Get To Work: With Suzy Welch

What Discovery’s CEO does every morning to boost his productivity

Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav tries to make the most of his time each day.

He discussed the topic in a wide-ranging interview with CNBC contributor Suzy Welch.

"First, I'm a morning person," says Zaslav, 57, who gets up at 4:45 a.m. "I have this time between a quarter to five in the morning and 7:00 a.m. when everyone's asleep."

He uses it to get a head start on the work day. "I lay out my clothes, and I'm out on the streets of New York," he tells Welch. "I'm either talking to Asia or Europe, or I'm listening to music."

He walks about four miles "to get some exercise," which he says helps him "burn off energy" and "stress."

Zaslav, who's been CEO of Discovery since 2007, also reads the papers in the morning. "[I]t gives me a sense of calm," he says. "It's a chance for me to kind of reflect on what's going on."

Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav
CNBC
Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav

Then, it's time to focus on work. Zaslav uses the next part of his morning to respond to emails, so that his team members wake up to them and can get their days started.

"I want the doers," Zaslav says of the people he prefers to work with.

Having enjoyed an extensive career in the media industry — before Discovery, he spent nearly two decades at NBC, launching CNBC and MSNBC — his advice for others, especially those getting started in their careers, mirrors how he spends his own time.

"Get in early," says Zaslav. He also advises staying at work late.

Zaslav speaks from experience. He recalls a time when he first started at NBC in his 20s. He was "four or five days into a negotiation" when he stayed late at the office to wait for a phone call. By 3 a.m., the call hadn't come. But he still stayed put.

The approach worked in his favor: "That morning at 6:00 a.m., in walks Bob Wright, the CEO of NBC. He comes into the office and sees me sleeping," recalls Zaslav. "And he says to me, 'What are you doing here?'"

Zaslav's response: "You said I should wait for John Malone to call. So I did."

Wright would later tell Zaslav that the incident illustrated his work ethic. "That was it," he says Wright told him. "We said, 'You're our guy.'"

"To win, you need talent and a plan and have to work harder and faster than the other guys," says Zaslav in an interview with USA Today.

"You have to be all in," he says.

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC, MSNBC and CNBC.