sundays, I’ll look at my week-at-a-glance on my phone and backtrack and cancel a whole bunch of stuff. If I see have meetings from 10 to 6, I will have no time to get proactive work done. I also keep a physical to-do list on me at all times. I type myself an email, then I’ll print it out and update it. You must be committed to your work but also be flexible to understand that certain moments are important to the life of family. I’ll get a note from my daughter’s school about a field trip, for example, and cancel a meeting to go bird-watching with her class in Central Park.

On a typical morning:
Unfortunately, nobody in my house likes to go to sleep. That makes mornings pretty rocky. The alarm goes off for everybody at ten minutes before 7 a.m. I do a meditation after I wake up called 16 Seconds to Calm. It pretty much consists of one breath in and one breath out. Then I check my email and spend ten minutes in bed reading Business of Fashion.

After I read the headlines, I go right to my 13-year-old daughter’s room because she has a bus to make at 7:36 a.m. Then it’s time to get my little one up, who’s usually in our bed, and get her ready for school. My husband is the breakfast maker: He cooks the girls some eggs, bacon, avocado toast, and fruit for breakfast. Then you can usually find me on a SoulCycle bike at 8:30. Before SoulCycle, I’ll have a Grady’s Cold Brew — we buy it by the jug on FreshDirect — with almond milk. I shower before I go to SoulCycle. I like to shower in my own shower and then I bring my clothes to the studio. So after class, I change in a corner changing room, wash my face, and then Uber straight to the office.

On always taking the stairs:
I’m a terrible claustrophobic, so I don’t do subways or elevators. I come to the WeWork headquarters every day and walk up six flights to my office. I’ve gone to black-tie weddings at the Rainbow Room and walked up 71 flights with my heels in hand. When my kids were younger, I pushed the stroller up in the elevator and met it there. The great news is that I started SoulCycle, a business that improves your cardiovascular strength, so climbing stairs doesn’t affect me at all. I can climb as many as you need me to.

On scheduling a meeting versus emailing someone:
I get about 100 emails a day, but I prefer a meeting culture to a mass email culture. I like being at my desk, having my team around me. I like the face-to-face collaboration that happens during a meeting and find that a lot of proactivity comes out of meetings. We use the time to come up with ideas and figure out timelines and plans of execution. We’re whiteboarding, too. The follow-ups happen via email.

On how she survives an afternoon slump:
4 p.m. is when it all falls apart. I have more coffee with Splenda and Fro-Yo can actually make my day. I like the toppings more than the yogurt itself: mini M&Ms and chocolate sprinkles. The all-time yogurt of yogurt is Forty Carrots in the Bloomingdale’s on 59th Street. I like to sit at the counter and order the Melba sauce topping. That’s what I did on my birthday.

On her evening routine:
I try to be home around 7:30 p.m. My Uber ride is 30 minutes so I respond to emails in the car. When I get home, I try to be off my phone and be present for my kids. They’ve already eaten without me, so I stand at the counter eating rolled-up turkey, or I’ll Seamless some sushi. I’ll grill my big daughter about her homework and let my little one read me a book and put her to bed. After she falls asleep I’ll spend time with my older one again. Then I do mom things like ordering from Amazon or FreshDirect. I also like watching something mindless like This Is Us or Gossip Girl. I fall asleep around 1 a.m.

Friday night is the exception in our house. I leave work at 5 p.m. We do Shabbat with a strict 6:30 p.m. start. It’s more of a family thing than a religious thing, though we do light the candles. My teenage daughter would rather be with her friends but I told her we all have to be at my table on Friday nights. I put my phone in a drawer and try not to look at it until the next morning. One night off your phone can be an incredibly good detox.

On what she does for fun:
We have a house in Montauk, and I would say the most relaxing thing I do is walk on the beach in any season. Montauk has been a great getaway for my family because there’s nothing like putting everyone in the car and forcing some togetherness! My girls have no choice but to hang out together. We don’t go every weekend because my daughter’s social schedule doesn’t allow it. In that case, if we stay in New York, I invite myself to the teenage party. She and I like to shop in Soho. My little daughter and I go to the park. And I spend a lot of the time at the theater.

On what she values at work:
The same thing that was exciting about SoulCycle is the same thing that’s exciting about WeWork: watching these communities empower each other. It’s really appealing to me. In a world that is quickly becoming so digitized, physical connections and interactions are at the heart of who I am. I’m really not a peace-out kind of person. Brand-building is the ultimate creativity for me.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

*This post has been updated to show that Rice is a partner at WeWork.

How I Get It Done: WeWork’s Julie Rice Always Takes Stairs